Day 1 at Adidas: On Goodluck Okonoboh, Jalen Coleman, Hyron Edwards and Stephen Zimmerman



 

 

INDIANAPOLIS — Vin Pastore, the coach of the summer travel squad Mass Rivals, could come up with only one plausible response when asked what makes center Goodluck Okonoboh as good as he is.

“God,” Pastore said Thursday morning after the Indiana target had scored 16 points in a win over Indiana Elite at the Adidas Invitational at North Central High School. “He’s 6-foot-10 with a 7-3 ½ wingspan and impeccable timing and an instinct to go get balls. Those are gifts from God. He’s hard-nosed, tough kid who wants to win. He won that game today. He’s got a lot of gifts from God.”

Divine providence is as good an explanation as any for Okonoboh’s natural talent, especially considering how fortunate he is not only to be in this position but for his father to be in position to see it.

Okonoboh’s parents Sylvester and Justine both emigrated to the United States from Nigeria about 20 years ago before their son was born. Sylvester now works in a home for mentally challenged people and Justine is a nurse, but when they first emigrated, Sylvester was working at a cab driver in Boston trying to make ends meet. In September of 1994 in the Roxbury section of town, he was shot in the chest over a dispute over a fare.

“He got shot by a .22 caliber gun,” said Okonoboh, who plays his school ball at Wilbraham and Monson Academy in Massachusetts. “It went in his chest, it went all through his body, pierced a little bit of his heart. … He wasn’t supposed to live, but he did live the next week I was born. So he named me Goodluck because he felt lucky to become a father.”

Now Sylvester is a father to a major conference recruit. The 6-10, 220-pound Okonoboh is the No. 32 player in the Class of 2014 according to Rivals.com and has 14 known major conference scholarship offers. Along with Indiana, Connecticut, Gonzaga, Marquette, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Tennessee are known to have offered. Duke, Kentucky and Louisville are also apparently starting to show interest and were at his game on Thursday morning. Okonoboh said Indiana has recruited him hard and made it very clear they want him and they have the advantage of having his former Mass Rivals teammate Noah Vonleh on the squad. However, Okonoboh is also best friends with former high school teammate Nerlens Noel, who starred at Kentucky this season before entering the NBA Draft

The amount of attention coming his way is something Okonoboh’s family doesn’t entirely grasp yet. Sylvester gets it on some level as a former soccer and track athlete in Nigeria. Justine not so much.

“My dad knows a lot about that stuff,” Okonoboh said. “He knows I work hard, so he knows everything that will come. My mom, the funny thing is, if she was here right now and watching you guys interview me, she would be so surprised, like, ‘What? What’s going on?’ She’s always working, so I don’t really have her come to my games. She never really watched me playing in the games. When I get to college and she starts coming to my games, she’s going to be like, ‘Whoah.’”

College coaches will start to look at him the same way if he develops a consistent offensive game. Like Noel, he’s made his name primarily as a shot blocker and drawn recruiting attention based on the potential coaches equate with his sort of length and athleticism. He has made substantial progress in a year, though, as his 16-point performance suggest. He was mostly scoring on ally-oops and stickbacks, but he also showed budding post game and is finding some consistency with a short range jumper.

“He’s facing up now at the basket,” Pastore said. “He’s got a foul-line jump shot that actually looks good coming off his hand. He’s gotta keep doing that. That’s his goal. He loves playing defense and he’s the best in the country at it, but he loves to score the basketball. … He didn’t have any of it last year. That was the knock on him that he didn’t have any offense. This year’s been the first year, I think it’s one of the big reason’s he’s playing for me. I allowed him to go shoot the basketball and create. Last summer was the first time he’s ever tried to create any offense. He’s in the infant stage of that.”

Attention spreading out for Coleman, Edwards

Indiana Elite 2015 point guards Jalen Coleman and Hyron Edwards started receiving recruiting attention from major conference schools immediately after their freshman seasons at Cathedral and East Chicago respectively, with Indiana and Purdue offering both before last summer began.

For both, however, most of the attention came solely from the Midwest. Illinois was Edwards’ only other offer beyond the in-state schools. Coleman had six, but the others were Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Providence.

