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