Jahlil Okafor Ready for Heavy Expectations with Sixers

“No matter what people were saying about me, myself, and my family, my expectations are always high,” Okafor said. “So I don’t have any trouble with expectations.”

The 19-year-old was named the 2014 national high school player of the year by both USA Today and Parade magazine. That season, he led Chicago’s Whitney Young to the Illinois High School Class 4A state title.


The Sixers selected him third overall in the NBA draft Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Two days later, the 6-foot-11, 272-pounder sat on a dais alongside general manager Sam Hinkie and second-round picks Richaun Holmes (37th overall) and J.P. Tokoto (58th) at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where the Sixers practice.


“My expectations are always higher than everybody else’s,” Okafor said during an introductory news conference on Saturday.

In an era of hybrid centers and perimeter power forwards, he excelled as an old-school, back-to-the-basket post player.

“I’ve always been the tallest guy in my age group,” he said, “which always made me go right down to the post. When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I fell in love with Tim Duncan and his all-around game. That’s when I started watching him.”

Shortly afterward, his father educated him about Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. It didn’t take long for Okafor to model his game after those two players.

Some, however, think that dominant post players are no longer a cherished commodity. The Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship earlier this month with a small lineup.

“I’ve been dealing with that question for a while,” he said. “Even when I went to Duke, everybody was asking: ‘Why are you going to Duke? They don’t have big men. They don’t throw the ball in the post.’ ”

But he pointed out that he was the Blue Devils’ leading scorer.

“Now, they are saying, you don’t need a big man,” Okafor said. “But as far as I can remember, a big man has dominated the NBA. Tim Duncan won it [in 2014. That season]it was all about the big men with Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett.

“So people get a little excited because what [Golden State’s MVP point guard] Steph Curry and those guys did was great. It worked. Their formula was fantastic. But as long as I can remember, big men have been dominant, and the results have been championships.”

Despite all this Okafur learned how hard the press and fans in Philly can be when this video of him dropping his jersey went viral with calls of him dropping the jersey like it was ‘trash.’