Dick Harmon: Many expect Jabari Parker to choose the NBA, but what if he doesn't?
Gerry Broome, AP
Jabari Parker may or may not be ready for the NBA.
But that’s not the point. The point is that the NBA and the NCAA allow him to make himself available for the NBA draft. For many athletes, being able to declare is all that is needed to make the next step.
Undoubtedly, a decision to go one-and-done at Duke would draw plenty of criticism for Parker, a deftly talented, unusually mature and coveted basketball player.
But you turn to his Twitter account on social media and a quote by the legendary John Wooden jumps right out at you and underscores where his head is. “You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
Parker made it known over the weekend that he would decide his future this week. He said he would have a discussion with his head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, on Tuesday, and then inform his coach of his decision on Wednesday. That doesn’t mean he’ll make an announcement on Wednesday since the Duke team banquet has been planned for that night and he might not want to upstage the event.
Is Parker ready for the NBA?
In some ways, he is more prepared for the next level than most college seniors. His head is firmly planted on his shoulders. He has had remarkable training in personal responsibility and integrity. He has a strong moral foundation. He has two parents who love him and have carefully molded his values. Oh, yeah, his offensive game features deadly moves — from distance, mid-range and around the hoop. He is the leading freshman scorer in Duke history, having averaged just over 19 points a game.
Parker could get stronger, and he has to learn to play tougher defense. But that could be said about 80 percent of NBA rookies no matter how many years of college they put under their belts.
I’d wager he’d be far more mature than most NBA players — even veterans — with financial decisions. He’d enter the league with balance in his life and a string of present goals and the pathway to reach them.
It would take a ton of lottery magic for Parker to end up with the Jazz, but Utah would be a great landing spot. He has uncles, aunts and cousins spread across the Wasatch Front. Utah could definitely use a someday star.
Utah’s availability to get Parker — should he choose to come out this year — won't be known until after the May 20 draft lottery, even though the NBA season wrapped up Wednesday. The Jazz will probably end up picking between fourth and sixth overall. DraftExpress.com has him going No. 3; NBAdraft.net has him No. 2.
On the other hand, staying at Duke wouldn’t hurt. The Blue Devils exited the NCAA tournament faster than the cheer squad could park its van. Mercer? Underachievement is a word that comes to mind with 2013-14 Duke and the NCAAs. The so-called power of Durham has much to gain this coming season because of it.
Duke has signed a marvelous recruiting class that includes Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen. Add Parker to that mix and Duke could be favored to make the finals.
On the other hand, folks who know the game are calling Parker the next Paul Pierce or Carmelo Anthony. His potential is unlimited and he already has current players extolling his talent.
The bottom line is that Parker has the best of two worlds and he has a choice. Not many athletes are in that position. He could go No. 1 in the NBA draft if he declares. That is an enticing status move that comes around once in a lifetime.
At Duke, he could remain the superstar and gain all the accolades, including national player of the year. He could also stay and suffer a torn ACL, but as we learned this week, according to NCAA rule changes, at least he'd have unlimited free food and snacks.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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