AVALON, N.J. - The line of fans extended down the street as 76ers first-round draft choice Jahlil Okafor signed autographs. Okafor and teammate Robert Covington attended the 76ers Beach Bash, an annual summer meet-and-greet with fans, Saturday at Jack's Place in Avalon.
"The second I got to Philadelphia I cherished the fans right away and saw how passionate the fans were about the Sixers," said Okafor, who led Duke to an NCAA title in his only college season. "That means a lot to me. I have a lot of work to do to make sure I make them proud."
The fans' enthusiasm for the Sixers has shown in one important area. Sixers chief executive officer Scott O'Neil said there are 1,760 new full-season-ticket holders, and he believes the presence of Okafor is a factor.
"He has a lot of name recognition, and it helps that he was an NCAA champion," O'Neil said. "Anybody seeing him in the summer leagues has to be impressed."
Okafor averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two Las Vegas Summer League games. Before that, he averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in three summer league games in Utah.
"I was satisfied," Okafor said of his summer performance. "I got better every game and worked on everything."
Covington said Okafor has already made an impact.
"He has brought a whole lot of excitement to this team," Covington said. "He is a big man who has made his presence known already."
Another big man, Joel Embiid, will miss a second straight season because of another procedure on his foot.
"It is hard to do, but he is doing well, and he is keeping his head high," Covington said.
Just as the focus last season was on Nerlens Noel, this season it will be on Okafor. He said he can't wait to get settled in the Philadelphia area and is looking for a place to live.
Okafor won't lack confidence. He expects a lot from a Sixers team coming off an 18-64 season. He knows the expectations will again be low, but he doesn't care.
"Everybody knows we have expectations, and the fans have expectations, and that is all that matters," he said.
Okafor will be a trendy choice for rookie of the year because he is expected to play major minutes.
"It's definitely a possible goal," he said about earning the award. "Definitely."