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Okafor mystified by mispronunciations

Top junior Jahlil Okafor says most coaches recruiting him pronounce his name wrong

Whitney Young (Chicago) center Jahlil Okafor says everyone has issues pronouncing his name. That's Jah-LEEL. / Charles Slate, The Sun News

Even though he gets it in abundance, the nation's No. 1 junior boys' basketball player Jahlil Okafor doesn’t need any preferential treatment.

He’s not trying to be a diva or a stickler; he simply wants the droves of college coaches recruiting him to be able to correctly pronounce the name they text and call multiple times a day.

Sounds reasonable.

“It’s just funny at this point,” Okafor said with a laugh. “I mean, most people pronounce my name wrong in general, but it’s even funnier when a coach that wants me to come to play for him in college says it wrong.”

Most pronounce Okafor’s first name Juh-LEEL, but it's actually pronounced Jah-LEEL.

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“And it’s even spelled with an ‘A,'” said Okafor, a center at Whitney Young (Chicago). “But people see that ‘A’ and pronounce it with a ‘U’ I guess. It’s been happening since I’ve been going to school. It’s funny to me.”

Okafor isn’t the only player that’s had to deal with pronunciation mishaps on the recruiting trail.

Shabazz Muhammad’s first named was and is still often pronounced Shuh-BAZZ. The correct pronunciation is Shuh-BOZZ.

Back in high school, Muhammad, a forward who just finished up his freshman season at UCLA, was vocal about coaches who mispronounced his name. He even said if the offense continued “they’re pretty much off the list.”

It’s not as serious for Okafor, who is being pursued by heavyweights like Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State and Texas, among others.

The guilty parties?

“Everyone,” Okafor said with a laugh. “It’s funny because I’ll be talking to a legend like Coach (Tom) Izzo or somebody and they might say it wrong and, I mean, what am I gonna say? They’re legends. It doesn’t bother me at all. I’m used to it. I’ve got family who says it wrong. I will say that I do notice when coaches get it right. Which almost never happens.”

The lone school to nail the pronunciation?

“Coach (John) Groce from Illinois says it right,” Okafor said. “I don’t think anyone else does. Not 100 percent sure. But hey, it’s cool. It’s not like I look at them different or I’m gonna cut them off my list for it. I just like when people say it right.”

Namely the coaches.

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.



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