It was announced early Thursday afternoon that Jabari Parker, ESPN’s #2 ranked recruit for the 2013 recruiting class, committed to Duke University after heavily weighing BYU, Michigan St., Florida and Stanford as other options. Currently sitting at #1 in both the AP and Coaches Polls, the Blue Devils will excitedly welcome Parker to a roster that lacks a definitive starter at the small forward position. It doesn’t hurt that Parker can also handle the ball like a guard, as well as rebound and score at will in the post. Duke has good guards for both now and the future and front court play has never been a necessary concern for them, yet flex players who can both stretch the floor and score on the drive have been few and far between.
Parker is the versatile scorer that Duke consistently lacks. Even when the Blue Devils won the NCAA Championship in 2010, they depended heavily on the collective scoring of Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, and Jon Scheyer, and Coach K called upon all three to produce in different clutch time scenarios. The only true scorers that Duke has had in the last decade were the program’s all-time leading scorer J.J. Redick, and last year’s point guard Austin Rivers who declared for the draft after his freshman season. At 6’8” and 220-pounds, Parker will soon add himself to this list with an above average outside shooting ability and a great slashing game. He has the size to dominate opposing small forwards and can also handle the ball like a guard, and if he wasn’t hard enough to match up with, he plays around the rim like a scoring savvy center.
Prior to this season, Parker was tagged by Sports Illustrated as “the best high school player since Lebron James.” When Sports Illustrated tagged James as the next big thing, they couldn’t have been more right. Almost ten years later and they are at it again, almost certain that Parker will join James as another checkmark on the magazine’s legacy.
If SI didn’t ensure that Parker’s plate was full enough, his college decision was a personal battle between faith and future. He is a mormon and is very serious about his religion, a strong affiliation that almost led him to BYU. But if Parker could shine at any program in the country than he might as well shine in Cameroon Indoor Stadium, since the lights don’t get much brighter. In the end, mormonism took a back seat to the prospects of collegiate stardom at one of the game’s most storied programs.
The Fight for Monarchy
The second dimension of Parker’s commitment to Duke is that he is the first player in this class’s ESPN top 6 to not commit to Kentucky. Kentucky has landed brothers Andrew Harrison (#3) and Aaron Harrison (#6) from Texas, and shooting guard James Young (#6) from Rochester, Missouri. The only two top 6 recruits who have yet to commit are Andrew Wiggins (#1) and Julius Randle (#4). It has been reported that Randle is heavily interested in Kentucky and that Wiggins has received an offer from them as well.
As of now, Duke is in control of their own destiny this season. They have proven themselves to be the best team in the country by already defeating Ohio State and Kentucky when they were both ranked third, and Louisville when they were ranked second, and signing Parker is just another way that they are solidifying themselves as the class of College basketball. But while Kentucky’s play has been spotty this season, they are not going to sit back and let Duke have all the fun.
The “best high school player since Lebron James” will be wearing a Duke Blue Devils jersey next season and three top recruits (and possibly two more) will be playing in Adolph Rupp Arena. The Mayans were wrong so far, the world hasn’t ended, but this may be what they were talking about.