- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ongoing rumor that Duke is the leader for the recruiting package of No. 1-ranked senior Jahlil Okafor and No. 3-ranked Tyus Jones is ruining the recruiting process for the two players, Okafor's father said on Friday.
"It's disappointing. It's taking the fun out of the process for the two boys," Okafor's father, Chukwudi Okafor, said by phone on Friday. "That's a shame. Let the kids go through the process. I just want them to enjoy it, not the media, not Twitter, not the coaches, not the AAU coaches. Those kids are highly intelligent. They know what to do. Let it play out, and I think the world is in for something special."
"They're going to make their decision. Everybody is saying they say this and they say that. It's not fair to them. It's not fair to the other schools. It's not fair to Duke. They might want to go to Duke, but decide not to go there because everyone is saying that's where they're going. I'd hate for that to happen."
The rumor began with Okafor's club coach, Mike Irvin, recently telling the Chicago Sun-Times he believed Duke had "a really good chance to land [Okafor]." Irvin went on to say, "I think there is a great chance Tyus is going to Duke. So if [Okafor and Tyus] are going to school together ..."
From there, the rumor took off. Other reporters and bloggers followed with the same story, and it created a buzz on Twitter. It got to the point where Okafor tweeted on Thursday, "I don't have a leader. Stop the rumors."
"Let them decide," Chukwudi said. "No AAU coach knows; no high school coach knows; no parent knows. The reason no one knows is because they don't know."
Okafor, a 6-foot-11 center who attends Whitney Young in Chicago, and Jones, a 6-foot-1 point guard who attends Apple Valley in Minnesota, are still set on committing to the same school, according to Chukwudi. Both players have included Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Ohio State on their lists.
"I speak with Tyus' mother frequently, and the boys pretty much talk every day," Chukwudi said. "It's communication back and forth. You don't want to give the perception that Tyus is going to decide where Jahlil is going or Jahlil is going to decide where Tyus is going. They're really looking for what is the best for both of them. That's the unique thing about this process."
The only differences between their lists are Okafor also is considering Arizona and Illinois, whereas Jones has included Minnesota. But with that variation, there's no guarantee they end up at the same school.
"The ultimate goal is for both the boys to play together," Chukwudi said. "But they may not find a situation that fits them both. It would be great for them to play together."
The two players will make official visits together to Baylor on Aug. 30, Kansas on Oct. 18 and Duke on Oct. 25. Okafor will visit Kentucky on Sept. 9 and Arizona on Oct. 11 without Jones. Okafor will also make unofficial visits to Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State.
Okafor would like to make a decision in November, but his dad said that is not set in stone.
"If he's comfortable with the decision and school, he'll say it," Chukwudi said. "He wants to know the school where he's going as bad as everyone wants it. I want him to enjoy his senior year and move on to the next chapter."
"Jahlil, he's handled [the recruiting process] greatly. I think at this point he hasn't learned to say no yet to calls from the media and coaches. That will come in time. As far as just the fact he has the stress of everyone wanting to guess where he's going. It takes away from the process they're going through. He hasn't made a decision. He isn't even close. There's no way he's close. He's developing relationships with the coaches. He hasn't been to a majority of the schools. Those things will play a large factor."