Heading into their junior years, though, their recruitments have gone more national. Coleman said he recently picked up scholarship offers from Arizona and Memphis. Edwards said he doesn’t have any more offers yet, but that DePaul, Florida, Miami (Fla.), Stanford and Vanderbilt have started expressing interest.

“It’s pretty great that they’re looking at me, “ Edwards said. “They see potential in me, I guess. That’s just great to get looks, it’s a blessing to me.”

Both are still hearing from Indiana, though, and Coleman — who is transferring to La Lumiere this year — said he recently took an unofficial visit and played with the incoming freshmen and players in an open gym.

“I had a good feel mentally and how they focused and just the competition that you’re going to play with coming into college,” Coleman said. “That showed me that’s what you’re going to be going into.”

 

Hoosiers in on top 2015 big man

Indiana is in contact with the top-rated big man in the 2015 class, but unlike many other national powers, they haven’t offered him a scholarship yet.

Stephen Zimmerman, a 7-foot, 215-pounder from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, is rated No. 2 overall in the Class of 2015 by Rivals.com and No. 1 overall by Scout.com. He has 20 scholarship offers, with Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and UCLA among those who have taken the plunge.

Indiana hasn’t yet, but he has been willing to listen to their overtures.

“Obviously, it’s a great school, especially for big men,” he said. “I’m always looking for a school that likes to develop big men.”

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54 comments:

  • Harvard for Hillbillies says:

    Seems like a very mature and well-spoken young man.

  • Punjab says:

    Just a guess, but I imagine our odds of landing Goodluck increase dramatically if Vonleh stays an extra year or two. Imagine that rotation of front-liners: Goodluck, NV, Fischer, and what is likely to be a vastly improved HMP? With the guards we’re likely to have? Nasty. Clearly at this point it’s about as futile as imagining what might have been had Cody and Vic stayed one more year. But it sure is tantalizing to think about.

    On that note, fantasy football is about to rev up. Every year I say I’m going to limit myself to one or two leagues, and every year I end up in at least four. For those of you not still rolling your eyes, I’d love to start up a Scoop league for anyone interested– if one doesn’t already exist, of course. Any takers?

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Punjab, something…I don’t know what, but something just tells me that Fischer is going to be a really, really ‘huge’ add. Perhaps, in some areas more useful than even Cody (more of a back against the bucket, inside player and a dominant rebounder.

  • Punjab says:

    Agreed, Tsau. I get the feeling he’ll be a good player for us the first couple of years, then explode his Junior or senior year. Think Mason Plumlee. Don’t know why, but you just feel that his greatness will sneak up on people down the road. Exciting stuff.

  • Not Geoff says:

    I think Jurkin will explode. You can’t teach height, and can tell the young man is about to break out.

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    I too share expectations that PJ will make things happen. But I also hold in equal amounts trepidations about past and future playing time because of his lower legs. For 2 seasons he has experienced injuries(the same reoccurring IIRC) keeping him from developing skills and consistent momentum. The IU med staff is top notch and could very well have this fixed.

  • Geoff says:

    Not me, Clarion… My imposter. I actually think PJ will transfer after this year, but who knows…

    Punjab, I am most definitely up for it… Are you going to be Commish? It’s all I can do to be commissioner of 1 league, so as long as I don’t have to run it I’m in.

  • Chet says:

    I think the academic personnel the athletic department has assembled has played, and will continue to play, a big role on second generation Americans like Okonoboh. His Mom may not understand about basketball recruiting but I’ll bet she knows all about graduating and earning masters’ degrees while on scholarship.

    He seems like a nice, hard working kid from a nice, hard working family. Comparing what our players have achieved in the classroom with the results from schools competing for his talents should give us a nice lead over several of the most likely contenders.

    For many kids there is just the vision of the NBA and dollar signs. For these second generation Americans their parents are more likely counting on the education. They won’t be attending Louisville or Kentucky for that purpose but they will look favorably on a school where seemingly everyone gets their masters’ if they play for four years.

