By Joe Henricksen
There hasn't been as much jockeying for Simeon sophomore superstar Jabari Parker's services on the summer circuit as people think. That's because Parker and his father, Sonny Parker, had one goal: for Jabari to play for his high school coach, Rob Smith.
Smith, who has led Simeon to national prominence and back-to-back state championships, will be part of the Ferrari program and help coach the 17-and-under team. And that team will be led by Jabari Parker, a consensus top five talent nationally and the premier prospect in the state of Illinois.
"When it comes right down to it, he's going to play with his high school coach," says Sonny Parker. "And that's just the way it's going to be. We have always wanted to keep things in our inner-circle."
Smith has not been a part of the AAU circuit, but he gave it some thought when his star player came to him and asked him if he would consider coaching him in the summer.
"When a kid comes to you and says he doesn't want to play for anyone else, that he really only wants to play for one coach before he goes to college, you have to listen," said Smith.
Even with Parker's urging, Smith was only willing to coach club basketball if it was done a certain way.
"There was no way I was going to be a part of something that is up for grabs and without any structure," says Smith. "I don't want it to be like some of the other [club] programs that are out there. I want it to be first class and done the right way."
While Parker has a full-time club home, a great deal of his playing time will be spent with USA Basketball this summer. Although the U.S. basketball priority will take time away from the club circuit, Parker's presence will surely help enhance the notoriety and attention paid toward his Ferrari teammates by college coaches and scouting services.
The Ferrari 17s, with the addition of Parker and coached by both Mandel Oliver and Smith, look to be a talented group that certainly changes the landscape of the AAU scene in the Chicago area. Parker will join several highly-ranked players in the Class of 2012 on the Ferrari team, including Homewood-Flossmoor's 6-8 Tim Williams, Farragut's 6-7 Rashaun Stimage, St. Rita's 6-7 A.J. Avery and Orr guard C.J. Jones, who has committed to Ball State.
In addition, the Whitney Young guard tandem of Gabe Snider, a UIC recruit, and Jordan Smith will be on the team, along with Homewood-Flossmoor's 6-7 Antonio Bishop, North Lawndale guard Devonte Jones, Seton Academy's athletic Russell Robinson, Glenbrook North's Cory Dolins, Simeon's Reggie Norris and Antoine Buchanan, who has transferred from Orr to Middleton High School in Middleton.
"We are going in a new direction, with an all new and fresh approach," said Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, who runs Ferrari.
That new approach and direction includes a name change as Ferrari will now be referred to as All-Illinois Ferrari.
"We want to show this is a collaboration," Slaughter added.
Smith also hopes some of the tug-of-war between club programs and overall politics of AAU basketball in the Chicagoland area can be alleviated.
"Everyone needs to get together, try to get on the same page and do what is best for these kids," said Smith of the top-level AAU programs, particularly the ones affiliated with Nike. "We need one common goal, and that is to do what is best for the players in Chicago."
Smith will have other priorities this spring and summer. His mother, Sharon Smith, is currently in the hospital awaiting a heart transplant. Sharon has been in the hospital since Mar. 15, the day Simeon beat Farragut in the supersectional.
"We are just waiting for a heart donor," said Smith, who says his first priority will be taking care of his mother and being for her at the hospital. "Most of my free time will be spent with my wife, daughter and other family members in being there for my mother.
"At the same time, she knows how much I love basketball and how important it is to me. She wants me to continue coaching and doing what I love. But obviously my main focus right now and going forward is with her."