Blue Devil Nation Premium has learned that Duke has offered a schlorship to Kevon Looney. When you're a versatile and skilled 6'8", your highly respected five-time state title winning coach says that -- as a rising junior -- you're the best player he's ever coached, including NBA players Rodney Buford and Carl and Marcus Landry, college programs will take notice. When you add in a 3.6 cumulative GPA and the reputation of being a high character player, schools from around the country from Stanford to Duke will start to pay even closer attention. So it's no surprise that Kevon Looney, a player who fits such a description, has seen his recruitment and rankings take off over the past few months.
Partially out of necessity, Looney was thrust into a starting role as a freshman for Coach Tom Diener, a thirty year veteran, and the Hamilton Wildcats of Milwaukee. He took like a fish to water, averaging a near double-double and earning second-team All-City honors. Despite being severely undermanned (the starting five played the vast majority of the minutes and included three freshmen), the Wildcats enjoyed a miraculous run to the state semifinals at the Kohl Center in Madison before losing narrowly to Memorial HS of Madison. This past season, as a sophomore, Kevon played more of a point-forward position for Coach Diener, and averaged over twenty points, nearly nine rebounds, and two assists. In the toughest conference in Wisconsin, Looney was named the Milwaukee City Conference Player of the Year. Kevon was also a unanimous First Team All-State selection by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association and a Sophomore All-American by MaxPreps.
This camp season, Looney's unique skill set, versatility and rebounding on both ends of the court really helped him stand out, first at the Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, California. He followed that up by performing well at the NBA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA. In July, he was invited to compete at Nike's prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy, where he excelled as a long, face-up wing in his preferred small forward position alongside teammates Austin Nichols and Andrew Wiggins on the Duke camp team. On the AAU circuit, the Wisconsin native played for the Milwaukee Rebels, where he stood out at the Spiece Run N' Jam in Fort Wayne, the Kansas City Classic, the NY2LA Swish 'N Dish, and the Under Armour Summer Jam in Wisconsin. Most recently, he played for the Rebels at the FAB 48, where Duke special assistant coach Nate James watched him at courtside.
When the summer drew to a close, Kevon has been recognized as a consensus top ten caliber player in the class of 2014. I spoke with Kevon at multiple events and, off the court, he's got the same poise, directness, and maturity that belies his age and so impresses on the court.
How do you feel about your AAU season overall?
It’s gone pretty well. We played pretty well.
You’ve had a bit of a breakout year.
I’m pretty happy with how I’ve played this spring and summer. (laughs) I’ve been working hard.
How do you account for it? Was it something you did either in the off-season or the high school season? Getting more physically developed?
Yeah, I think it’s a lot of working out and staying in the gym..just putting in the time. Just try to out-work people, working on things that people say I need to improve on.
So it’s a work ethic thing for you?
I would assume this is the case, but do you feel that your recruitment has picked up over the last few months?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve gotten a lot more suitors.
Which ones? Who are some of your suitors?
I’ve got Michigan State, Kansas, Wake Forest, Stanford. All of them offered.
Oh, so you must be a good student.
Yeah, and Kentucky and North Carolina have shown interest as well. There are some others.
How far along are you in your recruitment?
Not very far along. I’m going to try to sit down and put a list together in the middle of August. I’d like to cut it down a little bit.
So if a school wants to get in with you, they’ve got to start pretty soon, would you say?
Probably, but I’m still open.
What do you view as your strengths and weaknesses?
My weaknesses are I need to get stronger. I need to improve my athleticism and work on my handle.
Do you view yourself as like a 3-4?
I really see myself as a pure 3. A 3.
Will distance be a factor in your decision?
No, not really.
What was it like to play with Andrew Wiggins and also Austin Nichols?
They’re both very good. I had never seen them before this summer or played with them.
What would be your scouting report on both of them?
They’re both very athletic and they’re both real good.
Away from the court, what would you like the audience to know about you?
I’m a humble and smart kid. I have a good family and I’m fun to be around.
Although you‘re capable of doing both, do you consider yourself more of a face-up player or back-to-the-basket player?
