Jahlil Okafor is the best big-man prospect in America, and he lives in Chicago. Tyus Jones is one of the top point-guard prospects in 2014, and he lives in Apple Valley, Minn.
Yet Okafor and Jones made a pact to play college ball together and they carried that through on Friday afternoon. They scheduled their press conferences at the same time and were both on ESPNU, announcing they would play together at Duke.
This is not the first time two great players decided to go to the same school, but it is unprecedented for two of the top players in a class who didn't grow up together to tie themselves together in recruiting.
And it could be the future.
The Times Are Changing
John Calipari has had five straight classes that were ranked first by at least one of the top recruiting sites. Jones and Okafor may have just ended his reign, but the Wildcats class of four will likely still be top two or three.
Calipari has accomplished this because the players he's had in the system haven't scared any recruits off. They've been too good to stay in school once it's time for the next class to arrive.
In the 1990s, Michigan coach Steve Fisher made the Fab Five famous when he decided to start five freshmen, and that group made it to the national championship.
Starting five underclassmen in that time, let alone five freshmen, was completely unheard of. Now, it's how you get to the top of the polls.
No. 1 Kentucky has five underclassmen starters. No. 5 Kansas has four. And Michigan made the title game last year starting four.
These players did not decide together, but they were well aware of whom they would be playing with. Calipari gets some credit for changing the game in that way, too.
Being a star is cool, but winning and then getting paid is even cooler.
Look back at Kentucky's championship team in 2012. Calipari had three of the top five players ranked by Rivals.com: Anthony Davis (2), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (3) and Marquis Teague (5).
Nobody on that team averaged more than 15 points per game. That didn't stop the New Orleans Hornets from taking Davis No. 1 overall in the NBA draft, the Charlotte Bobcats selecting Kidd-Gilchrist second and two other 'Cats from going in the first round.
Bill Self has built a powerhouse at Kansas by developing talent and winning mostly with stars who stick around at least two or three years.
But this year, Self has three freshmen—Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid—projected to leave early. Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are signed on to replace them, and their stays could be short as well.
Calipari, Self and most of the other elite coaches are no longer recruiting to win a title in three or four years; they recruit to win a title next year.
And the high school players saw what happened in 2012. They see what's happening at Kentucky and Kansas this year. They realize those are the players getting the attention. They want to be those guys.
It all comes down to whom they choose to play with, and AAU basketball has made the guy two states away more like a lifelong neighbor. They know who is good. They know who can make them look good.
So get used to more package deals. It's easier to win with a friend than to win alone, and winning is valued by the NBA.
Jones will help Okafor. Okafor will help Jones. And Mike Krzyzewksi, who does not like the one-and-done rule, could have five such players in five years.
He knows what he's getting with this package. A chance to win the title in 2015.
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