Duke Blue Devils Snag Top High School Recruit Jabari Parker

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Dec 21, 2012 08:58 AM EST
U.S. President Barack Obama and the Duke Blue Devils
U.S. President Barack Obama receives a copy of the NCAA basketball bracket from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski as he honors the Duke Blue Devils NCAA champions at the White House in Washington May 27, 2010."

The Duke Blue Devils are the No. 1 team in the nation and it looks like things will stay that way for the near future, as the school as added one of the country's top recruits to its class for next year.

Jabari Parker, the nation's No. 2 senior player, committed to Duke on Thursday, announcing the decision at a press conference at his school in Chicago. The 6-foot-8 forward played at Simeon Career Academy and decided on Duke while weighing offers from schools like BYU, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford.

"Everybody knows I hate attention," Parker said at the news conference, according to the NY Times. "I almost had to do it this way. It wasn't a choice for me. A lot of people wanted to know, and it would be selfish for me not to."

Many media members and basketball officials thought Parker would select BYU based on his Mormon faith, but instead he pulled out a Duke long-sleeved T-shirt to announce his intentions.

"What brought me to the decision is, of course, the history," Parker said, according to ESPN.com. "Duke was always going to be a team in the tournament. You can't go wrong at the program. And most importantly, the long-term investment -- I feel if I go there, I can get a good degree."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has had success in the past recruiting players from Chicago, including Duke standouts Jon Scheyer, Sean Dockery, Michael Thompson and Corey Maggette. Along with Parker, Duke has also recruited Matt Jones, the No. 8-ranked shooting guard in the class, and Semi Ojeleye, the No. 10-ranked small forward, according to ESPN.com's rankings.

"I can also stay close to home, where it's easily accessible for my parents, for my family. It's not too far away. And it's just Coach K -- that's one of the best coaches ever, and I wanted to be able to experience the things that he has next year," he said.

Parker's decision has been one that basketball scouts and personnel have followed for years. He is the only non-senior player to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois and has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and profiled by the magazine, which dubbed him: "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James."

Parker played on the varsity team in high school as a freshman and was a 2009-10 Boys Basketball Freshman All-American Team selection. Following his freshman year he had numerous offers from big-time schools, including Oregon State, Florida Washington and BYU. During his sophomore season he helped lead Simeon to a 30-2 record while winning a state championship.

Parjer's Mormon faith was described in the Sports Illustrated profile, which is why many felt he would select BYU over other schools. According to the article, Parker usually had a backpack around school and practice that had "a pair of Nikes, socks with the NBA logo, basketball shorts, T-shirts, Icy Hot gel, a couple of rolls of athletic prewrap, and an iPod loaded with rap and R&B. But there's also a paperback copy of The Book of Mormon."

Many different players offered their congratulations to Parker on Twitter, including former Duke stars Jay Williams, Kyrie Irving and current star Mason Plumlee, who wrote: "Welcome Jabari !"

Based on his initial campus visit though, Parker said Duke was not on the top of his list.

"To tell you the truth, that was probably the worst on-campus visit I had," Parker said. "It was just because I didn't do what I wanted to do, which was be a kid. But I know being at college is all business, and that's what they wanted to show me. I know I didn't have a good time, but they just wanted to tell me and prepare for me and give me a little bit of taste how it is going to be in college."

Parker said he called Krzyzewski and Duke to tell them that he selected their school personally.

"He said congratulations," Parker said. "(Duke was) pretty excited. I know (I'm) not in their mind. They land players like me all the time."

The highly-sought after recruit also mulled Florida and Michigan State, saying that it was hard to turn down Spartans head coach Tom Izzo.

"(Izzo) has been recruiting me ever since I was a freshman in high school, and he's been to most of my games," Parker said. "But a lot of things went into it like, 'How will I be used on the floor?' (Spartans forward) Branden Dawson and I play the same position, and it would be kind of a controversy if me and him were on the same floor and we run into each other. I just wanted to go to a school that was fitting for me."

Unlike other stars players who have gone to college one season and left, like Duke's Kyrie Irving who is now with the Cavaliers, Parker said he may stay for more than just one year.

"I may play in college for two or three years," he said. "It doesn't matter to me. I just want the college experience. The most important thing is getting the degree, and I want to go to school."

Parker's father Sonny, who was a former NBA player, and his high school coach helped him through the process of selecting what school to go to.

"All of them are great programs," Sonny Parker said about the finalists. "Jabari just wants to play. He wants to win a national championship, of course, but he wants to graduate from college. All the schools are he picked are great schools."

Parker was one of the most skilled players in the nation last season and won ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, Illinois' Mr. Basketball and the national Gatorade Player of the Year while averaging 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals a game. While in high school, Parker has won three Illinois Class 4A state championships.

This year Simeon is going for its fourth championship, but Parker has been dealing with an injury and missed the team's game on Monday. The injury stems from a fractured ankle he suffered while playing for Team USA in the FIBA U17 World Championship tournament.

In one respect, my injury helped me a lot," said Parker to Sports Illustrated. "Being sidelined gave me the opportunity to think through my decision and weigh my options more carefully. It also humbled me more and forced me to reexamine my priorities."

According to ESPN.com, "Parker is the fifth Simeon senior to commit to a Division I program this year. Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate are Illinois recruits, Kendall Pollard is going to Dayton and Quron Davis is headed to Chicago State."

Parker's respect for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the education at Duke were just some of the main factors that went into his decision. Duke now has one of the top recruiting classes for 2013 and will be set for the next few years with one of the nation's best players.

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