On an overcast and rainy December afternoon, Jabari Parker, a soft spoken and measured young man from the South Side of Chicago, saw the light, committing to Duke University on ESPNU. After a three year pursuit of the reigning National Gatorade Player of the Year, the Blue Devils' staff's persistence and message won the day, culminating in, perhaps, Duke's best small forward prospect since Grant Hill roamed the Gothic Wonderland in Durham, North Carolina.
6'8" Jabari Parker has led Simeon Academy, a vocational high school deep in the south side of Chicago, whose alumni includes four NBA players (most notably former NBA MVP Derrick Rose), to state titles in each of his three seasons in the highly competitive state of Illinois. This past season, after averaging over twenty points, nine rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, Parker was named Gatorade's National Player of the Year, a rare distinction for an award that has traditionally been designated to players in their senior class. In addition to seeking out excellence in a given field of play, the award takes into account a player's performance in the classroom, where Parker is in the top five percent of his class, and in the community, where Jabari has worked on behalf the Salvation Army, Operation PUSH, and the Hyde Park ward of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
Giving back to the community has been something that his father, Robert "Sonny" Parker, a six-year NBA veteran with the Golden State Warriors, ingrained in his children, including his youngest, Jabari. In 1990, he began the Chicago-based Sonny Parker Youth Foundation, a non-profit which seeks to offer year-round recreational and educational after-school programs for Chicago kids in grades K-12, in order to provide alternatives to gang and drug-related violence that still plague parts of the Windy City.
Although there already was projected to be quality depth on the wings in Durham next season, the addition of Parker, a 6'8" skilled, cerebral, and versatile wing, provides the Blue Devils with the opportunity to add an instant impact freshman who is a constant threat, on or off of the ball, and to create mismatches in a manner similarly devised by Coach Mike Krzyzewski in the 2012 Olympics in London. In terms of international experience, Jabari has been an integral part of USA Basketball at the junior level winning a gold medal both at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Cancun, Mexico, where he won the tournament's MVP, and with the United States U-17 team at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship in Kaunas, Lithuania this July, during which he broke his right foot.
For the past several months, Jabari has been recovering from the fracture in his right foot, but he made his return to the hardwood in order to compete against future Duke teammate 6'5" Matt Jones and his DeSoto (TX) HS in Texas on a nationally televised game. The return was premature and Parker demonstrated a shell of his potential as his explosiveness and timing were off. Following the trip, Parker has decided to take further time off in order to allow his foot to fully heal and his timing to recover.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University and his staff have consistently been recruiting the Simeon star for the better part of three years, including twice within the past ten days. Coach K and his staff have seen Jabari compete for three-time defending state champion Simeon Academy and the robust Mac Irvin Fire AAU program, where Parker formed a potent one-two punch with 6'11" Jahlil Okafor, his close friend, fellow Duke recruit, and USA Basketball teammate. Jabari Parker, for his part, twice visited his future campus: once on an unofficial visit during his sophomore season along with Shabazz Muhammad for a game against Virginia and, most recently, for his official visit during Duke's split-squad Blue-White game with his mother, Lola, and father, Sonny, while utilizing crutches.
Parker provides the Blue Devils with a skilled 6'8" wing that offers the staff the versatility of being able to play inside or out with his mixture of skill, athleticism, and basketball acumen. At Simeon, he's dropped some of his baby fat through cardio work and an increased focus on his diet. Though his father has been largely hands-off in Jabari's development, he's been there to offer advice through the prism of a former high-flying professional wing. The Celtics fan enjoys watching and playing "team ball" and has tried to watch game film of prior NBA greats, including Julius Erving and Larry Bird, in order to incorporate aspects of their games into his own. With a blue chip piece the caliber and position of Parker, there are hopes in the Blue Devil fan base of Jabari Parker delivering for Duke in a manner similar to current Knick Carmelo Anthony when he joined a talented returning Orange core in his masterful season at Syracuse University. Although Jabari is not publicity-seeking, he was the May cover story of a Sport Illustrated article declaring him the best high school basketball player since LeBron James and focusing on the role of his Mormon faith. Parker has learned to embrace the high expectations, while using his platform to remain socially conscious.
For a young man who appreciates both history and selfless people, his recruitment was run in a very straightforward, "old school" approach. In the end, the Blue Devils staff was able to edge out two coaching staffs, Michigan State Spartans and the Florida Gators, with national championships on their resume, a school that had strong religious ties, BYU Cougars, and an up-and-coming coach at arguably the top university on the West Coach, Stanford Cardinal. With Jabari Parker, the most talented incoming Duke recruit since the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, along with Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones, Coach K and his staff have worked hard to corner the market on high-quality wings with slightly different core strengths in the 2013 class.
It's that hot time of the season again for Duke basketball recruiting, and Blue Devil Nation will be in the thick of things to bring our paying members all the latest from the trail. BDN Premium is our extended subscription service, which features a private message board and hands-on coverage of the basketball and football programs, both the recruiting and the actual team beat itself. To bring you timely and accurate inside information, we believe one has to be there, right in the middle of the action. And we are.
Starting today, members will be treated to updates as they happen from the City of Palms Basketball Tournament, which is loaded with the nation's top prospects, including Jahlil Okafor, a center that Duke is very interested in. Okafor is a Chicago native, as is another name that is on the tip of everybodys tongue, Jabari Parker. The multi-talented forward from Simeon High will make his collegiate decision tomorrow afternoon, and there is more than a little buzz surrounding his commitment. Members can get BDN's collective thoughts on the matter. And our opinions should count for something, for as a BDN Team we've had numerous interviews with Parker (which you can see in our archives) and more in-person opportunities to watch him play than we can count. With the holiday season coming up, give the gift of BDN Premium or just give it to yourself and join a site that will give you one of the most Duke-centric experiences you can get.
