SALT LAKE CITY —
Jabari Parker stands out. Man, does he stand out. He is arguably the top high school basketball player in the nation. He is also a seminary-attending Latter-day Saint who is thinking of going on a mission. Every major university covets him, including BYU.
BYU is on Parker's checklist, too.
Does this story sound familiar? It should.
Parker made an unofficial visit to the campus, this week, giving rise to the possibility the Cougars could land the kind of player that comes along, oh, never. But wait. Roll the reel, Peckinpah: Prep sensation signs with BYU. Prep sensation plays a season, then leaves on an LDS mission, never to return to BYU — a college one-and-doner.
That could be Jabari Parker's story. But it's also Shawn Bradley's story.
Which sort of makes a person wonder: How much difference would Parker really make at BYU?
Answer: Less than you might think.
With a player of Parker's fame, people tend to think in terms of epic changes. It's a certainty that he would enhance BYU's profile. At the same time, he has said he's considering a two-year mission, in which case he wouldn't likely to stay around another three years afterward. He'd come home to enter to the NBA. Or he'd declare for the NBA Draft after one year of college and skip the mission.
Either way, BYU would probably enjoy just one year of his talent, then go back to where it left off, which is a pretty good place since Dave Rose took over.
For a program that is rated 36th on ESPN's 50 best programs in the past 50 years, BYU will neither live nor die with Parker, as good as he is.
Bradley was a 7-foot-6 phenomenon from Castle Dale, Utah, in 1990. People said he would revolutionize the game. Not just "fan" people, basketball people. He had the wingspan of a glider, good mobility and a nice touch around the basket. Everyone wanted him, including Utah coach Rick Majerus, who famously acknowledged his inability to compete against BYU for Bradley's attention "because I can't recruit against God."
Though unpolished, Bradley did make a mark. He averaged 14.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and led the nation in blocks (177) as a freshman. The Cougars went 21-13, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He then served a mission to Australia.
Upon returning, Bradley declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft and was picked No. 2 overall by Philadelphia.
Just like that, the Cougars' prize recruit was history. Nevertheless, the intrepid Roger Reid coached BYU to a 25-7 record the next year and followed up with a 25-9 and two 22-10 seasons. Three of those years, BYU made the NCAA Tournament and once it went to the NIT.
Not bad for a team that lost an all-time recruit.
The Cougars' replacement center was Gary Trost, a far less publicized 6-10 center who didn't play in the NBA but was twice an all-WAC first team selection..
Flash forward to 2012 and Parker is the big story. Reports say his list of potential landing spots includes BYU, DePaul, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Stanford. He has been named by Sports Illustrated as the best prep prospect since LeBron James. That sort of thing is hard to fulfill.34 comments on this story
Bradley went on to a 12-year NBA career, which is a nice accomplishment. But he never did approach the hype and he certainly didn't revolutionize anything. His career averages: eight points, six blocks, 21/2 rebounds.
So how big would landing Parker be for BYU? Large, but probably not transformative. Unless he stayed several years, his impact on the program would be less than Jimmer Fredette, who stayed four years. Fans would have a fleeting glimpse of a player they would have loved to love.
How he would be remembered is debatable. Bradley lost to an incumbent in a state legislative race in 2010.
It's hard to be embraced when you're barely around long enough to take a bow.