  • Punjab says:

    I could do it if need be, Geoff. I run a keeper league as well, but if we have enough interest on here I’ll start it up. It would probably be a standard Yahoo league since that’s what I’m most familiar with. Nothing fancy, and of course no money involved– just bragging rights. (I can only imagine what kind of hot water Dustin and Jeremy get into if we start advertising a pay league under the Scoop’s name without actually paying the Scoop. Even still, I want to be sure this isn’t violating any policies on here since we’d have no official affiliation.)

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Punjab, Not Geoff- I completely agree. I’ll go further than ‘you can’t teach tall; you can’t teach toughness…and he’s shown he has a lot of that. I agree about his ‘breakout to geatness’, but I think he’ll show big hints of it almost from the beginning…perhaps more so than some of the more hyped players coming in.

    What is important as well, as Podunker pointed out in his very good post; is that we not get carried away by hype and allow this group to grow. The other point made in that post, I hope CTC picks up on is to make the managing of expectation a part of his own responsibilities.

    There’s something so attractive in a humble approach, and it pays off in the end…particularly for the coaches. What we have now is some intriguing returning players (we can go either way with these guys and some potentially good material. The good thing is that come October, they are undefeated.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    I have what I think is a good idea for next summer coverage during late June and July(after the baseball, track team, other spring sports are done).

    Since some of us feel football is neglected, particularly in the lead-up to recruiting; and considering that Coach Wilson has several sessions of camps where he and his staff are able to evaluate up and coming h.s. players, how about visiting these and giving us, the readers and blog participants an idea of players worth watching in their senior year, the types of skills that make a football player…yara, yara.

    The, we could all feel some deeper vesting in Hoosier football and feel equal interest as to coverage interest. You could still attend basketball camps and tournaments, and even continue coverage of the Bar Mitzvah and Communions of 13 y.o. 7th and 8th grade basketball players; while also creating the conditions for more invested readers.

  • coachv says:

    Yeah Geoff, you said the same thing about Ethringron. Your full of crap.

  • Geoff says:

    You’re right coachv… I am probably full of crap. I know Harvard said AE would be gone as soon as Cody was, but I think my choices were Remy and Creek, in that order.

    However, with Jurkin I also said, “but who knows”, so I wouldn’t say I’m way out on a crap limb.

  • Tsao,
    Just so you know, I do hear you and I have actually been to at least a day of camp each of the past two years. They usually run in mid-June, so this year that very much got overshadowed because of the College World Series run. If I’m not mistaken, the camps this year were the week IU went to Omaha, and I was pretty much locked in on that completely.
    One issue I’m trying to figure out is exactly how the camps should be covered because 1) by NCAA rule, they can not make players available to talk to the media during these camps or it’s a violation for the school and 2) there isn’t any competition at camp that is in and of itself newsworthy. The players might be wearing helmets, but they’re usually not wearing pads, so there isn’t a whole heck of a lot you can glean from just watching it. It’s not like an AAU tournament when they’re actually playing games. A year ago, I managed to swing an interview with Wilson after the camps and did sort of a general overview story on his recruiting philosophies and what camps play into that. This year, I wasn’t around enough to put something like that together, because the baseball run took priority. The idea of covering these camps in general is simply a new thing because Bill Lynch never allowed access. (It’s sort of odd, Lynch gave us way more access to practice than Wilson but Wilson has made things like camps and pro day open but mostly closed practice). I’m still trying to put together exactly how they should be covered and we will likely do more with them next year if there isn’t another baseball run.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Dustin, I understand the baseball issue. I do think someone in the sports desk can cover it since it is some 15 blocks away. They are also good prep for the high school beat guys and interns…but I have no doubt there are good stories there.

    One way is to simply describe what coaches do with the campers individually. In the few interviews I’ve seen with high school kids who attended they seem to have a lot to say about their learning curve with top-pf-the-line professional college coaches and the impact it has on them. It doesn’t have to be an interview, nor terribly unusual stories. We readers who follow these pages would likely enjoy the more mundane but fundamental teaching involved and observation of the coaches observing prospects. Another, what drills, do they use different drills by position, do they address the mental side of football, what do they do to test strength, what kind of strength, speed, quickness, agility drills…surely they look for these things. What about the different position coaches. I’m absolutely intrigued with the defensive end coach, yet know next to nothing about him? I would think even watching lunches is interesting; or simply following CKW and reading about his focus and whatever else he verbalizes.

