CHICAGO — Prized prospect Jabari Parker, of Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, one of the most highly touted recruits in years, is headed to Duke.
With a national TV audience watching, he announced his decision at a news conference Thursday at his high school.
Parker can’t sign his letter of intent until April 17, but he made his intentions clear with one highly anticipated verbal commitment.
Michigan State and Florida, also made his top three, but he chose to play for Mike Krzyzewski for at least a year before making what many believe will ultimately be a jump to the NBA.
“Coach K is one of the best coaches ever,” Parker said. “He’s Coach K, he’s the guru of all basketball.”
At 6-foot-8 and with the ability to nail jumpers from just about any spot when he’s not throwing down ferocious dunks, it’s easy to see why just about every major program was interested in him.
Parker just might be the greatest prospect to come out of Simeon, and that’s saying something considering Derrick Rose played there. All he did was go on to become the MVP with the hometown Bulls.
As for Parker, his credentials to this point sure are impressive.
He received the Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year award after leading Simeon to its third consecutive state championship while averaging 19.5 points and 8.9 rebounds as a junior.
His father Sonny played six seasons with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA after starring at Chicago’s Farragut Career Academy.
“He has a gift and he has what’s called ‘It’,” Sonny Parker said.
Religion also plays a big role in Jabari’s life.
He is a devout Mormon, just like his mom Lola, and he has talked about going on a mission. He also said Thursday he wants to get his degree.
Whether he actually does either remains to be seen, but he knows where he’s headed next year barring a change of heart.
With that decision out of the way, he can focus on leading Simeon to another state title and getting his conditioning back after being slowed by a broken right foot.
The injury over the summer caused him to push back some recruiting trips and delay his decision rather than commit during the early signing period last month. He’s also missed a game this week because he’s trying to work his way back from the injury, an obstacle for a player rarely stopped on the court, but this moment was years in the making.
Lola Parker recalled in an interview at the family’s house earlier this year that she could see it when Jabari, the youngest of seven children, was in the second grade going against the fourth and fifth-graders in a league run by Sonny, who established a foundation to help inner-city youth in Chicago after he retired.
Scholarship offers started rolling in when Jabari was in the sixth grade. They came from Illinois, Brigham Young, Washington, Purdue and Kansas. UCLA started showing interest, too, and by the time he was in high school, just about everyone was offering.
They all wanted a piece of him, and it wasn’t just the colleges. Fans mob Parker at games, screaming his name and begging for autographs, and often, they’re not even from Simeon.
They’ve seen him on TV or online and just want their brush with him. Usually, he’ll accommodate them, but sometimes, he needs an escape.
He finds one in religion. That means rising several days a week at 5 a.m. for Bible study and heading from the family’s brick bungalow on the city’s South Side to worship a few miles away, near the University of Chicago.
The day of the interview at the house earlier this year, there was a reminder on Jabari’s door to “put the Lord first” along with several sheets of 8-by-10 white paper. One listed the Ten Commandments, the other personal rules such as “don’t be quick to judge” and “Think positive things.”
For now, big things are happening for Parker.