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Dick Harmon: Mormon mega-recruit Jabari Parker still uncertain about future

Published: Monday, Aug. 20 2012 11:43 p.m. MDT

Jabari Parker, arguably the No. 1 high school basketball player in the Class of 2013, is seen with Katie Couric, special correspondent of ABC's "Good Morning America."

Jeff Benedict

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Jabari Parker has yet to narrow his 10 favorite college choices down to a manageable number, but as long as he goes front and center with his LDS faith, Dave Rose and BYU might have a chance.

Parker, arguably the No. 1 high school basketball player in the Class of 2013, joined members of his family in preaching at an LDS Church Tongan Stake fireside in the Oakland, Calif., area on Sunday.

According to reports, the Parkers were well-received, welcomed and respected for their remarks to the group of between 1,500 and 2,000 gathered at the ISC on Temple Hill in Oakland.

The event was hosted by the Oakland, Calif., East Tongan Stake under direction of President Tevita Lauti, who is a first-cousin to Jabari's mother Lola.

"There was a buzz in the audience leading up to the event," said former BYU basketball player Gary Furniss, who attended the event.

"There was a lot of excitement to hear the No. 1-rated high school basketball player in the land speak with his brother and older brother," said Furniss of Jabari, who has missed some of the summer's biggest AAU tournaments after breaking his foot, and is of half Tongan heritage.

The mother, Lola, spoke first, followed by Christian Parker. Before Jabari, a 6-8 phenom from Chicago, took to the podium as the keynote speaker, Lauti, played a video clip on a big screen of Jabari's interview with Katie Couric, co-host of ABC's "Good Morning America."

"The Parker family is a rock solid family," said Furniss, who agreed to share his observations of the night in Oakland.

"They are well-taught and grounded in the fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ by a wonderful mother, who knows. She served an LDS mission to the Tongan Islands before marrying former NBA player Sonny Parker, Jabari's father."

Quoting Lola, Furniss said the mother told the audience: "I taught my four children to always do something good. There is no task too big, the Lord only wants our hearts. Service is the greatest example parents can give to their children … your passport to heaven is service and Jesus Christ is the greatest example of love."

Christian, who served an LDS mission, played for CSI and BYU-Hawaii, shared stories about his famous little brother. "Jabari is unique in many ways. He is mature far beyond his 17 years, soft spoken and unassuming, yet he is a fierce competitor and champion on the court," Christian told the audience. He said both he and his brother have daily scripture readings, which blessed their lives and with persistence and faith, Christian overcame a speech impediment and became a confident public speaker.

Jabari walked into the meeting on crutches.

"He did not disappoint," said Furniss.

"He gave a powerful message of inspiration. He spoke of the power of priesthood blessings that helped him overcome an injury. He said he is frustrated at times when people ask him if he will serve a two-year mission. He likes to answer, 'Why can't it be now. We all should be missionaries every day.' "

Jabari signed autographs and posed for pictures with youth and adults long after the fireside came to a conclusion. There were several accomplished athletes who attended the fireside, including Parker's cousin, former Oregon Duck Will Tukuafu, who played at East High School and is now with the San Francisco 49ers.

"This was a great event for the Bay Area youth," said Furniss. "There are our future fathers, mothers and leaders of our families, communities and our nation. The fireside illustrated that it is indeed cool to be valiant, strong and live lives distinguished by high character."

There are reports that Jabari made a visit to Stanford on Monday.

According to Internet reports over the weekend by his father Sonny, his son has not narrowed down his college choices from a list of 10. Those schools include Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Stanford, Florida, Georgetown, BYU and DePaul.

"Hopefully in September, that's the target date," said Sonny of his son's narrowing of his top picks.

"Then, he's going to take his visits and his trips and hopefully make his decision in the fall. If he's not really feeling it, then wait until the spring."

Sonny said his son doesn't really have a favorite, according to his remarks to RealGM.com, a website connected to The Sporting News.

"I told him, 'You have to make a decision.' He pretty much likes all those programs. I don't know if anyone has an advantage or disadvantage. It's just going to come down to him being comfortable in their system where he can grow and develop and get better. He likes all his Top 10 choices."

Email: dharmon@desnews.com

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