His team may have ultimately lost its Champions Classic showdown against Andrew Wiggins and Kansas, but Jabari Parker certainly did enough to impress college basketball fans and voters across the nation.
He probably turned some heads at the NBA level as well with his 27 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
The question now, at least from an individual standpoint, is whether Parker can continue his incredible level of play. Entering Friday’s contest with Florida Atlantic, the sensational freshman is averaging 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, one steal and one block a night. If he posts those numbers all season, Parker will absolutely be on the short list of contenders for National Player of the Year honors.
Just making the short list would be an accomplishment itself in college basketball this year. Between Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, Russ Smith, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Julius Randle and the aforementioned Wiggins, among plenty of others, college hoops is completely loaded with NBA-level talent.
It is worth noting that there are some factors beyond what takes place on the court that will work in Parker’s favorite. For one, he is the star attraction on the national powerhouse that is Duke, which means he will be in the national spotlight every time he steps on the floor. Not only will he have every opportunity to make an impact on voters, he can also prove that he is capable of handling the extra attention as the Blue Devils’ star player.
Furthermore, Parker and his talented teammates will have a number of chances to prove their mettle against the nation’s best. Duke battles Michigan, UCLA, North Carolina, Syracuse and likely Arizona (in the Preseason NIT) this year and has already squared off against Kansas. Putting up numbers like Parker did against the Jayhawks goes a lot further than it would in a mid-major conference.
While those external factors will certainly work to Parker’s advantage, it is his pure talent alone that will propel him into National Player of the Year discussions. He is a scoring machine who can hit from well behind the three-point line, attack the lane with ease, finish through contact when he gets to the rim and find open teammates when defenders collapse.
Furthermore, Parker’s length and versatility help him block shots and dart into passing lanes on the defensive end. If he can continue to average a steal and block a night to go along with his incredible offensive numbers, voters will take notice. Superstars that excel on both ends of the floor, especially at the collegiate level, are few and far between.
It’s unrealistic to expect Parker to continue to score 25 points a night over the course of the entire season, but his rebounding numbers will likely increase with more games played. Mike Krzyzewski has a rotation of big guys that includes Josh Hairston, Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson, but none of them receive a ton of minutes.
Parker, on the other hand, will be on the floor almost 40 minutes a night, which will give him every opportunity to lead the Blue Devils in rebounding.
We are talking about an uber-talented, versatile and athletic NBA prospect that laces it up for one of the nation’s most dominant teams (in terms of ability and media presence). Parker will continue to put up numbers across the board and find himself in the thick of the National Player of the Year discussions in March.
He may also find himself on top of NBA draft boards across the Association come June.