Besides, to scrutinize what Parker isn’t does little justice to the superb player that he is. Though he doesn’t have transcendent athleticism, Parker is no slouch in that department, and he possesses polish and poise well beyond his 17 years. If his game had a soundtrack, it would be fellow Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco; Jabari is innovative and creative, but he moves flawlessly within the rhythm of the game, offsetting his smoothness with lethal punchlines.
And there are so many unique layers to Jabari aside from the sport he happens to excel at. It’s been well documented how deeply involved he is with his Mormon faith. He primarily credits God for pushing him to rehab his foot injury twice as hard as he otherwise would have, and he factored heavily in his recruitment finding an environment conducive to continuing his religious studies.
There’s also his status as the latest Great Chicago Hope. Parker is honored to carry on the legacy of former Simeon star Benji Wilson, the No. 1 player in the country in 1984, who was shot and killed the day before his senior season. (Parker appeared in ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Wilson, and he was the driving force for Simeon to stitch Wilson’s No. 25 into their sneakers.)
Parker is keenly aware of the ever-present violence in his hometown that claimed Wilson and perpetuates today. It deeply troubled him when a teenage boy was gunned down outside one of Simeon’s games. And at least in one regard, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of a certain U.S. president who calls Chicago his hometown.
“For me, it was emotional to see my city go down with such turmoil, and to see everybody worry about getting home safe,” Parker said. “But then again, I have to do my job. If I so happen to make it one day, I want to be a community activist, just trying to get these kids off the street.”
Of course, there’s the next stop on his journey, as he prepares to carve out his own niche in Duke basketball lore. Interestingly, he’s described his recruiting trip to Durham as the least fun he had on any official visit, which makes sense: It’s hard to imagine Coach K presiding over anything reminiscent of that one scene in He Got Game. Yet, true to form, Parker chose substance over sizzle.
“I think everything was necessary, even though I didn’t understand it at the time,” Parker said of his visit. “I saw the campus — it’s pretty nice, they have great resources. Also, the coaching staff, they’re always on point, they’re working 24/7 to see what you want to do. And I want to just win.
“At Duke, they’re always going to the tournament, so they’re just going to give you the opportunity. You just have to handle the rest on your own.”
Parker will arrive at Cameron Indoor Stadium next fall with a nearly unmatched prep pedigree, but his plan is to “listen twice as much as I talk,” and he figures everything will likely take care of itself. But for now, he’s just living in the moment; even for someone picking up speed rapidly, there’s nothing wrong with slowing things down once in a while.
“I’m focused on what I need to get better at, and just being around (my teammates),” Parker said. “I’m a senior … this is not going to happen again. I just have to enjoy the process.”
Is Parker the real deal?
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