Jahlil Okafor Q&A: Duke, NBA draft, Chicago basketball and more
Jahlil Okafor, a hulking figure in person, stands at 6’11”, 270 pounds. Although he’s quiet and reserved in demeanor, the 19-year-old’s presence never goes unnoticed. He walks into a room with tree trunks for legs, careful not to hit his head as he enters the door.
In fact, when you meet him, Okafor is so calm and collected you would never know his life is set to change forever on June 25, when he will be selected in the 2015 NBA Draft. Okafor, who is likely to be selected within the first two picks, spoke with SI.com in advance of that day, discussing his Duke teammates, offseason workouts, and decision to skip the Chicago combine.
SI.com: Is it fun to share this draft process with your Duke teammates so soon after you all decided to attend Duke together?
Okafor: Yeah, everybody in the class, but specifically my Duke teammates—thinking that we all went to Duke together, winning a national championship and being able to accomplish that. Our next goal was to play in the NBA, so we’re all on the right path. It’s great to think about.SI.com: You lost 12 pounds since the college season ended. What was behind the decision to transform your body before entering the NBA?
Okafor: Going into the season, I was in great shape, and then as the season progressed I kind of lost that shape. [Due to] injuries, I wasn’t able to practice as much so I wasn’t as active. Now I’ve gotten back to what I was doing before I went to school, changed my diet up a little bit, and just working hard. It’ll just make me a better athlete, taking care of my body. That just goes without saying.
SI.com: You did not attend the draft combine in Chicago. Did you skip the event based on your position near the top of this draft?
Okafor: The people in my circle just thought it was best for me not to go, and there was no reason for me to go. I’m still working out and just getting ready for the NBA.
SI.com: You’ve done some interesting things in interviews between holding 13 tennis balls, shooting ping pong shots, and blocking a dunk attempt. How much fun has this process been so far?
Okafor: It’s been a lot of fun. I’m glad they incorporated fun, little small things like that to do. With everything being so serious now and all about business, it’s definitely refreshing to do things like that and remind myself I am still a 19-year-old kid.
SI.com: I’ll transition into a self-serving question: In your opinion, who is the best player to come out of Chicago?
Okafor: For me, it’s a toss up between Isiah Thomas and Derrick Rose. I think Anthony Davis and Jabari [Parker], they’re on their way but they’re still young. Isiah, he’s had the longest career of all of us, but D-Rose, Davis, Jabari, they’re all coming.
SI.com: Sticking with the Chicago theme, what is your favorite pizza place and could your recent visits to New York change your pizza allegiance?
Okafor: Giordano’s. Chicago stuffed pizza. There’s always a debate between Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s, but it’s Giordano’s for me. [New York] wouldn’t affect me too much, I’m still a stuffed pizza kind of guy and they don’t have that out here.