Jahlil Okafor says he’s ready for challenge of being Sixers’ franchise anchor

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As there are with all rookies, there were good and bad things we saw with Jahlil Okafor at Summer League. But one thing was clear:

He’s the franchise cornerstone kind of player GM Sam Hinkie has been looking for.

How other guys like Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid fit in with that remain to be seen, but Okafor is going to be the Sixers best player fast (if he isn’t already). He’s a franchise anchor kind of guy.

Is he ready for that? Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe asked.

“I am ready [for the challenge],” said Okafor. “I was the No. 1 player in high school so I went through that attention. I went to Duke University, one of the bigger schools in the country, and won a national championship. I’m used to attention and I think I’ll handle it fine.”

Duke is different from the NBA (although Shane Battier once told me he still got more hate from fans about being from Duke than he did as part of the LeBron James‘ Heat). But Okafor looks like the guy with the literally broad shoulders to handle it.

It’s going to be a rough rookie year with some hard lessons for Okafor — he hasn’t faced defenders like this, he hasn’t had defenses like this focus on him this way, and he hasn’t been pushed on the defensive end like this before. That said, he’s the likely frontrunner for Rookie of the Year for a reason — he’s going to battle through that better than most could. He appears to have the right attitude and focus.

And he’s going to grow into that franchise cornerstone. It’s just going to take a little bit to get there.