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Jahlil Okafor of Young soars in for a dunk at the UIC Pavilion against Dematha. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
At one point in the third quarter Saturday, Young center Jahlil Okafor was outscoring DeMatha all on his own.
The No. 2 Dolphins beat DeMatha, Md., 72-58 in the Chicago Elite Classic at the UIC Pavilion, but it never seemed that close. When Okafor scored with 2:58 to play in the third quarter, it was his 24th point; DeMatha had only managed 23. That’s one player outscoring a team ranked No. 20 in the country by USA Today over nearly three quarters of play.
Okafor finished with 34 points and nine rebounds. He shot 12-of-20 from the floor. All that while holding 6-9 North Carolina State recruit BeeJay Anya to 11 points and five rebounds.
“[Okafor] is the best player in the country, regardless of class,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “When it is all said and done, there is no one that can guard him.”
LJ Peak had an impressive debut for the Dolphins (1-0); the South Carolina transfer scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds. He’s an athletic, fluid wing player. Junior Paul White added 12 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
Ausar Madison, a transfer from California, may be the answer to Young’s prayers. He showcased rock-solid ball-handling ability and a pass-first attitude, filling a slot that had been an issue for the Dolphins over the past two seasons.
“In relation to this being our first game, I would grade this performance with an ‘A,’” Slaughter said. “There were definitely some things we could improve on, but it was a very good first effort.”
Okafor isn’t one for controversy. He’s good friends with Simeon star Jabari Parker and wasn’t willing to back up Slaughter’s claim that he is the country’s (or even the city’s) best player.
“I’m gonna give [best player in Chicago] honors to Jabari,” Okafor said. “[Slaughter] is my coach, so he has my back. I look up to Jabari. He’s ahead of me and has experienced it all.”
Jairus Lyles led DeMatha with 18 points and Corey Henson added 12. Young held the Stags scoreless for a three-minute stretch of the third quarter.
“Defense is what we are all about this season,” Slaughter said. “That’s what we are going to have to count on. We know we have people that can score.”