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Jahlil Okafor's Impressive Debut an Encouraging Sign for the Duke Freshman

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2014

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  Tyus Jones #5 and Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate after Okafor's dunk against the Presbyterian Blue Hose during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 14, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 113-44.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

OK, so it was only against Presbyterian in a 69-point win, but Jahlil Okafor's performance should hearten Duke fans as they look ahead to the 2014-15 season.

The freshman center led the Blue Devils with 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and four assists.

Numbers alone don't tell the story of Okafor's night. He simply imposed his will on the Blue Hose inside, which is exactly what you'd expect from the best center in the Class of 2014.

Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

If he wanted to, Okafor could've had 30 points. Instead, he was more than happy to work the ball around the court and involve his teammates, as he told Steve Wiseman of The Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina:

Everybody on this team realized quickly that everybody can play and there is a lot of talent on this team. One of our absolutes is sharing the ball, making the extra pass. It’s fun playing that way. That’s why today we had 30 assists and nine turnovers. It was really fun.

Friday was never about watching Okafor drop a ton of points on Presbyterian. Instead, it was more about watching one of the most talented freshmen in college basketball offer a glimpse at his immense talent—a short trailer for what will be the blockbuster premiere.

DraftExpress' Derek Bodner was impressed with how well the Blue Devils star did the little things:

Derek Bodner @DerekBodnerNBA

Really impressed with Okafor's patience, touch, and footwork. Will be fun to watch all year.

One play in particular illustrated how much better Okafor was than any other Presbyterian player. With a little under nine minutes left in the first half, he received the ball to the right of the basket. With a couple of steps to his left, Okafor took the Blue Hose defender completely out of the play and had an easy left-handed layup.

It simply wasn't fair.

Sometimes, incoming freshmen can defer too much to their more experienced teammates.

A major critique of Andrew Wiggins—one of the best recruits to come along in years—during his time at Kansas was that he'd be a little too passive at times. Critics argued that somebody with Wiggins' ability should single-handedly take a game over on a near-nightly basis.

College basketball fans want to see possibly transcendent talents do something incredible, like Carmelo Anthony leading Syracuse to a national title or Kevin Durant averaging 25.8 points a night at Texas.

When it comes to Okafor, the assumption is that he will become the next Greg Oden or Anthony Davis in terms of dominance. Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore even asked whether Okafor can be the best collegiate center since Tim Duncan, highlighting Okafor's impressive offensive skill:

Okafor is ready offensively, and the new rules will make him even more difficult to defend. Big men are no longer able to really body up and push their man off a spot. Give Okafor the opportunity to make moves without a forearm shiver slowing him down, and he'll dominate with his skill. 

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has built his offense in recent years around perimeter players, but Okafor is so good expect Duke's offense to be built around him next season.

When you're being mentioned in the same breath as Duncan, expectations are going to be high. Since Okafor's almost certainly only going to spend a year in college, he doesn't have a lot of time to build a legacy.

And make no mistake about it: Okafor will likely leave Durham after a year. Even Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is expecting to lose the center after the end of the campaign.

"We won't have him long," he said, per ESPN.com. "We'll have him this year and then he'll be one of the top [NBA] picks."

Now, it's not Okafor's job to average a double-double in every game. He's not beholden to pleasing the fans. He's got to do what's best for him in terms of his NBA prospects and help Duke try to win a national title.

Along the way, though, it would be nice if Okafor embraced his otherworldly talent and cemented himself as the next great collegiate big man—if only for a year.