Jahlil Okafor, a junior basketball star at Whitney Young High School in Chicago, is the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2014, and the 6-10, 280-pound center is fielding offers from all the major programs: Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State, Texas, North Carolina, Kansas and Michigan State, among others. Part of the recruiting process is meeting coaches, talking shop and general schmoozing, each coach leveraging his school as a place where his career can blossom. Basically it’s just a giant game of who can suck up the best.
Part of sucking up, however, is saying Jahlil’s name. And that, apprently, is a problem. According to Okafor, no one can pronounce his name correctly (via USA Today):
“It’s funny because I’ll be talking to a legend like Coach (Tom) Izzo or somebody and they might say it wrong and, I mean, what am I gonna say? They’re legends. It doesn’t bother me at all. I’m used to it. I’ve got family who says it wrong. I will say that I do notice when coaches get it right. Which almost never happens.”
So how do you say Jahlil, then? Juh-LEEL, you’d think. But that’s wrong. It’s Jah-LEEL. You really have to focus on that “Jah” sound. And yes, it’s a bit awkward if you’re not used to it. (See here for pronunciation.) Sometimes you just need a teacher to walk you through the process.
There is, however, one coach who’s got it right:
“‘Coach (John) Groce from Illinois says it right,’ Okafor said. ‘I don’t think anyone else does. Not 100 percent sure. But hey, it’s cool. It’s not like I look at them different or I’m gonna cut them off my list for it. I just like when people say it right.'”
Your early clubhouse leader to land Okafor, probably.