Jabari Parker gave Duke's head coach Mike Krzyzewski what he was wanting for Christmas: His verbal commitment to bring his talents to Durham.
Because of Parker's elite-level skills and extraordinary versatility, the Blue Devils will instantly be considered a contender for the 2014 NCAA championship.
Signing Parker was more than a good thing: It was absolutely necessary for Duke to stay at the top end of college basketball's national scene.
Without Parker, Krzyzewski would have been anxiously trying to figure out how to reload after the mass departure of seniors Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly.
These three stars have played a lot of games and logged a lot of minutes over the last four years. Currently, they are scoring a combined 48 points per game, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of the Blue Devils scoring. They are also pulling down 18 rebounds per outing, over 50 percent of all of Duke’s boards.
Without Parker, Coach K may have been relying on either Amile Jefferson or Alex Murphy. Jefferson is emerging, but he still has a ways to go before he can be an every-game main contributor. Murphy is a legitimate threat as a stretch 4 from beyond the arc, but he is unproven in terms of defense and rebounding.
With Parker, Krzyzewski will have a multi-dimensional creator who can score, crash the boards and even distribute from either forward position.
Duke fans will be salivating about the exciting possibility of Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood playing side by side. Hood was selected to the 2012 SEC All-Freshmen team. The 6'8" forward is described in his Duke bio as:
An athletic wing player with great length and versatility ... has the strength and toughness to defend in the post and the speed and quickness to be an elite perimeter defender
Beyond setting next year's team up for success, pulling in Parker re-establishes Coach K and his staff as consummate recruiters of elite players.
Though Coach K has gained dozens of commitments from McDonald's All-Americans over his three-plus decades at Duke, he has to keep proving himself on an annual basis. Any time he doesn't reel in multiple 5-star recruits, the whispers begin:
- Has he lost his touch?
- Does Coach K still have "The Magic"?
- Do today's players still think Krzyzewski is relevant?
It seems that people quickly forget that Duke has signed Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers in the last three years...oh, yeah, and also the player that Sports Illustrated called, "The Best High School Player Since LeBron James."
Bottom Line…Coach K still has it.