Last of a four-part series
|Jabari Parker -- Small forward|
|Height: 6' 8"||Weight: 230 lbs.||High school: Simeon||AAU team: Mac Irvin Fire|
Why he's No. 1: Unbelievable feel for the game; has a polished offensive game, capable of knocking down jump shots or going to the basket.
Why he's not No. 1: Not overly explosive or quick; can have trouble with players that possess the same size and athleticism.
What kind of pro: His basketball IQ and smarts are already at a pro level, and he has the skillset and determination to be a multiple-time all-star in the NBA.
Comparison: Paul Pierce
Recruiting: Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky, Washington, DePaul, BYU, Illinois, Connecticut, Kansas, Ohio State, Louisville, Missouri, Northwestern, North Carolina
• • •
Jabari Parker doesn't drink, smoke and almost never swears. He and his parents can't recall the last time he was grounded -- and he doesn't object to being called a dork or a geek because of his clean-cut image. The 6-foot-8 Chicago native is the top-ranked player in the country, but has a similar even-keel, modest approach as another talented forward -- Kevin Durant. Parker calls interviewers by their names, ends conversations with "thank you," brings his teammates water and he holds a near-4.0 GPA.
This kid almost seems too good to be true.
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There isn't much he can't do on the court either.
He's capable of scoring in just about every way imaginable. He can shoot it from deep, can put it on the floor, pulls up from 15 feet and also can score in the post. He's unselfish to a fault, preferring to defer to his teammates and opting to utilize his high basketball IQ and passing ability. He plays hard nearly every possession, is athletic and also rebounds and defends.
The 17-year-old Parker spends much of his time watching tape of former NBA stars like Michael Jordan, Pete Maravich, Oscar Robertson and even Bob Cousy.
"He's a throwback," said his father.
His father is Sonny Parker, a former first-round pick out of Texas A&M who starred at Farragut High long before Kevin Garnett made the school famous. He played six seasons for the Golden State Warriors and met his wife, a Mormon, in a Salt Lake City mall while on a road trip to play the Utah Jazz.
It wasn't all that long ago that Jabari Parker was a chubby 6-foot-4 forward that presented plenty of question marks. Now everyone is raving about the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder.
"He's the best combination of talent and competitive drive I've seen in a while," said veteran recruiting analyst Dave Telep, now with ESPN.com.
"He's special," one Division 1 coach recruiting him said.
Parker has already been dubbed the next great thing. In fact, Sports Illustrated recently put him on the cover and called Parker "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James."
He's already got three state titles under his belt, one for each of his seasons at Simeon High, the same school that produced Derrick Rose. Parker also added a gold medal on his resume this past week when he was a part of the Under-17 team that won it all in Lithuania and even though he sat much of the event due to a foot injury, he was giddy hours after the championship victory -- one in which he finished with 12 points in just 14 minutes.
"I didn't get a chance to play as much as I would have liked, but I don't care about individual success," Parker said. "I just wanted to win the gold."
"Sitting on the bench allowed me to learn to be more optimistic, positive," he added. "It's easy to be negative on the bench, but I wanted to try and be a leader off the court, too. This trip makes me a better teammate."
Parker isn't sure how much he'll play this month when the July recruiting period opens. The plan is for him to attend the ESPY's and then stop by and see the U.S. men's national team work out in Las Vegas. He's hoping to play at the Peach Jam in mid-July and in Las Vegas on the final weekend of the period, but it depends on the severity of his injury.
"It hurts pretty bad," Parker said hours after winning the gold in Lithuania. "I need to go to a doctor when I get home and find out what it is. I don't think it's broken -- it's probably a sprained tendon or ligament."
But Parker doesn't seem overly concerned.
"It really doesn't matter that much to me if I can't play in July," Parker said. "As long as we won gold, that's all I care about."
Parker's recruitment has just started taking shape, as he revealed his top 10 schools this week. There are those who feel Duke has the inside track. Others surmise that BYU is the odds-on favorite because of Parker's Mormon faith. But Parker is still considering plenty of schools, even though college coaches have to go through his parents to get him on the phone.
"No coaches can call him directly or text him," Sonny Parker said. "They have to go through me or my wife. We give him the right of first refusal whether to talk with coaches."
Sonny Parker runs his own basketball youth foundation, mentors children and also helps run a handful of summer league teams. His wife also takes care of children.
Their son doesn't sit around and play video games with his friends. Instead, he watches cartoons, reads books, spends time with his family and also takes in plenty of NBA Classic. His GPA is currently a 3.7 in all honors classes and he's in the National Honor Society.
"Sometimes we get on him for being too unselfish," Lola Parker said. "But that's just his nature. It took him a long time to understand he was being selfish by passing the ball too much."
"By no means is he perfect," his mother added. "We all have our weaknesses."
Whatever Parker's flaws may be, they aren't easy to find.