By Joe Henricksen
Just a day after falling to South Carolina on ESPN, the nation's top-ranked college basketball team in the country was in Chicago watching Simeon freshman sensation Jabari Parker. Kentucky assistant coach Rod Strickland, the former DePaul and NBA star, took in the Simeon-Julian game Wednesday night.
Although Kentucky has not officially offered Parker, look for the Wildcats to join the growing list of big-time suitors who have already offered the 6-5 freshman. Illinois, Northwestern, Florida, Kansas, DePaul, Washington, BYU and Oregon State are a few of the college programs that have offered the young star. Strickland, who has been recently mentioned as a possible candidate for the DePaul job this offseason, watched Parker score a team-high 15 points while once again showcasing his all-around skill package. DePaul assistant coach Billy Garrett was also in to watch the Simeon-Julian matchup.
Parker remains one of the true future jewels in Illinois high school basketball. Whether it's Parker or Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton -- go ahead and put them 1a and 1b in the Class of 2013 rankings -- you're talking about two players who have lived up to unrealistic expectations placed on them as freshmen.
In watching Parker several times this season, you just come away so impressed with not only his skill level, but how he carries himself. He remains grounded, has such a desire to win and wants to make those around him better. In time, as he gains age, maturity and respect, he's going to be a big-time leader and a player others will want to follow.
There is so much to like for a player so young. The Hoops Report has compared his style and game to that of Paul Pierce, a skilled, highly versatile player on the wing with a tremendous feel for the game and feathery release and touch. His shot is pure from beyond the arc, smooth from mid-range, and he displays a bag of tricks offensively typically not seen from a player his age. Again, for an inexperienced player, Parker already has a knack for creating, seeing the floor and finding others. He's big-bodied and with his off-the-charts basketball sense understands how to use his body in shielding the ball and drawing contact.
Parker may not be what you would call a freak of an athlete, but he's above-average by high-major standards. Plus, he's not one to go out and one-up or show-up an opponent with a dunk or high-flying athletic move. He uses his athleticism when he needs to. When you combine that above-average athleticism with the skill level and the fact he's a student of the game who studies past greats, he's only going to get better -- scary better.
As far as recruiting, the stakes will be high. However, the recruitment won't be a wild sideshow as we've seen with other big-named Chicago players. Jabari and his father, Sonny Parker, have a plan and have said they are in no rush to end things, with the trusted circle of the recruitment including only Jabari, his mother, his father and Simeon coach Rob Smith. They want to help showcase and highlight other players Jabari will be playing with, both with his high school team and on the summer AAU circuit.
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