    Even your own observations and judgment. Or, discussions between you and Andy on these issues…that would be fascinating since he has a very keen and deep football mind.

    There’s lots. And interest in football, rising demands and expectations from IU fans, the shift to the tougher of the two divisions. Searching around I have found absolutely fascinating stuff about Wilson as a very innovative, creator type of a whole new way of looking at football. And, following him, I’ve found fascinating looks about those he reads and follows and it points to a whole new way of looking at Indiana football, the B1C, the future of football.

    And, in the end…it comes down to those kids in camp. Wow! Would I love it if someone (and perhaps a couple of other fans) got interested in making it interesting.

  • Geoff says:

    Chet – at the Bar Harbor Camp Ground for a few days RV’ing with the in-laws… Do I remember you saying you’ve been up here? Wish I could send y’all a photo… We had a record-breaking June for rain, 2 weeks ago was 90-95 with crazy humidity, last week was 65-70 with fog and humidity, and somehow we got here for 4 straight days where its supposed to be 80-85, sunny, and dry the entire time.

    By the way, while Bar Harbor is nice and all, it’s a total tourist trap. If anyone is planning a trip up here I can give you 10 places just as beautiful, with just as much to do, with better food, for less money…

  • Harvard for Hillbillies says:

    Geoff-

    That’s where you really show you’re immaturity. Coachv goes after your comment on Jurkin and you use it as an opportunity to discredit something you believe I said.

    Etherington’s injury would have drastically changed perceptions of cutting him after last season. Crean wouldn’t do that to his flawless image. Very few coaches would be so harsh as to not let a kid get back on the floor post-rehab, prove he can still play the game at some level(even if not at a top Division 1 program), before pushing him off the roster.

    Had Etherington not been injured, he’d probably be playing for Ball State or IUPUI.

    Does point to the fact how little depth we had last season…Creek was a non-factor. Perea was a non-factor…Jurkin was a non-factor…Elston was a non-factor due to injuries….Howard = non-factor..
    Smith = non-factor. There was a huge drop-off in usable talent after you got past the seventh man.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Geoff…what I don’t understand is why you let a wanabee get to you. He’s made it clear his fourth grade YMCA basketball league coaching is his primo ‘crack’. Just don’t even bother with him because all you do is invite him to come here every time he feels inadequate and impotent. You can’t help him.

    Beyond that, it serves little purpose to speculate on who’s transferring, who’s staying. We really know very little about the individual performance of the players who were playing behind the first 7-8. At one point I thought the same thing of Etherington, then found he’s really a very smooth, focused player who could be a big surprise, especially since he is a very good and reliable shooter but is very court savvy. Same of a couple of others. Jurkin and Perea were always projects, but both their up-side is beyond our wildest expectation. I recall both Dipo and Sheehey being similar question marks earlier. So far, the talent evaluation by Crean and staff seems to be incredibly sharp and accurate.

    I have a good friend here who was a graduate student/trainer at Marquette when TC was still there (by the way, she’s still p.o.’d he left after promising he was staying). She’s remarked that what was most evident and what helped Marquette recover its stature was that he has an incredible eye for recognizing raw-native talent in obscure players and, even if it is not him who does it, someone in the staff knows how to teach and develop it to top playing level. We saw that in Sheehey and Oladipo, we saw that to an extent in Watford (his development is unquestionable even if his motor and consistency give pause). We saw it in Elston (think of the improvement of both Watford and Elston in just their 3-point shooting. Both seemed to be shooting with a much higher curve trajectory 3p. shot than their flat line attempts two years earlier. That’s coaching, it increases the size of the hoop). And, of course, the complete change in Oladipo’s outside shooting (including 3-point), completely changed from two years ago…with the same correction. That’s individual coaching.

    So…I’ve seen it happen often enough to believe it is not coincidental. I’ll be curious to seem who emerges this year. What does it mean in terms of record, nothing…I’m not a gipsy, ask me again in February.

