Jabari Parker picks Duke basketball

By Brady Buck

Jabari Parker picks Duke basketball

Christmas has come early for Duke basketball and head coach Mike Krzyzewski: Jabari Parker—the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2013 will be a Blue Devil.

Parker announced his decision Thursday afternoon in the gym at his high school, Simeon Career Academy.

“In the fall of 2013, I will be attending Duke University,” Parker said. ”[Krzyzewski] knows a lot. He comes from a real prestigious background.”

Parker said staying close to home, Duke’s academics and Krzyzewski were the primary reasons he chose Duke.

In a long, back-and-forth recruiting battle—primarily between Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Krzyzewski—Duke finally prevailed over the Spartans, as well as BYU, Florida and Stanford, to win the 6-foot-8, 220-pound small forward’s services.

“I think Jabari Parker is about as big of a priority as I’ve seen Mike Krzyzewski put on a kid in a long, long time,” ESPN Senior Recruiting Analyst Dave Telep said just weeks after the Duke coaching staff arrived to Parker’s open gym in a limo last fall.

Krzyzewski’s persistent efforts have paid off. A truly unique prospect and prodigious talent, Parker can do it all on the hardwood. With a silky smooth jump shot, NBA size and a remarkably polished offensive repertoire, the Chicago prep basketball prodigy has game and body that bears an eerie resemblance to a young Carmelo Anthony.

Perhaps even more special is his character and work ethic. His devout Mormon faith differentiates him from his peers. Unlike many young superstars, Parker shies away from the spotlight and puts the team above himself at all costs.

His father, Sonny Parker—who played in the NBA—and his caring mother, Lola, have played invaluable roles in keeping Jabari on the right path while navigating through an incredibly hyped high school basketball career and recruiting process.

The hype, however, is warranted. Playing in one of the most fierce high school basketball hotbeds in the nation, Parker has led Simeon Career Academy to three-straight state championships. As a junior, he was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, and last spring he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, being described as “the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.”

With his senior campaign now underway, Parker will try to lead his squad to an unprecedented fourth-straight title, a feat that’s never been accomplished in big-school Illinois basketball.

Parker, however, is not in top form. While playing for the U.S. U-18 National Team over the summer, he sustained a foot injury, which required surgery. Consequently, the setback put him on the shelf for several months, forcing him to miss much of his final summer on the AAU circuit. Recently, Parker returned to the court and is slowly working his way back into game shape.

While recovering through the fall, Parker’s recruitment escalated. He took official visits to Michigan State, Duke, Florida and BYU, before December.

Following the official visit to Durham, rumblings began to surface that the official visit went very well for Duke, and a renewed sense of optimism spread amongst the fan base, who until that point had predominately felt Michigan State might have the slight lead.

Since setting the announcement date, the Spartan and Blue Devil fan bases have been on pins and needless knowing that the fate of a championship run could hinge on Parker’s announcement.

Ultimately, Duke won Parker over in a nail bitter. This, however, is not the first time Krzyzewski—a Chicago native himself— has experienced recruiting success at his old stomping grounds. The all-time winningest coach in college basketball has secured commitments from Windy City products Jon Scheyer, current assistant coach Chris Collins, Corey Maggette, Sean Dockery and Shaun Livingston.

Parker’s pledge, however, gives Krzyzewski one of his most talented players to ever come to Durham. Many recruiting experts feel that Parker is one of the best high school basketball players to come along in the last decade.

“He’s up there with Jason Williams, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden,” Telep said in an interview earlier this fall.

As talented and impressive as Krzyzewski’s current squad is—currently ranked No. 1—next year’s bunch could have an even higher ceiling.

Similar to the makeup of his U.S. National Team this summer, Krzyzewski will have one of his most versatile, athletic and deep lineups of the past decade at his disposal. Duke will likely return starters Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, as well as reserves Amile Jefferson, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston, Marshall Plumlee and Alex Murphy. Redshirt senior Andre Dawkins should be back on the court. The Blue Devils will then add talented Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, as well as promising incoming freshmen Semi Ojeleye, Matt Jones and the likely centerpiece of the team—Jabari Parker.

And as his career draws nearer to an end, Krzyzewski’s blueprint for the 2013-14 Duke team has finally come to fruition, and it’s a squad that promises to make another serious run at a national championship.

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