I like to face-up more. I mean, I’ll post if I have to, but it’s usually only because I have to. I like to face up against my opponent.
You mentioned before that you’re a good student. Academically, you’ll be in good shape?
Yeah, my cumulative right now is about a 3.6.
Well, that’s impressive. That’s better than two of these normal guys combined.
What do you know about Duke and have they called?
Oh, they’re a great program and actually, they have called. I can’t believe I forgot.
And what did they say?
They said that they wanted to come see me play.
Do you know which coach was communicating with you?
And what did he say to you?
Just that he was looking forward to seeing me.
And what do you know about the program?
I know they’ve got a great program. I know they play in the ACC and I know that they have a great coach in Coach K. We saw them practice.
What do you know about Coach K?
I know he’s one of the greatest college coaches.
What is it like for you to play in front of college coaches? Is it helpful for you?
Well, I did it last year and I thought it was a bit stressful, but this year, it’s a lot more fun.
Does it make you excited or nervous before a game? Can you telling anything different about yourself before a game?
I mean, like the first time it did, but now, I can’t say it really does. I get pretty excited every time. After you talk to them awhile, it helps.
What’s the one thing that you hope college coaches walk away thinking about you? “Oh, that kid’s a…?"
That I’m one of the best players out there, that I’m a good person, and stuff like that.
I read in an article that your high school coach, Tom Diener, who had coached two other NBA players in high school, felt that you were the best player that he’s ever coached.
Well, that’s high praise. It’s great to hear stuff like that, but you know, you still have to keep heading to the gym and work hard.
I was wondering what went through your head when you heard that.
I just didn’t pay attention to it. I just tried to work hard. (laughs)
Do you have any visits planned?
I don’t have any plans, but I’ll probably take some visits later in August.
Do you have a favorite at this point?
No, no favorites at this point.
For you, what is the difference between AAU basketball and high school?
In AAU, there’s a higher level of competition than in my high school. We’re playing with better players in AAU. Everyone plays harder. We get to travel a lot more.
This year, in high school, will you be traveling a lot? Going to showcases or tournaments?
Oh, no, we pretty much stay in the same state.
I was hoping that some people could see you play around the country. What are your goals for next season?
In high school, I’d like for us to be state champs.
Do you have a good shot?
We have a shot. We were only like two games away this year and when I was a freshman. The first year we got really close, so I’d really like to be state champs. I think eventually we will.
Well, with you there, I’m sure you’ve got a great chance. Where do you feel comfortable shooting the ball?
I feel pretty much comfortable shooting anywhere middle and in.
Like 15 feet and in?
Yeah, I like to attack. I like to shoot pretty close in. I can shoot three’s a lot, but, you know, I guess I prefer to get a better shot.
Your handle seems to be something you worked a lot on. What has been the key and do you feel a noticeable improvement?
Oh, yeah, I work on my handle a lot. I mean, I don’t have to dribble a lot in AAU because I’ve got two good ball handlers, I just try to give it to them and go to my spot. Like bang bang. But yeah, I work on my handle a lot.
One of your strengths is defensive versatility. Which position do you feel comfortable defending?
I think I can pretty much defend anybody. (laughs) Well, I mean, 2 and up.
Yeah, I think 2, 3, and 4. What would be some people who will be important whenever you do decide?
My parents, my parents are most of the influence. A couple of my AAU coaches. Mostly, my parents.
Did your parents play basketball at all?
My dad played a little bit.
I’m not sure, I think it was like NAIA school. I can’t even think of it.
Does he work with you a lot?
He worked with me when I was smaller, but not right now.
Do you have a trainer?
Actually, I work out with my AAU coaches. I’ve been lifting a lot lately.
Yeah, it looks like that in the upper body. You’re looking a little stronger. What’s your current height and weight?
And what would you like to be?
I’m trying to get to at least 205.
One thing that comes up with you a lot is versatility.
Yeah, I’m pretty versatile. I can play a lot of positions and I can score from a lot of positions. I would say I’m pretty versatile.
Lastly, for an audience who has never seen you play before, how would you describe your game?
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]