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April 15, 2012

Okafor, Mac Irvin players blown away by NU visit

It's been a long, long time - possibly ever - since Nebraska had a player as heralded as 2014 Chicago center Jahlil Okafor set foot on campus for a visit.

Through the connections of assistant coach Ronald Coleman, however, the Huskers were able to make a huge splash this weekend by bringing in Okafor - a 5-star prospect and No. 4 overall player in the '14 class by Rivals.com - to Lincoln along with five other highly touted recruits from Chicago's Mac Irvin Fire AAU team.

Coleman, a Chicago native, was head coach of Mac Irvin from 2005-11 and helped arrange the group to come for unofficial visits with Fire assistant coach Walt Woghiren.

Just getting players of that caliber on campus was a feat in itself, but as it turns out, Okafor and his teammates were blown away by their experience at Nebraska.

"It was great," Okafor said. "You know, going to Nebraska I was really just helping out one of my former coaches, Coach Coleman, and I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. I just saw how nice the facilities were and how great the fans were, and just the academic part of Nebraska, and I just really loved it. It turned out Nebraska is a school I really liked, and I'm really going to consider going there."

The centerpiece of the group was obviously Okafor, who as just a sophomore already has offers from the likes of North Carolina, Duke, Ohio State and Michigan State.

While it would seem extremely difficult for Coleman and NU head coach Tim Miles to standout from the rest of the schools after Okafor, the Whitney Young (Ill.) High School standout said he never could have expected he'd be so impressed with what the Huskers had to offer.

In particular, he said Nebraska's basketball facilities were the most impressive of any school he'd seen.

"To be honest, Nebraska had the best facilities I've been to," Okafor said. "I've been to Duke, I've been to North Carolina, and I've been to Arizona and Ohio State, and Nebraska definitely had the best facilities."

Because of how well the weekend in Lincoln went, Okafor said Nebraska has immediately joined the list of the top schools he's considering.

"(The visit) definitely threw them in the mix," Okafor said. "Nebraska will definitely be a school I'll look at when I make my decision."

Okafor admitted that one of the big draws in going to a school like Nebraska, which has struggled to have any sort of consistent success over the past 15 years, was to be part of the group that turned the program around.

He said if he were to come to NU, there was no doubt he'd make sure to bring some of his Chicago teammates along with him .

"I definitely would be open to doing that," Okafor said. "I think if I were to choose a program like Nebraska, I'd definitely bring a couple more recruits in with me. Having Coach Coleman as my former high school coach and my former AAU coach, that makes me very comfortable around that environment."

After extending offers to Okafor and 2013 guards Sterling Brown and Kyle Davis on Saturday, Nebraska later extended a fourth offer to 2014 forward Josh Cunningham on Sunday before the group left for Chicago.

It marked the sophomore's first Division I offer, and he said he took it as a credit to the hard work he's put in over the past couple years. Along with playing for Mac Irvin, Cunningham has emerged as a budding star for Morgan Park (Ill.) High School, as he averaged 14 points and nine rebounds last season.

It also didn't hurt that he benefited from a considerable growth spurt over the past couple years, either, shooting up to 6-foot-6 currently with likely more height to come.

"(Getting an offer from Nebraska) felt pretty good, because it's showing me that the work is paying off," Cunningham said. "I think I'm working real hard, and my coaches are on me and pushing me to get better and to be a better player. That's what I've become. I know I can still get better."

While Cunningham obviously still has a long way to go before he has to make a decision on where to play his college ball, he said Nebraska definitely made a lasting impression on him and became the early front-runner for him thus far.

"Yes, I really would (consider going to Nebraska)," Cunningham said. "I really liked the school and the people I met there. I really like the staff, and I like the students so far."



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