Special to ZAGSBLOG
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – What do Jay Z, Bill Clinton, John Legend, the Baltimore Ravens and Jabari Parker all have in common?
They were all trending nationally on Twitter moments after the Duke-bound Parker scored a game-high 28 points and helped Simeon (Ill.), ranked No. 11 in the USA Today national poll, hold off No. 10 Oak Hill Academy (Va.), 81-68, at the 2013 Spalding Hoophall Classic on Monday afternoon.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Parker is the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2013, and four weeks ago chose Duke over Michigan State, Florida, BYU and Stanford, ending an intense process during which schools, coaches, scouts, reporters and television personalities were all gunning for answers.
After leading Simeon to three straight Illinois state championships and earning the 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year, Parker is aiming to amass more achievements – not just becoming a visible icon in social media circles — with a clear mind.
“Most definitely,” he responded when asked if his daily routine has been easier since pledging to the Blue Devils on Dec. 20. “Now, my main focus is on me and my team. I’m a senior and this isn’t going to happen again, so I’m just trying to enjoy the whole process.”
Though life has been good lately, Parker was left concerned this past week after a 17-year-old boy, Tyrone Lawson, was shot and killed in the Chicago State University parking lot; he was an innocent bystander waiting for his mother to come pick him up from Simeon’s win over Morgan Park on Wednesday.
“I’m away from all that stuff,” he said. “It’s emotional, though, because it’s my city. I have to do my job … I want to get the kids off the streets… Any city has its ups and downs. We’re just going through ours right now.”
Parker is slated to become Coach K’s most high-profile student next year, but he is also a Mormon who has said he will forego his mission next year and may take it at some point in the future.
“He’s a part of the church, he’s LDS,” Sonny Parker recently told SNY.tv. “That’s always going to be there.”
That’s good news for Duke, obviously. Parker, a product of the same school that produced former No. 1 overall draft pick Derrick Rose, has drawn comparisons to Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce and Georgetown forward Otto Porter. He’s even adopted the Pierce-like stare toward the sideline after connecting on a fall-away jump shot.
“I like looking at the people on the sideline there. You all have beautiful faces,” he quipped.
Parker joins shooting guard Matt Jones and small forward Semi Ojeleye in Duke’s 2013 class. The Blue Devils lose forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly and guard Seth Curry to graduation, but will add Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and retain many of their current pieces.
Duke could well be the Preseason No. 1 team next year.
As a junior, Parker averaged 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals a game. This year he has been recovering from a broken bone in his foot suffered with the U.S. U17 team in July.
After his most recent performance, it’s safe to say he’s back to being the same Jabari Parker who’s left the Cameron Crazies dreaming about the future.
Photo: Brian Fitzsimmons