By Colleen Kane
11:25 PM EST, December 20, 2012
Jabari Parker leaned down from a podium crowded with microphones and pulled a bright blue Duke T-shirt from a backpack, providing a dramatic ending to the type of mystery that is becoming increasingly rare in high school recruiting.
Simeon’s Parker, Illinois’ reigning Mr. Basketball and the No. 2-ranked senior in the country by ESPN, kept most everyone guessing whether he would pick BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State or Stanford until he made his announcement on ESPNU from Simeon’s gym Thursday.
Ultimately, Duke provided the academic and athletic prestige Parker wanted in a school, he and his mother, Lola Parker, said. The 6-foot-8 forward, perhaps the most hyped recruit in state history, chose the Blue Devils over Florida and Michigan State, finalizing his decision at about 1 p.m. Thursday.
“What brought me to the decision was the course of history,” Parker said. “Duke is always going to be a team in the (NCAA) tournament. You can’t go wrong with the program. Also, most importantly, it’s a long-term investment. I feel like if I go there, I can get a good degree.”
Parker’s announcement came in front of a large group of reporters, students, teammates, family and friends. He whispered the decision to his mother, Lola Parker, in a hallway outside of the gym just before the announcement. Parker’s father, Sonny, said he didn’t know the verdict until his son pulled out the shirt.
“It was important for me that he felt he was always in control of the decision-making, so that’s how we handled it,” Lola Parker said.
Parker waited quietly for more than five minutes after entering the gym while ESPN readied for the announcement, then left the gym to call Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski after he revealed his choice.
“It’s Coach K. He’s the guru of all basketball right now,” Parker said. “He knows a lot. He comes from a real prestigious background.”
Krzyzewski, a Chicago native and Weber High School graduate, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had courted Parker for years. Parker said he was concerned about whether he would fit in with 6-6 sophomore Branden Dawson on Michigan State’s roster.
“A lot of it came down to, ‘How I will be used on the floor?’ ” Parker said. “Branden Dawson, me and him play the same position, and it would kind of be a controversy if me and him were on the same floor and we would run into each other. I wanted to go to a school that was fitting for me.
“It was the main reason I didn’t pick them today, because of Branden. I don’t want to mess up his thing, his groove,” he later added.
The announcement came as a relief for the attention-shy Parker, who is coming back from a fractured right foot he suffered over the summer. He said he wants to focus on his senior season, which he started by totaling 15 points in Simeon’s first three games.
“Most importantly, I wanted to get with these guys and focus on our season,” Parker said. “It would be selfish for me to hold the recruiting process so long and not focus on my team.”
Parker joins a Duke recruiting class that includes 6-4 Matt Jones of Texas and 6-6 Semi Ojeleye of Kansas, both ranked among the nation’s top 50 seniors by ESPN.
His kind of town
Chicago-area players recruited by Mike Krzyzewski
Marty Clark, St. Joseph
Chris Collins, Glenbrook North
Sean Dockery, Julian
Phil Henderson, Crete-Monee
Corey Maggette, Fenwick
Jabari Parker, Simeon
Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North
Michael Thompson, Providence
Weldon Williams, Crete-Monee
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