The Total Package Deal of 2014

Tyus Jones (left) and Jahlil Okafor (right) are going to make one college basketball coach very happy.

In the world of college basketball, it is rare to see two prospects make a pact and go through the recruiting process together in order to play at the same school. Package deals in the past have only involved twin brothers like last year with the Harrison twins committing to Kentucky and before that, the Lopez and Collins twins to Stanford. That’s what makes the potential package deal of Jahlil Okafor (#1 in the 2014 ESPN 100) and Tyus Jones (#3 in the 2014 ESPN 100)  such a unique case. They're both from different states, play different positions and they’re arguably the two best players in the country. So how exactly did they become a package deal?

Their friendship first began when they both participated at USA Basketball's Developmental mini-camp in October 2010, the summer before their freshman years of high school. A few months later, Okafor and Jones both made the squad that competed at the 2011 FIBA U16 Americas Championships in Mexico. It was here where they realized just how alike they were outside of basketball. Both enjoyed being with their small circles of friends and keeping to themselves. But what really brought them to connect were their close relationships with their families. When Okafor was nine years old, he was at home with his mother in Arkansas when she passed away after a fatal attack of bronchitis. Several months later, Okafor and his sister moved in with their father in Chicago and eventually overcame the tragedy with the support of his family. This past summer, Jones’s grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and he decided to stay home and be with him instead of trying out for the U.S. U19 FIBA World Championships team.

One day during their trip in Mexico, all the players on the team started talking about the idea that of playing for the same college. The rest of the guys eventually let the idea drop, but Okafor and Jones kept discussing it. The more that the two of them talked about it, the more serious their conversations got. Ever since then, they have made it clear that they were going to be playing together in college. Their friendship continued to grow after the trip through constant texting and Facebook messages. The following summer, Jones and Okafor teamed up again to help the U.S. win a gold medal at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship in Lithuania, with Okafor winning tournament MVP.

This past year, they have both shown that they can dominate their competition individually. While playing in the Nike EYBL with his AAU team, the Howard Pulley Panthers, Jones led the league in assists (6.8), while also coming second in the league in scoring (22.8). While playing against players nearly two years older than him at the FIBA U19 World Championships, Okafor was the third-leading rebounder on the team (4.8) while posting an astronomical PER of 40.2. For a perspective, LeBron’s NBA PER this year was only 31.5. However, they may be even better playing with each other since their skills compliment each other so well. With Jones running the pick and roll with his high basketball IQ and solid outside shooting paired with Okafor rolling to the basket with his strong frame and soft touch inside, these two have the potential to be unstoppable in the pick and roll.      

Earlier this spring, they both hosted the exact same five schools for in-home visits: Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State. They have taken an unofficial visit to Duke together and both visited Baylor on the same weekend in late August. Okafor took his official visit to Kentucky this month and has scheduled visits to Arizona, Kansas and Duke in October. Jones will be taking his official visit to Kentucky later this month and has also scheduled visits to Kansas and Duke in October. Ultimately, these guys have stayed consistent saying that they are going to school together throughout the recruiting process. While there are still obstacles to overcome, for now, these two together on any major college basketball team will automatically turn them into a National Championship favorite.