Jabari Parker has won three consecutive state championships. He is among the most, if not the most, highly touted college basketball recruits in the nation. He's received national and international accolades and global respect.
Loads of fans are eager for him to suit up for their university, notably at BYU, where fans made T-shirts just for Parker's official visit.
Up until now, most of the recognition has come fairly easily. Now, however, Parker is facing a few new challenges: expectations and adversity.
What might have been considered a fluke as a freshman and coincidence as a sophomore was solidified when he dominated Illinois high school basketball as a junior. Indeed, as ESPNChicago.com's Scoop Jackson writes, Parker has been given the benefit of the doubt when anything negative ever showed its head. Those days are gone.
Parker played 11 minutes in the recent Chicago Elite Classic tournament. It was the first significant basketball action he's seen since he broke his foot in the FIBA under-17 World Championship in Lithunia in July. Parker is now 20 pounds heavier, a little rusty and a bit more demonstrative in the few minutes he played.
Then again, that's normal for a 17-year-old kid with a broken foot, right?
It would be if this was anybody but Parker.
However, faced with the challenges of getting back into elite basketball shape, recovering from his foot injury, maintaining his reputation as a high school phenom and defending his three high school state titles, Parker seems calm and determined. When asked if his son is ready to handle the pressure, Sonny Parker, Jabari's father, told Jackson:
"Without question. What I feel keeps him both motivated and humble, and what's going to allow him to deal with the pressure he's going to go through this season is his faith, his family, his passion for basketball and because he's been under the microscope so long. His demeanor, regardless, stays the same. I'm telling you, he's a different breed of a student-athlete. I've never seen a kid like this before.
"The one thing he said to me and my wife, 'Mom and Dad, don't you all get caught up in all of this.' That's what he tells us. He's not worried about all of the other stuff, so I'm not worried about him not being able to handle (the pressure). He's on a mission this year more than any other year. He said, 'Don't say nothing Dad, I'll show 'em.'"
In Chicago, a city that mercilessly scrutinizes its athletes, Jabari Parker is about to put on a show. We will see soon enough what kind of show that will be.
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