Ravenscroft junior guard Michael Okauru received a simple message from his coach before taking the floor against High Point Wesleyan Christian.
Ravens boys’ basketball coach Kevin Billerman pulled Okauru aside and told him to show everyone who’s the best player on the court.
“I guess that’s what I did,” a coy Okauru said.
After Ravenscroft’s 69-56 victory Thursday, there was no question of who that was. The Trojans boast future SEC and ACC guards in Kwe Parker (Tennessee) and Brandon Childress (Wake Forest). But Ravenscroft has Okaura.
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The junior guard came into the contest under the radar in comparison to Parker and Childress (along with Wesleyan forward Jalen Johnson, also a UT commit). However, when the final horn sounded it was Okaura and his teammates advancing to the next round.
Okaura had 14 of his game-high 23 points in the first half, coming off a series of drives to the basket, jump shots and strong finishes. For good measure he also added six rebounds and three steals.
The Ravens turned it up a level in the second half, gaining a 10-point advantage on a spectacular play from who else but Okaura. The lanky point guard drove to the basket, scoring the layup while drawing the foul. He missed the following free throw, but collected his own miss and scored to put Ravenscroft ahead 37-27 midway through the third. That was probably his most dominating play of the evening, but he knew he was in a zone way before then.
“I think that first layup I got the beginning of the game,” Okaura said when asked when he knew he had it going. “I felt like this was going to be my day.”
Twenty-one points later, the Ravens were moving on. Ravenscroft will face No. 1 Providence Day at 5:30 p.m. Friday in semi-final round.
Okaura got a helping hand from Ian Dubose, who finished with 16 points and five boards and Tyler Williams, who came off the bench with 14 points and six rebounds.
Childress and Parker didn’t go quietly, finishing with 16 and 14, respectively. Parker, the high-flying guard, only connected on four field goals with Okaura hounding him most of the night.
“He (Parker) had to work for every shot he got off of Mike,” Billerman said. “Mike’s an exceptional player.”
When Billerman started coaching Okaura he told the guard to improve on two things - his jump shot and getting tougher on the defensive end.
Okaura’s final basket of the night was an open 3-pointer in the corner, long after that first layup that let him know it was going to be a good night. Everything in between was a thing of beauty for the quiet guard who simply replied “yes sir” when challenged by his coach before the game.
What he didn’t say in the locker room, his game spoke volumes, implicating he was prepared for the playoff task.
“I just want to show my city that I’m one of the top players,” Okauru said. “If you look at the rankings, those guys are up there. They’re going to major colleges. I just want to show everybody I belong.”
With this first postseason win, the Ravens have much higher expectations.
“I want a state championship,” Okauru said, his voice rising an octave. “The bigger goal is the state championship.”