December 20, 2012
With a deep breath and a smile, Jabari Parker held up a blue T-shirt with a bright, white “D” on it. All around the Simeon Career Academy gym on the South Side here, cameras flashed and TV cameras rolled as the country learned that Parker would play college basketball at Duke.
Jabari Parker, who led Simeon to three straight state titles, abides by Mormon customs and included B.Y.U. on his final list of colleges.
Parker’s decision Thursday was a national sports news event, the latest testament to a celebrity rooted in both his skill — he has been considered one of the top players in the nation since his sophomore year — and his Mormon faith.
Parker, a 6-foot-8 senior, has led Simeon to three consecutive Illinois state championships, has dazzled on A.A.U. courts across the country and was coveted by college coaches. His exceptional post moves and jump shot are perhaps exceeded by his biography: an African-American follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in urban Chicago.
Parker was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this spring, billed as “the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.” The article was accompanied by questions of whether he would serve the church on a mission upon graduation. He said Thursday that he would not but might later in life.
His increasing fame stands in contrast to his unassuming presence off the court, where he comes across as a regular young man remarkably adept at handling the spotlight.
“Everybody knows I hate attention,” Parker said at the news conference. “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.”
He also spoke repeatedly about the importance of going to Duke for an education.
“I like being around kids, teaching people, so secondary education could be one of those things,” Parker said when asked what he might major in. “I like animals, so biology could be a factor.”
Parker’s mother, Lola, was born in Tonga and raised as a Mormon in Utah. His father, Sonny, enjoyed a six-year N.B.A. career with the Golden State Warriors in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Jabari Parker abides by Mormon customs. He does not smoke or drink alcohol. Church services trump his basketball schedule, and he regularly attends Bible study classes before school.
“Jabari’s faith defines who he is,” Lola Parker said. “Character is everything to our family because when you have faith in something other than yourself, then you become humble. He understands there is a responsibility that comes with all this.”
Jabari Parker included Brigham Young on his final list of colleges, and his official visit there last month created a frenzy. Students printed thousands of T-shirts with the slogan “From Chicago to Provo” and produced an Internet video that went viral. It was not enough.
“It’s just Coach K,” Parker said, referring to Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s longtime coach. “He’s one of the best coaches ever, and I want to be able to experience the things he has.”
At Simeon, which the former No. 1 draft pick Derrick Rose also attended, Coach Robert Smith has called Parker the best player he has ever coached.
“Jabari can be great, a five- or six-year All-Star player, and make the Hall of Fame,” Smith said. “Everyone wants me to determine who’s the best between him and Derrick. They are both humble, mild-mannered, and love their families. The things you look for in a kid, they have it.”
Still, Parker’s seemingly smooth life has hit some bumps this year. Playing for the United States team in the FIBA U-17 World Championships in Lithuania this summer, Parker fractured a bone in his right foot. He tried to come back too soon for Simeon’s season, aggravated the injury and will now most likely be sidelined for the rest of December.
That did not scare off college recruiters, or stop him from being among the most sought-after recruits in the country.
After Thursday’s news conference, Simeon got back to practice. Parker watched from the sideline, resting his foot, before leaving with his mother and father.
“This took off a lot of weight on me,” Parker said. “It got me away from all the sharks — the media, all of that. Any little spec on Twitter or any site could blow up the world, so I just wanted to get it done.”
Jabari Parker was born on March 15th, 1995 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabari_Parker
March 15th, 1995
3 + 15 +2+0+1+2 = 23 = his personal year (from March 15th, 2012 to March 14th, 2013) = Athlete. Sports. Leadership. Taking action. Just do it!
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