Dick Harmon: LDS basketball star Jabari Parker moves into No. 1 prospect status
It's official. Jabari Parker now has multiple talent scouting services ranking the LDS basketball star from Chicago as the No. 1 high school player in America.
It's also no secret that he is very aware of the swath he's cutting and it's a priority, he believes, that he needs to set a proper example for his family and faith. It is important for him to try and live a good life and do things right.
The 6-foot-8 Gatorade National Player of the Year is now the No. 1-ranked prospect by Scout.com, Rivals.com and ESPN. This past week, he competed in an AAU tournament in Minnesota with his Mac Irvin Fire club team in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.
It marked the first weekend college coaches could attend AUU events in the spring since 2008, and they came out like an army of ants. Many wanted to see Parker play, according to myriad accounts.
Parker is a target of the nation's top programs, including famed one-and-done (star players that play one year before declaring for the NBA) programs Duke and Kentucky. Michigan State, Illinois, North Carolina, Washington and BYU have been mentioned as other schools he is considering.
The interesting thing I learned over the weekend, not directly from Parker, but from those who know him, is that he has not ruled out serving a two-year LDS Church mission. That would be interesting if he does, and chooses a one-and-done factory.
"I'd be shocked if Jabari does not decide to go on a mission," said one family friend.
The junior was a focal point for many Division I recruiters at the High Performance Academy in Eagan, Minn., this past week. Parker averaged 16 points during the span of three games but sat out a fourth to nurse a sore ankle he twisted on Saturday night.
In the Illinois state playoffs, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State's Tom Izzo were in the stands and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel sat next to Parker's mom.
Although mugged by reporters and adoring fans wherever he goes, and experiencing his private life becoming a public forum almost daily, Jabari appears to be grounded as ever. He attends early-morning LDS seminary, respects his parents and realizes he has been blessed with a unique opportunity.
His mother, Lola, is his spiritual rock. Her Polynesian bloodlines are tied to many local football stars from Utah, including Ravens' nose tackle Haloti Ngata (Highland High), Eagles fullback Stanley Havili (Cottonwood), Chicago 2010 supplemental draft running back Harvey Unga (Timpview) and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki, a brother-in-law of Unga.
Lola and her husband Sonny, who played six seasons with the Golden State Warriors, have seven children and Jabari is the youngest. While not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sonny regularly attends the local ward with his children.
Jabari isn't hesitant to discuss his family, his faith and his advantages growing up with a stable family.
He recently told The Associated Press, "I take for granted having two parents and a good inner circle. And I know that a lot of people who are superstars in the sports world right now didn't have a lot of the resources I have."
Jabari values his family background and is unashamed to talk of his belief in God, his faith and his values. He's told reporters he goes to seminary three times a week but he'd go every day of the week if he didn't have to ask someone for a ride that early in the morning.
"It gives me a better view of life," he said.
He told reporter Andrew Seligman earlier this month about sheets of paper he has pasted to his bedroom door: one with the Ten Commandments, another with a set of personal rules such as "Don't be quick to judge" and "Think positive things."
He's given little hints where he'll be heading after high school. With the heavyweights lining up, it would appear BYU's chances might be a little more of a long shot, although Dave Rose and his staff appear to be recruiting him hard until he gives them the signal not to waste their time and resources.
Then there's this quote over the weekend.
Parker told the Chicago Sun Times, "I'm looking for a program that fits me and I have to get along with the coach. I want a place that's going to build my character and I want to mature and be exposed to the things that are coming my way in the future."
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