Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones continue NBA trend of stars teaming up

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor are the two top-rated high school seniors in the Class of 2014. They also plan on changing the college landscape when they decide to commit.

Star players don't want to fight for championships alone; they want to do it while playing next to other elite players. This is the latest trend in the NBA, one started in the summer of 2010 when LeBron James went on national television and announced he was joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. The move would shake the landscape of the NBA considerably.

The same logic led Dwight Howard to Houston to play with James Harden this offseason. Howard left more than $30 million in guaranteed money on the table to increase his chances of winning a title by playing alongside the star shooting guard. Now the idea is having a trickle-down effect to the AAU ranks.

Take Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Class of 2014 respectively. The two incoming high school seniors plan on playing college basketball together.

If the package deal stands, the duo will turn one quite good college team into a title contender overnight. Okafor, who is 6'10, 280 pounds, has the size scouts drool over in the post. Jones is a 6'1, 171-pound point guard who has drawn comparisons to Chris Paul.

The major college players are all clamoring for their services. Duke, Florida, Ohio State, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and borderline every school with two scholarships available have opened their doors to Okafor and Jones.

The two met as third-graders in an AAU tournament in Florida but didn't really become friends until they both tried out for the USA Basketball U16 team. As their friendship grew, they cemented the idea of playing at the same college two years ago at the FIBA American U16 Championship, Bret Strelow of the Fay Observer reported.

"It's like we're brothers," Jones said. "We're great friends, and that's the main reason why we want to do this. Aside from how well we play on the court, we have a bond off the court, and that's why we want to try to do something special."

The duo wouldn't be the first combo to exist, but they might be the most highly rated pair. Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison both enlisted their services with Kentucky as part of the Wildcats' insane incoming class this year, but are merely ranked No. 5 and No. 7, according to Rivals. Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez both committed to Stanford in the Class of 2006, but were just ranked No. 10 and No. 28, according to Rivals.

With the formations of "Big Threes" across the NBA landscape, the chance of these recruiting packages only stands to grow, especially considering that kids no longer need to be from the same school to be best friends. The most highly recruited players spend much of their high school careers on the AAU circuits, playing with and against other high school kids from all over the nation.

That might be where the rarity of Okafor and Jones' decision kicks in. Okafor is from Chicago and Jones is from Apple Valley, Minnesota. Most of the other top pairs in college hoops have either been twins, or occasionally gone to the same school.

Even more often, the 100 percent certainty of attending the same school falls apart as recruitment begins earlier each year and the teenagers realize the gravity of the decisions they are making. Terrence Jones and Terrence Ross were both top-50 recruits from a high school in Portland, Ore. who decided on playing at the University of Washington. At the last second, Jones backed away and ended up with the Kentucky Wildcats.

As Gary Parrish with CBS Sports writes, this is why a few coaches remain skeptical that the duo will remain a duo by the time their commitments come around, pointing out that even the most highly rated kids change their minds from time to time.

The difference this time around might be the sincerity in their tone, and the reference to the next level. The Miami Heat are the clear class of the NBA with two consecutive NBA championships, and three straight trips to the NBA Finals. Jones admitted to Parrish that what they are doing is pretty rare.

"But that's what we're going to do. We're trying to accomplish something at the next level. So that's what we're going to do."

Okafor and Jones' tune hasn't changed in the past two years. Jones puts the commitment to each other at 99 percent -- and if that is the case, their decision should make one coach and an entire fanbase rather happy.

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