Duke basketball champ sees potential last-chance recovery

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

A Duke basketball great may now be at a make-or-break moment in his career.

Duke basketball national champ Jahlil Okafor might eventually run out of opportunities. At age 25, the 6-foot-10, 270-pound big man is barely clinging to the “young” tag for a pro. And his list of past injuries seems to continuously grow.

Ever since going No. 3 overall at the 2015 NBA Draft as a one-and-done Blue Devil and then averaging double-digit points in 20-plus minutes per game across his first two years in the league — excelling via old-school post moves and oh-so-soft touch — Okafor has bounced between four franchises.

The former No. 1 recruit on the final 247Sports 2014 Composite hasn’t appeared in 60 or more games in any season. Plus, his most productive time during this latest four-year span was in 2018-19 with the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging only 15.8 minutes, 8.2 points, and 4.7 rebounds per outing.

Fast forward to Okafor’s lackluster days in Detroit. He’s seen action in only 12 of his team’s 26 contests this go-round. Plus, in this debut campaign with the Pistons (7-19) after signing for two years and $4 million in the offseason, the Chicago native is putting up personal-lows with 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.

Critical rehab time for the Duke basketball product

This week, the Detroit Pistons announced Jahlil Okafor underwent surgery to clean the lateral meniscus in his left knee and is out 6-8 weeks.

Now, due to Okafor’s lengthy absence, rookie center Isaiah Stewart is likely to solidify himself as the primary backup to Duke basketball alum Mason Plumlee (a third Blue Devil, guard Frank Jackson, is also with Detroit but resides at the end of the bench).

In other words, factoring in his overall rocky path in the NBA and this newest roadblock, Jahlil Okafor must ensure he returns in tip-top shape and ready to fight for a significant role in order to prove his value moving forward.

Otherwise, his current contract could constitute the closing chapter to an underwhelming career.

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