By Mike Helfgot, Special to the Tribune
9:30 PM EST, December 19, 2012
His father has said it's between Duke and Michigan State. Jabari Parker countered by saying recently that there still were five schools in contention for his oral commitment. The world will find out at 3 p.m. Thursday where the Simeon senior has decided to play college basketball in the most hyped — and secretive — recruiting process the state has ever seen.
Parker, who has been hampered by a fractured bone in his right foot, had in-home visits this week with Duke, Michigan State and Florida. Here we offer our non-scientific breakdown of where we think he'll end up.
Duke: 40 percent
Duke may offer the best opportunity for Parker to live up to the hype. Whereas he'd be the final piece to put Michigan State and its four likely returning starters over the top, Parker would be part of a new mix in which roles wouldn't already be established at Duke. Both of Duke's bigs — Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly — and its three top scorers — Plumlee, Kelly and Seth Curry — are seniors. Unless Rasheed Sulaimon plays himself into an NBA lottery pick, Duke will have two experienced and unselfish guards (Quinn Cook) who are thriving as secondary scorers for the nation's No. 1 team. No reason that couldn't continue with Parker and talented Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood replacing Plumlee and Kelly in the frontcourt.
Parker knows basketball history and gets a kick out of playing for a tradition-rich program like Simeon. In that sense, Duke would be a natural progression.
For years, the knock on Coach K was he didn't produce good NBA players. It's arguable whether it was true then, but it certainly isn't now. Injury limited Kyrie Irving to 11 games in a Duke uniform but didn't prevent him from becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft and winning Rookie of the Year honors. Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer all have been NBA All-Stars. Battier, Corey Maggette, Mike Dunleavy and Dahntay Jones have had long NBA careers. In all, NBA teams have drafted 45 of Coach K's players, 25 in the first round. Sixteen are currently in the NBA. The other four coaches combined can't match those numbers.
Parker might be a somewhat reluctant celebrity, but he loves playing on a big stage, which Cameron Indoor Stadium is.
Michigan State: 40 percent
Nothing makes a player look better than winning. The three state championships and two USA Basketball gold medals are as responsible for Parker's ascent as anything. Add him to the probable rosters of all five schools, and right now, more than 15 months away from the 2014 Final Four, Michigan State appears to have the best chance of getting there. Unless junior point guard Keith Appling plays himself into the first round of the NBA draft, Michigan State figures to return four accomplished starters next season. Three are listed as guards — Appling (15.0 ppg, 4.2 assists), Gary Harris (12.6 ppg) and Branden Dawson (10.1 ppg, 1.9 steals, 1.5 blocks). The fourth, Adreian Payne, is a 6-10 center who takes about five shots per game. A versatile big who can play either forward spot is all they're missing.
Izzo has been a fixture at Simeon games the last couple of years, in part because he didn't recruit anybody else in the Class of 2013. This seems like quite a gamble, but it's hard to question a coach who gets to the Final Four so often.
While no active coach can match Krzyzewski's four national championships and no one in history can match his 909 wins, Izzo's accomplishments in East Lansing speak for themselves. Without his pick of the high school All-American litter, he has reached six Final Fours in his first 17 seasons.
Golden State rookie Draymond Green was the 13th Izzo player drafted, and only one (Zach Randolph) has appeared in an NBA All-Star game. But that's not a fair assessment of Izzo's coaching. He has turned average Division I recruits into outstanding college players. When Izzo had elite talent, the Spartans won the 2000 national championship. One of Parker's biggest strengths is that he wants to be coached.
East Lansing also is closest to home, if Parker is looking for a tiebreaker.
Florida: 15 percent
Recruiting websites Rivals.com and Scout.com both have the Gators' 2013 class ranked No. 5 in the nation. ESPN has Florida at No. 6. With Parker, it would be either 2 or 1. Billy Donovan received two signatures in November, and Rivals, Scout and ESPN all have Kasey Hill and Chris Walker ranked among the top 10 players in the class. Hill is a point guard and Walker is a power player, and national analysts believe the trio would complement one other nicely.
Parker is easy to play with because he's so versatile, but on this team he would need to be the star. The Gators' three leading scorers — guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario and F/C Erik Murphy — are seniors. Junior center Patric Young could be headed for the NBA. It can no longer be said that you can't win with freshmen. But Jabari is smart enough to know that, regardless of what John Calipari has done with freshmen at Kentucky, experience still matters.
Donovan won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and '07. Duke also won consecutive NCAA titles, but Parker wasn't born in 1991-92. The Gators' free-flowing style would suit Parker well because it would allow him to display his multitude of skills.
BYU: 4 percent
This would give new meaning to the phrase "leap of faith." Convention matters little to Parker, though, whereas the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints means a lot.
While it's no Duke, Michigan State or Florida, BYU basketball is better than it gets credit for. The Cougars had six consecutive 25-win seasons from 2005-06 through 2011-12 and appeared in the NCAA Tournament each year. This year's team is 8-3, with losses to Notre Dame, Florida State and Iowa State. Sophomore Tyler Haws and senior Brandon Davies have accounted for just over half of the team's 77.1 points per game, and Parker would be able to slide right into Davies' role as a do-it-all forward.
Parker would feel at home surrounded by fellow Mormons, but the lack of diversity in Salt Lake City might not be as comforting. Darron Smith, a black Mormon and former professor at BYU, recently wrote a column for Deadspin.com titled "Top Basketball Recruit Jabari Parker Is Ideal for BYU, but BYU Isn't Ideal For Him (Or For Any Black Athlete)."
Stanford: 1 percent
The prestigious institution would give him the best chance of having something resembling a "normal" college existence, and he was clearly taken by coach Johnny Dawkins, because the Cardinal's inclusion in his final five was somewhat of a surprise.
There's precedent for an Illinois Mr. Basketball succeeding at Stanford, as sophomore Chasson Randle of Rock Island is well on his way to an outstanding collegiate career. There are only two seniors on the 7-4 team, and neither is a starter.
Parker visited Stanford twice unofficially, but it's the only school of the five that did not have a chance to host him on an official visit. Can't be a good sign.
What say they?
We polled Parker's Simeon teammates anonymously about where they think he will go. Two were split on their opinion.
Michigan State: 2.5.
Don't know: 3.
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