This kid can flat out ball, will the pressure be too much?
“Most every college hoops fan already knows about Jabari Parker, the No. 1-ranked player in the class of 2013.
We are not strangers to his story: He is nearing the end of his junior year at Simeon High School in Chicago, Ill., the alma mater of Derrick Rose and plenty of other sought-after prep talents. He is 6-foot-9 (and possibly still growing) with nearly unlimited skills — passing, ballhandling, mid-range shooting, interior strength — and he comes across as more well-grounded and unselfish than your average highly ranked recruit. His father, Sonny, played for Texas A&M and the Golden State Warriors; his mother, Lola, was born a Mormon in her native country of Tonga. Parker shares his mother’s faith; as Seth Davis wrote last summer, Mormonism is a bedrock of the recruit’s worldview.
But college basketball fans are more familiar than most with players like Parker. Fans of his potential college choices — which run the gamut from DePaul and Northwestern to Kansas and Kentucky — have tracked his prep career and analyzed his every utterance for hints of his future choice.
Parker is about to gain a whole new audience. Why? Because this week, he graces the cover of Sports Illustrated, just the latest prep phenom in the post-LeBron James era to do so. But Parker’s cover, as you can see here (hat tip: NBC) comes with a twist: A subhead that reads “The Best High School Basketball Player Since LeBron James Is … Jabari Parker.”
Now that’s pressure. It is also arguable, given the talent that has come through the ranks — Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and on down the line — since James became a national sports celebrity at St. Vincent’s-St. Mary’s back in 2002. Having seen Parker play a few times, it’s safe to say he lacks the dominant aura James had then, and maintains to this day. When you watched LeBron, you knew you were watching a transcendant player. When you watch Parker, you are sure you’re watching a very, very good one. But the visceral feeling stops there.
In any case, that comparison is a lot of pressure for a high school kid. How will Parker handle it? We’ll see. But if the first three years of his burst onto the recruiting scene — where he has been the second coming since he was 14, and maybe earlier — are any indication, he will handle it with grace borne of belief that basketball is only one item on a long list of personal priorities.
Parker is about to make The Leap. If I had to take a guess, the kid will be just fine.”