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Dick Harmon: History says highly prized recruit Jabari Parker will stay near Chicago and go to Michigan State

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12 2012 11:30 p.m. MST

In this March 13, 2012 file photo, Simeon Career Academy's forward Jabari Parker looks out over the court during an Illinois state high school basketball playoff game in Chicago. On Wednesday, July 11, 2012, Parker tweeted the 10 schools in no particular order he is considering with a year to go before he graduates from high school. They are: national champion Kentucky, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul and North Carolina. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Charles Rex Arbogast, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Where will Jabari Parker play college basketball?

If you like to debate such matters around the water cooler, it will be close to home, likely Michigan State.

Parker, considered by many to be the nation’s No. 1 high school recruit, has said Duke, BYU, Michigan State, Florida and Stanford are his top choices. On Tuesday, Parker told reporters he’d announce his decision the afternoon of Dec. 20, at his school, Simeon (Chicago) Career Academy.

In case you’ve been in a cave and don’t know who Parker is, he is an LDS superstar, half black, half Tongan and a Sports Illustrated coverboy. He is considered the most-talked about and publicized high school player in the history of storied Chicago prep basketball. A May 2012 Sports Illustrated cover story declared Parker the best high school player since LeBron James, but that distinction is debated by others, including Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News and Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports.

Of Parker, NBA veteran John Lucas told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2011: “He is a top-5 player in the nation regardless of class. He is a Magic Johnson type of player because of the impact he has on the game from multiple positions. He is a triple-double threat.”

Parker draws huge interest in Utah because he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and BYU is among his top choices. He made his official campus visit to Provo during Thanksgiving weekend. His mother, Lola, is a former BYU student and served a mission for the LDS Church before marrying Sonny Parker, a first-round NBA draft pick of the Golden State Warriors in 1976.

But back to where Parker will go.

Most top LDS athletes recruited and offered by BYU usually accept that offer early and make an announcement. This has not been the case with Parker, which leads many recruiting experts who’ve monitored Cougar recruits to ascertain that if he was going to be a Cougar, he’d have sealed the deal by now.

More likely, Parker is headed to Duke or Michigan State. His father Sonny, who told reporters he did not know, said those are his likely picks with Florida as a dark horse.

Part of that statement strikes true when you consider the history of where Chicago’s pedigree of outstanding high school basketball players have gone to college. That city is like a Who’s Who of college and NBA basketball. Generally, these stars have stayed close to home. None have come west. None have gone to Duke. None have played in the storied ACC or bought into that Tobacco Road hype.

Meanwhile, Michigan State is 218 miles from Chicago down I-95, a three-hour drive from Parker’s neighborhood, give or take. That’s like friends and family going from Provo to Cedar City (209 miles) to watch a game.

Chicago’s basketball talent is centered in some of the same high schools, powerhouses, if you will. Parker’s Simeon Career Academy is at the top of that list and has won more state titles than any school in Illinois (six). Parker is playing in the shadow of Simeon legend Derrick Rose, who signed with Memphis.

But look at Chicago’s other top prep superstars and where they went.

Cazzie Russell (Carver High) went to nearby Michigan as did Juwan Howard (Chicago Vocational Academy).

The farthest west any of these stud players have gone is UTEP (Carver’s Tim Hardaway) and Wisconsin (Proviso East’s Michael Finley).

Coincidentally, Proviso East is the Chicago team ranked No. 13 nationally by MaxPreps.com that Lone Peak High ran off the court, 84-46, two weeks ago.

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