Witnessing Jabari Parker

Apr. 5, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Simeon Career Academy varsity basketball team member Jabari Parker poses on an outdoor court near the school on the south side of Chicago. Parker, a 6 foot 8 inch senior, has verbally committed to attending Duke University in the fall. Mandatory Credit: Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

I went and saw Jabari Parker play live Friday night at the Duke Blue Devil’s Countdown to Craziness event in Durham, North Carolina. Parker is a 6’8″ incoming freshman at Duke and possibly the first overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft. I knew about all the hype surrounding this kid, but I had never seen him play and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Parker kind of gets overshadowed by Andrew Wiggins, the best high schooler last year, and the average NBA fan hasn’t heard about Parker like they have about the “tanking team’s savior” Wiggins. I was really interested to see just how good the lanky freshman from Chicago was.

It was amazing to see Parker running around on the court, making everything look so easy. He was undefendable in the scrimmage, posting up Duke’s biggest defender and flashing by Duke’s quickest guards. He showed off a nice array of post moves, incredibly quick cuts, and a nice touch from the outside. And like Wiggins, he had a flare for the dramatic as well. One time, he was on the right baseline and in one step leaped to the other side of the hoop, dunking all over two Duke defenders. The other highlight was in the dunk contest, when Jabari jumped over three kids from the stands and dunked the ball home, to the delight of the crazies at Cameron Indoor.

As you would expect from a freshman in his first college performance, it wasn’t all perfect from Parker. He needs to learn how to play with talented teammates and hasn’t yet found a balance between getting out in transition and fighting for every rebound. I’m sure these issues can be worked out fairly easily under the direction of the great Coach K.

The one thing that I came away thinking on Friday night was that this kid looked like an NBA player right now. There is no doubt that Friday’s performance justified speculation that he would have been a top five pick in the 2013 draft had he been eligible. Also, if Parker plays with the same grace and skill that he did Friday night, there is no doubt he should be a top five pick in the 2014 draft. He looks like an NBA player already, with long arms, the ability to impact the game on offense and defense, and the quickness to attack the basket and stay with any guard in the league.

Parker picked number one for his uniform number, the same choice that Kyrie Irving made when he played at Duke. It was a statement by Parker, making it clear that the new kid from Chicago is just as good as now NBA-star Kyrie Irving. And after watching just one scrimmage, I have no doubt Mr. Parker is right.

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