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Word came out of Detroit, Michigan today that the nation's top rated prospect, Jabari Parker, would choose his college destination on December 20th. While that date has yet to be absolutely confirmed, it falls in line with what the Parker family has said all along --their son wanted to make a a decision before his high school season in order to take the pressure off and enjoy his senior year.
Parker is considered a sure bet at every level, and his addition would make any team a contender. It has long been thought by those who have followed his recruitment that Duke and Michigan State were neck and neck for his services. Parker, who is of Mormon faith, also lists BYU, Florida and Stanford as finalists.
You can see Parker in action this Thursday evening when his Chicago Simeon High team takes on DeSoto, a team that feature future Duke shooting guard Matt Jones. The game will be telecast by ESPN with a 9:30 PM start time.
For more information and the latest thoughts on Parker, join Blue Devil Nation Premium, our extended subscription service. There you can read multiple past interviews and hear from knowledgeable folks who have seen him play upwards of 20 times each, as our staff has covered his recruitment for more than two years . We also have our latest Duke Basketball Recruiting Update posted on the members message board.
One of the two players who signed with Duke for next season is a shooting guard out of Texas by the name of Matt Jones. Jones is a solid player getting better as he works on his game per his future teams orders. Jones said he was just trying to be a normal kid on and off the court and play with more confidence this season during our chat and that he was looking forward to putting on a Duke uniform and that he wanted to each time he watched the Blue Devils. Check out what he had to say for yourself as a BDN Premium member -
On his season to date ...
My season has been going pretty good so far as a team and individually. We're eight games into our season and I am trying to lead my team, we're pretty young this season but we are ranked like #20 in the nation, so we're pretty good.
On playing a different role with his high school team this season ... [private]
Yeah actually I am. I'm playing more point guard this season. I have been working on my handle and being more vocal on the court this year, so my role has changed. I talked to Coach K yesterday and text the assistants when I can.
On what Coach Krzyzewski has asked him to work on in conversations ...
He told me about the guys on the team and winning the tournament. He wants me to be more vocal and be more aggressive on the court this season and work on my handle and overall floor game and things like that. The goal is to become a more confident and versatile player before entering Duke.
On whether he'd like to already be at Duke when he watched them play this season ...
Oh yeah. Every time I watch Rasheed (Sulaimon) and them play I wish I was there already and makes me anxious.
On signing day festivities at his DeSoto High School in Texas and getting his LOI to Duke ...
It was cool, it was good. I had my family there and a couple of good friends from my school and some girls from the basketball team. It was pretty fun. It's just an honor to know I will be playing for Coach K at Duke and I was excited to make it official.
On playing in the Triangle later in December ...
Yes sir. I will be coming to Raleigh, North Carolina in December and I am looking forward to getting back to the area.
On the possibility of playing with Jabari Parker if he chooses Duke ...
Jabari is a great player and one we need, it would be great to play with him. [/private]
There is never a shortage of feel good moments for Duke fans when Countdown to Craziness kicks off the basketball season and on Friday night a celebration of the program ensued. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his program had more than just this years team on display during the festivities. They also had a bevy of highly rated and key future prospects in attendance and they hope it will not be these young mens last visit to Durham.
It wasn't long after BDN began it's coverage of the event that all of the Duke Assistant Coaches, Jeff Capel, Chris Collins and Steve Wojociechowski came walking down the steps beside the Swartz-Butters Building which houses Coach K on the top floor with all of the visiting prospects. Among [private] those were a point guard who does nothing but make his team better and win, Tyus Jones.
Jones is believed to have Duke and Michigan State at the top of his list, so it was important that Duke made a good impression and from afar it appears that may have happened. Also attending was a 6-10 behemoth from Chicago Jahlil Okafor and a sleek wing in North Carolina native Theo Pinson. All three of these players played on one of the better Team USA Development Teams in recent memory and all know one another from the AAU circuit as well. Depending on how your perceive information, it is said that these guys along with Justise Winslow would not mind playing together in college.
Duke also had a visit from another stud prospect in Karl Towns and a junior high sensation and specimen in Harry Giles.
Anyhow, back to the walk through campus by the prospects. As they descended down the steps quite a few Duke fans took notice and trust me from the folks I met who follow or are members of BDN, a lot of them and others were well aware of these kids visits. Suddenly, there was a small mob of picture and autograph seekers and the guys took time out to accommodate the fans.
Several minutes past before the prospects made their way fully onto the concourse with K-Ville dead ahead. By that time, owrd had spread and more Duke fans were taking notice. I could not help but think how disappointed some kids would be after getting their Duke caps and such signed for these guys not to matriculate but the greeting is one the average fan would have hoped for and a positive thing.
As they got closer to K-Ville, several groups of students, mainly coeds, held signs up letting each player know they were wanted in Durham. All of them seemed touched if not a tad embarrassed by the moment but all were certainly impressed by the situation. The group then made their way towards the Chapel and campus and later appeared behind the bench in Cameron as the event took place.
All of them sat directly behind Coach Krzyzewski and he would often turn to them individually and collectively and chat of what was happening on the court or offering some nuggets of wisdom. Several times during the game you could hear their names shouted but there were never any orchestrated cheers which lasted long but each of these kids knew they were honored guests.
If body language is any indication, the group enjoyed themselves and the Duke atmosphere and there were several times where the group had collective laughs at various antics, such as Marshall Plumlee dancing with his crutches. No real information past that at this time but I sure more will come out at some point today and I will pass on what I can. Talk about it on the BDN Premium Message Board. [/private]