Jabari Parker: Ranking Top Destinations for Nation's Best Recruit
Sports Illustrated recently declared Jabari Parker (left) the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.
Needless to say, Jabari Parker is a wanted man. When you’re not even in your senior year of high school yet and Sports Illustrated is already calling you the next LeBron James, it’s safe to say every college in the country is going to be groveling for your services.
Parker, the number one recruit in the Class of 2013, has a staggering 14 universities fighting it out for his commitment, according to the folks at rivals.com.
Before Parker makes his choice (which is expected to be in the fall), he has to think long and hard about each university and what they have to offer.
Obviously, it’s impossible to determine exactly where each school falls on Parker’s wish list. But after considering certain factors—both on and off the court—I’ve tried to put myself in Parker’s shoes and determine who’s really in the driver’s seat.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
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Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak and his Utes are dying to make a big impact now that they’re in the Pac 12. It’s safe to say that adding Jabari Parker would create that impact.
Then again, Utah faces an uphill battle when it comes to luring Parker. If Parker is going to play for one of the Utah schools, conventional wisdom says that he’s likely to play for BYU, given the fact that Parker is a devout Mormon and BYU is a Mormon institution.
But if Parker wants to face more elite competition, he may be better off going to the Pac 12’s Utah, as opposed to the West Coast Conference’s BYU.
Bottom Line: Utah just isn't competitive enough to land a player of Parker's caliber right now.
Missouri coach Frank Haith
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Frank Haith and the Missouri Tigers could make quite the entrance into the SEC if they were to land the services of Jabari Parker. Missouri recently made a scholarship offer to Parker in the hopes that he would land in Columbia.
Integrating Parker’s impressive skills into Haith’s wide-open offense would make Missouri an awfully fun team to watch. It would also give the Tigers the firepower needed to make an instant impact in their new conference and potentially compete with the undisputed kings of the SEC in Kentucky.
Seeing Parker and the up-tempo Tigers square off against John Calipari’s slew of elite players a couple of times would be compelling television, to say the least.
Bottom Line: Other than an electric offense, the Tigers don't offer much to Parker in terms of location and tradition.
Illinois coach Jim Groce
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If new Illinois head coach Jim Groce is looking to make a splash on the recruiting trail, landing in-state product Jabari Parker would be a pretty darn good place to start.
It’s going to be tough to get Parker into an Illini uniform, though. Groce is already behind the eight ball in terms of building a relationship with Parker, given that he had no contact with the recruit’s family at his previous stop with the Ohio Bobcats.
According to ESPN Chicago, one player who could help Groce possibly land Parker is Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper. Parker’s father Sonny noted that he knows Cooper’s family well and could reach out to them for more information regarding Groce.
That could bode well for Groce and Illinois.
Bottom Line: Groce's relationship (or lack thereof) with Parker will cost him and Illinois.
11. Ohio State
Ohio State coach Thad Matta
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Another Big Ten institution interested in Jabari Parker is Ohio State. Thad Matta has coached some incredibly talented players in his time with the Buckeyes.
Parker would certainly be right up there with the likes of Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Jared Sullinger as far as Ohio State super studs would be concerned. Matta definitely has his program on the upswing, as the Buckeyes are coming off a Final Four appearance.
Parker would give Matta the dominant wing player that he’s been missing all of these years. Let’s not forget that, although dominant themselves, Oden and Sullinger were centers, while guys like Conley and Aaron Craft are point guards.
Bottom Line: There's been little indication recently that Ohio State is a front runner for Parker.
10. Michigan State
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo
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Michigan State is one of the several schools that have offered prized 2013 recruit a scholarship. Tom Izzo has landed his fair share of elite players over the years in East Lansing.
From Delvon Roe to Keith Appling to future-Spartan Gary Harris, many five-star recruits have played for Izzo. But if Izzo were able to lure Parker to Michigan State, it would be arguably his biggest recruiting coup yet.
It’s easy to see why Parker is considering Michigan State among so many others. Izzo is one of the top coaches in the nation, one who has won a national title before and has taken Michigan State to several Final Fours during his tenure.
The Spartans would certainly be favored to get to yet another national semifinal if Parker decides to migrate to East Lansing.
Bottom Line: See the Ohio State slide.
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell
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It would be easy to assume that a struggling basketball program like Chicago’s DePaul University wouldn’t stand a chance to land a stud player like Jabari Parker. But given the fact that a couple of Parker’s good friends will be playing for the Blue Demons in the future, suddenly Oliver Purnell and his staff’s chances have increased a bit.
The Chicago Tribune recently noted that one of Parker’s closest buddies—Cory Dolins of suburban Chicago’s Niles West—will walk onto the DePaul team this fall. In addition, Parker is also close to Morgan Park junior Billy Garrett, who’s the son of one of Purnell’s assistant coaches by the same name and has committed to play for DePaul.
If Parker decides to value friendship above all else when making his decision, then DePaul could pull off the recruiting steal of the century.
Bottom Line: Location and connections make DePaul a wild card candidate here.
Kansas coach Bill Self
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Fresh off an appearance in the national championship game, Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks could be back on that grand stage again if they were they to successfully woo Jabari Parker to Lawrence.
As of right now, the Jayhawks are still in the mix to land Parker. And Kansas certainly has much to offer an elite recruit like Parker.
Few programs boast the tradition and prestige of the Jayhawks. Allen Fieldhouse is one of the sport’s most iconic venues.
And Self has proven he’s a winner at Kansas. Under his watch, Kansas has dominated the Big 12 conference and has won a national title.
