The 6-9 power forward from Normal, Illinois, finished an official visit to the Boilermakers on Friday.
Nathan Baird/Journal & Courier
The big man from Normal, Illinois, has not decided whether he’ll remain in the 2019 class or reclassify and enroll somewhere in the fall.
WESTFIELD — Francis Okoro had already been on Purdue’s campus, twice, for unofficial visits.
Recently, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter made an in-home visit to the big man from Normal, Illinois.
So familiarity was not an issue when Okoro took an official visit to Purdue from Wednesday to Friday. When it ended, he headed to Westfield to play for Bradley Beal Elite in a Nike EYBL event loaded with Boilermaker recruiting targets.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the official visit didn’t give the 6-9 Okoro a new perspective with which to potentially make a decision. He had a chance to play with the returning Boilermakers and said he left impressed with their IQ and ability to share the ball.
“The official visit is really important because it showed me how important the school is to me,” Okoro said after Bradley Beal Elite’s opening game Friday night. “They show me the athletic director, show me the inner people inside the schools.
“They talk to you about what they see about you in terms of not just basketball. They kind of talk to you about what they see in you as a person.”
Okoro, for now, is No. 40 in the 24/7 Sports national composite for the 2019 class. He remained non-committal on the possibility he could reclassify to the 2018 class. The Illinois High School Association’s age limit may force Okoro to either enroll this fall or spend a year at prep school.
Okoro said he recently scored a 32 on the ACT, which would help address any immediate college-qualifying issues. But it also may give him the flexibility to choose his destination and worry about classification later.
“I was more worried about class, but now I’m picking a school.” Okoro said.
Purdue has scholarships available immediately, and coach Matt Painter and assistant Brandon Brantley both watched Bradley Beal on Friday and Saturday.
The athletic native of Nigeria recently took an official visit to Oregon. Ducks coach Dana Altman was courtside Friday as well. So was Illinois coach Brad Underwood, and Okoro said he had talked to the Illini about setting up a visit for next week.
After that, he said a commitment could be imminent.
Okoro ostensibly plays center, and Purdue has plenty of bodies there in the short term thanks to Matt Haarms (7-3), Emmanuel Dowuona (6-11) and, depending on development, Trevion Williams (6-9).
However, Okoro said the Boilermaker coaches see him playing power forward. One sequence Friday showed why he may have the necessary skills. Okoro pounced on an attempted post entry pass on defense, hesitated a bit while bringing the ball up court as if looking for a ballhandler, then attacked the rim himself before dumping off to E.J. Liddell for an and-one.
“I’m improving,” Okoro said. “I just have to have confidence and show the coaches I can really do that.”
Bradley Beal coach Robert Kennedy said the program is trying to develop Okoro’s all-around game this summer. He does, however, see a role as a stretch 4 or similar usage at the next level.
“He could fit because he’s very versatile,” Kennedy said. “Once he masters how to make shots he’ll be fine. His footwork is great and he has a good IQ for the game. He’s a student of the game, but he’s got to continue to work and work and work to get better as a player.”
Purdue can make a strong case in terms of playing style, pointing to Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan’s recent success as an undersized center (per conventional wisdom) who excelled in the system.
However, Oregon is making its own style-based pitch, trying to sell Okoro on running the floor and throwing down lobs. Okoro also took note of Nike’s support for the program on his visit to Eugene.
Adding Okoro for 2018 would add additional versatility to an increasingly kaleidoscopic roster. With redshirt freshman Aaron Wheeler, incoming graduate transfer Evan Boudreaux and the aforementioned post depth, Purdue is assembling an interesting mix of interchangeable length.
“They made a point in terms of how they need me and showed me a lot of love,” Okoro said. “It was a really good visit.”
Isaiah Thompson, Purdue’s first commit in the 2019 class, attended the event to support his Spiece Indy Heat teammates. The Zionsville rising senior will be out until at least the end of May with an avulsion fracture in his left foot. He had only been off crutches for two days as of Friday and wore a walking boot. … Two of Thompson’s teammates, Center Grove’s Trayce Jackson-Davis and Fort Wayne North’s Keion Brooks, spoke of their continued connection with Purdue.
Valparaiso’s Brandon Newman, playing with Meanstreets, said DePaul, Xavier, Loyola and Milwaukee have recently offered. He doesn’t have a Purdue offer yet but they remain in contact. For the summer he’s a teammate of Cathedrals’s Armaan Franklin, who already holds a Boilermaker offer. … Mokan forward Malik Hall hit a 3-pointer with a hand in his face to help his team to an eventual overtime victory Friday night. The product of the same Sunrise Christian Academy program as Haarms is blossoming into a major prospect. Defending national champion Villanova and others offered in the past week. … Drive Nation center Drew Timme is among the players intrigued by Purdue’s history of developing big men.