Jahlil Okafor’s Story (via Terrance Noland’s Chicago Magazine profile from January 2014)

This is too good not to share. From Terrance Noland’s piece “Jahlil Okafor Is On His Way Up,” printed in Chicago MagazineJanuary 2014

An excerpt explaining Jahlil’s pre-game ritual and the influence of his father, Chucky:

If you watch Jahlil right before a game, you will see his mouth moving. He’s not singing the words to the national anthem. He’s not talking to himself. He’s whispering to his mother. “I’ll just tell her, ‘Let’s go, Mom. I’m ready.’ I think of her as my wings on the court, my extra step.”

Through basketball, he has found a way to grieve. “I think it’s his escape,” says his aunt Chinyere, the principal at Jensen Miller Scholastic Academy on Chicago’s West Side. “I think it lets him focus on something else for a while. I know it does. We’ve talked about it.”

Chucky says, “He will never be OK. I told him that the day his mom died: ‘You will never get over this. So that’s not something you need to try to do.’ ”

I ask Chucky if losing his own mother better prepared him to help his son. He considers this for a long time before answering. “When I was at Chicago State, I took a psychology class, and I did a paper on the difference between a son being raised without his mom and a son raised without his pop. Like, I learned that the mom is really the emotional side, and that’s the first person the child goes to with secrets. So from that paper, I understood some things about myself, and that showed me I had to do some extra things in raising Jahlil.”

Such as?

“Being more communicative, being open with my emotions. And just always being very supportive. No matter what Jahlil did, not just sports, I was the same loud, obnoxious dad who is gonna come embarrass you.” He’s not exaggerating. In junior high, Jahlil was on the crew of a school musical, and when he came out during intermission to move a spotlight, Chucky stood and clapped wildly.

Jahlil Okafor as a toddler, with his sister, his father, Chucky, and his mother, Dee.

Jahlil Okafor as a toddler, with his sister, his father, Chucky, and his mother, Dee.

Here’s a link to the wonderful Terrance Noland profile. http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2014/jahlil-okafor-duke/

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