Jabari Parker of Chicago, is 6-foot-8, immensely talented, has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, been featured on national television programs and is considered by many the best high school basketball player in the country. For Parker, that’s where the comparison to LeBron James begin and end.
“That’s a little bit too extreme for me,” Parker told reporters this week at the Top 100 Camp, “seeing LeBron (and) how he handled high school and how he was the No. 1 pick. I think that’s a little bit too much. I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t consider myself the best since LeBron.”
There’s another blatant difference between Parker and James, the three-time NBA MVP who is seeking his first professional championship: Parker is a devout Mormon.
And as a Mormon, he is required to take a two-year mission once he turns 19. All Mormon young men are expected to delay school/careers to participate in the mission, but not all do. NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young and former NBA star Danny Ainge are two high-profile Mormons who passed on the mission to pursue their athletic careers.
For Parker, those two mission years could be his first two seasons in the NBA, assuming he plays only one year in college.
“That’ll be his choice to make, but we’ve encouraged him to, you know, be a good person,” his mother, Lola Parker, told ABC. “And that’s all we can hope for.”
Parker might not be in James’ class but like James he is the consensus pick as the No. 1 prospect in his class. Parker is being pursued by every major college coach in the country. Yes, every coach wants to work with him, but he says he’s the one asking most of the questions.
“I’m looking at almost every school right now,” Jabari said Thursday. “And it’s (an) evaluation period for me as well. They’re not just looking at me; I’m looking at them.
“What would they play me? What kind of offense do they run? How can that benefit my game? What do they expect from me to come in as a freshman? To (just) play hard? Or even start?”
He hasn’t whittled his list of 14 prospective schools. In alphabetical order, he says he’s still considering BYU, Connecticut, DePaul, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Missouri, North Carolina, Northwestern, Ohio State and Washington.
Some view Kentucky as the team to beat, though, considering coach John Calipari has recruited the top-ranked class in four consecutive years to UK. Calipari also wooed the two best Chicago recruits in decades— point guard Derrick Rose (2007 to Memphis) and center Anthony Davis (2011 to Kentucky). Rose played only one year for Calipari before becoming the No. 1-overall pick in the NBA Draft, and Davis is all but certain to be the No. 1 pick come June 28.
“It plays big—those (two) guys I grew up watching,” Parker told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “I played with Anthony. Seeing them as top lottery picks, I can put myself in that situation. And it’s huge. I looked at Kentucky. They have a lot of penetration. I think that fits my game a little bit.”