NEW YORK — After a magnificent performance at Madison Square Garden, Jabari Parker dressed three stalls away from Carmelo Anthony’s locker in the Knicks’ locker room and humbly proclaimed that he and Anthony have a few things in common.
“Yeah, it’s a good comparison,” Parker said after going for 23 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists as Duke beat UCLA, 80-63, in front of a capacity crowd that included Bruce Springsteen, Tyson Chandler and Tim Hardaway Jr.
“He mastered the fundamentals. He’s always good at his craft. He works on it and that’s a person I’ve been looking up to, so yeah, that’s good compliment.”
UCLA coach Steve Alford embraced the comparison independently.
“I know we’re in New York City, but there’s a lot of Melo in him as far as guy that can stretch you to the 3-point line,” Alford said. “He can drive the basketball. He creates space off the dribble to get jump shots. He can take you to the post, so I just think he’s a very, very talented, gifted player. And you don’t see a lot who are this polished 10, 11 games into their freshman year.”
One veteran NBA scout had this to say about the Melo/Parker comparison: “It’s a fair comparison but I think Jabari is more skilled with the ball than Anthony was as a freshman in college.”
Of course, Anthony’s Knicks are 8-17, while Parker’s Blue Devils are now 9-2.
Anthony did win an NCAA championship in his lone year at Syracuse, while it remains to be seen what Parker will do in likely his only year at Duke. He is hoping to play in the East Regional at the Garden in March.
Springsteen wasn’t doing interviews but Chandler — Melo’s teammate and the Knicks center who just returned after missing 20 games with a broken leg — came away highly impressed with Parker’s game.
“I like his poise, I like his pace, his maturity as far as on the court, understanding the game, and he has everything,” Chandler told SNY.tv exclusively. “There’s not too many players who have a mid-range game nowadays, and his mid-range game really impresses me.”
Chandler won an Olympic gold medal under Coach K in 2012 and said he believes this year at Duke will prepare Parker for the NBA, where he could well be the No. 1 overall pick next June ahead of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid.
“I think he still has a year to develop and being under Coach K, he couldn’t ask for a better teacher,” Chandler said. “You know whenever you’re prepared like Coach K prepares his players, you have a little advantage coming into the league, not only for basketball life but off-the-court life as well.”
Chandler watched Wiggins and Kansas beat Parker and Duke last month in Chicago. Although the Knicks have no first-round pick in 2014, Chandler said he’d take Parker No. 1 over Wiggins.
“Since I’ve seen so much of [Parker], I don’t think you can lose with him,” Chandler said. “And especially since I know he’s coming from Coach K.”
(Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor would also take Parker No. 1 over Wiggins.)
Coach K had some unusually special words to describe Parker, who played perhaps his most complete game of the season in his third game at the Garden this year.
“He’s a natural,” Coach K said. “In different sports there are people who are naturals. Jabari is a natural. He can become even better. He embraces the moment.”
UCLA sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson added in his praise of Parker.
“It’s tough to say who is the best player on the floor, especially with that team and our group of guys, but he played really well,” said Anderson, who went for 15 points, 1o rebounds and 7 assists in the loss. “We wanted to shut him down but he’s tough.”
Photo: Daily News