Jenkins breaks out; Okafor is elite already

WHEELING, W.Va. -- Here is a look at what I learned from this weekend's Cancer Research Classic.

Jenkins raised the bar

With Nate Britt (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga) struggling to find his zone, forward Kris Jenkins stepped up his game. The fact that Jenkins raised his play isn’t the surprise -- after all, he is Gonzaga’s second-best player -- it's the fact that he did it against Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young).

With the imposing sophomore staring at Jenkins on both ends, he met the challenge head on. Though he couldn’t possibly shut down Okafor, he did his best to make him earn his points and then went to work on offense. I’ve seen Jenkins a lot and in my mind it’s fair to say this was the signature performance of his high school career and it came on national TV.

Jenkins is a 6-foot-6 (max) bullish power forward with the game of a perimeter forward. On Saturday, he turned into Charles Barkley. Jenkins went to work inside the paint using up-and-unders, counters and a determination to rebound and scrap. Once he established his offense in the paint, he had the confidence to stroke jumpers. For me, he carved out the perfect niche and played as close to perfection as possible. His balance of post and perimeter was exactly what he needed to have this kind of breakout.

The trick is to not turn back on his 21-point performance. The bar has been raised and now that he’s proven capable, there will be an expectation for Jenkins to deliver more command performances. We know he’s capable; so do Xavier, Penn State and George Washington. St. Joe’s, Seton Hall, Rutgers and Miami are also looking. Xavier, according to those close to Jenkins, has been his biggest supporter and most ardent pursuer. If Jenkins shuns the notion of the name on the front of the jersey and picks the appropriate level, he could be an impact recruit.

Okafor is a candidate for No. 1 in 2014

We have Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) ranked No. 3 in 2014 and that’s too low. That particular class is exceptionally loaded but here’s the big separator in the group. With so much highbrow talent, there’s no room for guys to be sexy prospects. They’ve got to produce.

Okafor (who I think is the next Jared Sullinger) is reliable, productive and talented. He’s the best post player in the country who weighs over 240 pounds. In terms of low-block recruits, this is the gold standard. Pick a class, any class in high school basketball, and I’ll take Okafor for my center spot. I’m not talking about the hybrid 4s; I’m talking straight up posts. His stock is rocketing.

Dingle, Temple a good match

Daniel Dingle's (Bronx, N.Y./St. Raymond) brother played at UMass and knows the game but even so, some wondered if Daniel would be tempted by the name on the front of the jersey. In the end, he wasn’t and went with the Temple. Four years from now, he’ll be ecstatic.

Dingle hit up Paul VI for 21 points and 15 rebounds. His game is that of an undersized power forward with a measure of skill. His IQ is his top asset and his feel for the game and passion are noticeable. He’s set himself up for a great career and Fran Dunphy’s going to love this guy.

“Their style will utilize his skills,” St. Ray’s coach Oliver Antigua said. “The family’s been there before and they wanted the right fit.”

Mission accomplished.

Overton, Vasturia are strong pair

Speedy Morris, the former LaSalle Explorers coach, captains the ship at St. Joe’s Prep and he’s got options. Notre Dame commitment Steve Vasturia (Philadelphia/St. Joe’s) and Miles Overton (Philadelphia, Pa./St. Joe’s) are juniors. Vasturia comes from an athletic family. He’s a Notre Dame-style wing in that the system will accentuate his strengths.

Overton is the son of former LaSalle star Doug Overton. A noted shooter, give him an edge and he’ll slip by for a bucket. He’s on the fence as a mid- to high-major prospect.

Great players add pieces

Jabari Parker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) was special in his first half at the Cancer Research Classic. In the second, he was just good enough to win and that’ll stick with him until his next game. No matter, we saw something new in his game and that’s significant.

The great players, when time elapses between viewings, will add pieces. With Parker, he’s added a floater. He shot it in the summer and using it with confidence in the winter. Big difference.

Buffs class could be special

Xavier Johnson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) is a major talent. The lefty is highly athletic and you have to guard him behind the arc. He was his team’s best player in a loss to Gill St. Bernard’s and because Johnson has so much natural ability, I think you’ve got to hold him to a high standard.

If this young man can keep his focus, lock in on both ends and deliver consistent performances, he’s got all-league ability. Pair him with what the Buffs have coming in and Tad Boyle is in good shape. Johnson might be the guy who can take the class from good to great over time.


I’d like to see Dominic Hoffman (Gladstone, N.J./Gill St. Bernard’s) replicate his effort from this event in the future. He was a wrecking ball in the lane against Mater Dei. He’s going to Bucknell and if he bottles up this attitude, he’ll be a problem in the Patriot League.

Marquette and Texas A&M are in strong position with Kendrick Nunn (Chicago, Ill./Simeon)

Tony Parker (Lithonia, Ga./Miller Grove) was scheduled to speak with John Calipari for the first time last Friday night. He said Alex Poythress has been reaching out to him a little more once UK expressed interest in him.

My gut is that there's a fracture within Parker's family about where each member wants him to go. But, I think Parker's personal favorite is Ohio State.