With credentials like those, it’s easy to see why Parker is considering Kansas.
Bottom Line: Kansas's recent success (and Self's ability to turn out pro players) puts Kansas in a nice position for Parker.
7. Kansas State
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber
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There’s one man who’s responsible for Jabari Parker’s interest in the Kansas State Wildcats: Bruce Weber.
When Weber was the head coach at Illinois, he developed a relationship with a younger Parker. Jabari attended Illinois basketball camps in grade school, laying the ground for a scenario where Parker may have ended up playing for Weber in Champaign.
That is, until Weber was unceremoniously fired by Illinois at the end of this past season. Now Weber is in Manhattan, where he’s the head man for Kansas State.
Weber may have changed jobs but the fact remains that his bond with Parker is likely still intact, giving K-State more than a puncher’s chance to land a prized heavyweight in the recruiting game.
Bottom Line: Never underestimate the relationship between a recruit and a coach.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
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Any time Mike Krzyzewski is interested in your skill set, you certainly listen to what the man has to offer. That’s why it’s no surprise that Duke is on the list of teams seriously interested in Jabari Parker.
The Blue Devils have been hot on Parker’s heels for a while now. Assistant coach Chris Collins has been putting on the full-court recruiting press while Krzyzewski himself has been in contact with Parker’s father, Sonny.
It’s clear that Parker comes from a strong household and that’s the kind of recruit Krzyzewski is always looking for. Over the years, many players of outstanding upbringings have donned a Duke uniform, from Nolan Smith to Austin Rivers to the aforementioned Collins and countless others.
This could work to Krzyzewski’s advantage once again when Parker eventually makes his big decision.
Bottom Line: Although not at the top of the heap, Krzyzewski's presence alone gives Duke a great chance to land Parker.
5. North Carolina
North Carolina coach Roy Williams
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The folks at Sports Illustrated already pointed out that Jabari Parker could be the next LeBron James. But they forgot to mention that Parker could also be the next Michael Jordan—that is, in the sense that he could follow in Jordan’s footsteps and attend the University of North Carolina.
Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams certainly doesn’t struggle when it comes to attracting top-flight talent to Chapel Hill. Just a couple of years ago, Williams snagged Harrison Barnes, who was considered the top player in the nation at the time.
Can he snag the top player again in Parker? If Parker wants to be like Mike and follow Jordan’s path to the NBA via Tobacco Road, then it might be déjà vu for Williams.
Bottom Line: Although he's not the most astute tactician in the game, few can match Roy Williams on the recruiting trail.
John Calipari (left) and President Obama
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When it comes to recruiting top-flight talent, it’s no surprise to see that John Calipari is interested in having Jabari Parker play for him and the Kentucky Wildcats. If Parker has intentions of playing in the NBA, then it only makes sense for him to hear what Calipari has to offer.
Of course, it’s no secret that Calipari can offer kids a truly legitimate chance at making their dreams of playing professional basketball come true. And when it comes to bagging the top players, Calipari usually gets what he wants.
He landed stud point guard John Wall three years ago. That was followed by NCAA tournament MOP Anthony Davis and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. And this year, top player Nerlens Noel has signed on to play for Kentucky in the fall.
Will Parker follow in their footsteps? Stay tuned.
Bottom Line: Calipari is the king of the recruiting trail right now, which gives him as good a chance as anyone to snag Parker.
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody
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Some people may be baffled to find that Jabari Parker is considering Northwestern as a destination to play his college basketball. After all, the Wildcats have never made the NCAA tournament in their basketball program’s entire existence.
So why would a player of Parker’s stature consider such a snake-bitten program? Well, Northwestern is one of the premier institutions in the country (at least outside of the Ivy League) when it comes to academics. That certainly has to appeal to the strong Parker household.
What’s also appealing is that Parker could stay in-state and play in Evanston, a stone’s throw away from his hometown of Chicago. And in case you’re not aware, Wildcats coach Bill Carmody has the program on the upward trend.
If Parker lands in Evanston, the Wildcats may just finally get to the big dance.
Bottom Line: Location, academics and an underrated coach gives Northwestern surprise momentum here.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar
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If Jabari Parker is really into that whole brotherly love concept, then the Washington Huskies could be in the driver’s seat to land this special recruit.
As my colleague Tim Kearney points out, Parker’s brother Christian is currently attending Washington, where he’s a manager for Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies' basketball program. That could certainly sway Jabari to the Pacific Northwest when it comes time to choose where he wants to play his college ball.
Having a sibling in place at Washington could help Jabari ease into college life and possibly eliminate (or at least lessen) any home sickness that Jabari would potentially have during his freshman year.
I’m sure Romar already has Christian pressuring his brother to join him up in Washington.
Bottom Line: His big brother goes to Washington. Do I need to say more?
1. Brigham Young
Brigham Young coach Dave Rose
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When it comes to landing Jabari Parker’s playing services, BYU potentially holds the ultimate trump card.
If you’re familiar with Parker’s background, then you’re already aware that Parker is a devout Mormon. And given how immersed BYU is in the Mormon religion, Provo, Utah may be the destination for Parker.
There has already been speculation that Parker may put basketball on hold while he partakes in the traditional two-year Mormon mission that many young people of the faith participate in during their youth.
The majority of BYU students participate in the Mormon missionary hiatus—many while still enrolled at the university. So attending BYU would fit Parker’s religious needs like a glove.
Bottom Line: Parker is a devoted Mormon and BYU is (supposedly) a Mormon student's paradise.