DURHAM, N.C. — Jabari Parker's college basketball career is off to a solid start.
Six games into the season, Parker, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is leading the No. 6 Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding, with 23.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 freshman forward has also helped the team to a 5-1 record, with the one loss coming to No. 2-ranked Kansas.
In grading the nation's top freshman, USA Today's Nicole Auerbach awarded Parker an "A."
"Parker’s versatility on both ends of the court is exceptional," Auerbach wrote.
Even so, after scoring 27 points and grabbing nine rebounds in Duke's loss to Kansas, Parker gave himself a "C-minus," according to Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg.
"That is Parker. He blamed himself for defensive lapses, and said he should have grabbed more rebounds, even though he spent a lot of offensive time on the perimeter and grabbed more defensive rebounds than anybody else in the game," Rosenberg wrote. "You see why (Michigan State head coach Tom) Izzo, who recruited him like a madman and lost him anyway, still raves about him."
Parker's progress is also being followed by his friend and fellow Simeon Career Academy alum, Chicago Bulls star guard Derrick Rose.
"I'm happy for him now just seeing him," Rose told ESPN.com's Nick Friedell before an injury ended his season. "He was a little chubby, fat little kid when I was in high school playing with us, and now he's potentially going to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. So I'm happy for him and his family for making him stay on that path and himself for becoming the player he is and the person he is. Great things are just going to keep coming his way."
Parker has noted the change in the tempo of college basketball.
"I kind of knew what it was going to be like, just watching it from the outside looking in and getting the experiences of other guys telling me what to expect, so it really wasn't a surprise," he wrote in an email to the Deseret News. "It was more about building up to those games and building up to those simulations in practice. On the court, it's just being persistent and taking the right shots."
What is the biggest lesson he has learned from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski so far?
"Being persistent," Parker responded. "Take advantage of opportunities, even if it's not scoring, just being a basketball player."
There is also an exhilaration that comes with being a part of Duke's college basketball tradition and playing in the crazy atmosphere of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"The foundation has already been set at Duke. It gives you something to look forward to, it gets you going," Parker said. "You feel the love, you feel the passion the student body has. It’s all for one goal. We don’t have the biggest fan base. I think we’re the most hated, in my opinion, so that just gives me more of the importance of our team and our family. Cameron doesn’t have a lot of people inside of it, so we really need to take advantage every time we’re on the court and just do things the right way and be one of the best."
Off the court, Parker's transition from high school to college life has been focused on making good decisions and using his time wisely.
"Time management is really important here, especially now that I'm on my own. You don't have anyone waking you up, telling you where to be at certain times. You just have to do it on your own," Parker said. "I'm just making sure I take good care of my time."
When time has permitted, Parker has participated in a class at the Durham, N.C., LDS campus Institute of Religion to study the scriptures and learn about the gospel, said Walter C. Nichols, institute director.
"Jabari is a very humble, quiet young man," Nichols said. "It was wonderful to be around him. He is a tremendous person as well as an outstanding athlete."
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