    But whatever the dialogue, investing in Coachv futures?..save your money.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Geoff, I remember Chet talking about Maine. I believe I also mentioned having spent quite a bit of time in that area, from Bar Harbor, northeast to Corea, at the tip of the next peninsula (east of Ellsworth) you can see from Acadia Natl Park. Really worth an extra drive (about an hour or so) to Corea because it is just a typical fisherman’s town (with a few summer residents) but it is out of the way enough to make it ‘natural’ and non-touristy, although not as dramatic as Bar Harbor. Had a nice place outside Corea, on a hilltop overlooking the bay. A friend (she was a women’s basketball coach and teacher and English teacher from Purdue) and I would pick up the lobster when the fishing fleet came in around 3pm, walk over to the beach down the hill from the house and load the pot with sea water to boil the lobster. My friend passed about 5 years ago, but what great days (wake up in the morning absolutely surrounded by a wall of trees that touched the windows). That water is c-c-cold!

    How’s the boy like the fresh air? Now that the wife feels renewed and relieved, got her digging for clam and potatoes yet? In Corea, at the port, there is a general store where the locals keep their own mugs with their names on it. If it still there, one of them is mine (not Tsao). I used to kid the owners that I wanted to buy the store and turn it into a Cuban restaurant.

  • Lardturds for Largebellies says:

    It’s me, Harvard. Just trying out new names…

    Carry on.

  • Chet says:

    Yeah, I passed through Bar Harbor. We drove through Acadia NP on our way up to a house we rented just inland from Machias Bay.

    Interesting climate. It was in the 90s at the house (maybe 7 miles inland). At the coast it was in the mid 70s. We took a schooner out for a sail. As soon as we hit open water it probably dropped into the 40s (the water temp was 42).

    Hard to dress appropriately for that kind of day.

  • Geoff says:

    Tsao… If you forget to merge left before Ellsworth it’s actually easy to accidentally end up in or near Corea… Did it 2 summers ago. Thought to myself, “wow, what a beautiful section of Rte 1, I don’t quite remember this…” Umm, whoops, backtrack an hour and headed home.

    Baby has spent a grand total of 4 hours outside of the RV in the last 24 since we got here,,, wifey still very protective… Sun, heat, bugs, strangers, whatever….

    I’m actually sitting out y the campfire now enjoying some alone time, and can say haven’t seen a single mosquito. Only been bit nice since I’ve been here,

    Harv, I never claimed to be mature, but thank u for pointing out an area of potential improvement.

    Chet…. Where men MUST pack like women….

  • Harvard for Hillbillies says:

    I was in Damariscotta 2o years ago…I remember a quaint tiny fishing village happily removed from time. Lots of gray weathered clapboard siding serving as the back canvas for a full array of brightly colored gigantic wooden bobbers hanging from porches….Bobbers that had stripes and popping shapes and designs to mark locations of lobster crates far less conspicuous…Likely taken out every week by some old weathered salt of a man with a beard perfectly matching the siding his shanty. I still have a photo of that old fishermen supply house stored in a shoebox somewhere…What a beautiful place to live that small village so hidden from the rest of the coast. After driving through the tiny town, I have a vivid memory of the road twisting around the various water inlets…My eyes get drawn to the top of a hill where the most beautiful old white mansion of a house proudly glows in the bright sun. Big gorgeous windows gracing a simple elegant home. I wondered if it could be the residence of Stephen King. Don’t remember much else of that day, but in my heart I hope there’s always places to go that remains as unspoiled, majestic, mysterious, and romantic as Maine. Maybe someday I’ll find a way back to the white house. Maybe it’s best to just leave it peacefully winding through the pines and coastlines my old memory.

  • Punjab says:

    You fellas really make me want to visit Maine. I’ve been around the world and most of the interior of America. But when it comes to corners, I can only claim San Diego and a brief stop in Seattle. (I believe Tampa is the furthest southeast I’ve been.) It’s a bit embarrassing I know so little about the northeast, but it seems majestic.

  • Jousting for Jujyfruits says:

    Just trying out new names again…Just me, Harvard.

    Carry on.

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