Duke Blue Devils freshman phenom forward Jabari Parker is projected as a top-flight lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft—if he declares himself eligible, that is.
As talented as he is, it figured to be a slam dunk that Parker would headline the latest bunch of one-and-done wunderkinds in college basketball. However, he maintains that he's undecided about his future beyond this season.
SportsCenter's official Twitter account reported the news on Friday, citing The Associated Press as the source:
Jabari Parker says he still hasn't decided whether to leave for NBA after this season or return to Duke for sophomore year. (via @AP)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 7, 2014
The AP's Joedy McCreary reports what Parker had to say regarding his future, as he implies that he would stay in Durham if he felt it'd benefit his overall game:
If I feel like there are things I could improve on or things I left, like during the season, then I will probably come back. Saying that I didn't give it my all and that I have regrets, that I have to come back because I owe this program so much. A deciding factor is where I'm going to grow the most, whether it's in the NBA or even in college, the learning experiences that I need as far as (growing as) a basketball player.
A lot of players are eager to take the money and run to the pros. This is a mature, balanced perspective from Parker that suggests an NBA team will be getting a gem both on and off the hardwood. Someday.
Despite how much individual attention Parker has received, he recognizes how the high-profile Duke program has not only allowed him to develop in an ideal environment, but helped keep him as a fixture in the spotlight. He also is focused on helping the team because of the opportunities the Blue Devils have afforded him and to be there for his teammates, per McCreary:
I really wasn't a guy that idolizes fame and self-glorification. Really, what drives me is the team goal and my responsibility (to teammates), so I guess being grounded really helps me, and the friendships that I have with these guys on the team kind of blinds a lot of things that come my way. ...
... Really, I've been set up for a good position where Duke is setting me up for a lot of exposure, and it's part of my responsibility to show up for them because the team that we have, I play a really vital role. That's what drives me, just to be there for my team.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski noted that Parker has been approachable and coachable:
He's been a willing learner, and he's accepted coaching extremely well. And so he's worked in concert with his coaching staff to become better. For any kid, that's the key to success. For a lot of guys who are really talented, they never learn that, and he has that.
Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher has some inside information on the acclaimed class of blue-chip players likely to enter the upcoming NBA draft. Bucher has been told by multiple scouts that Parker is the most complete player in college:
It's interesting how Parker feels he has plenty of room to improve and could accentuate some facets of his game to be the best player possible. With such high praise, he seems to have the intrinsic drive to get better and continue an accelerated approach toward his ceiling, which is as high as any player's in recent years.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, ESPN's Freshman Science broke down why Parker has been so dominant as the 2013-14 season enters the final stretch before March Madness:
Duke's Jabari Parker has been dominant in last 12 games. Here's why in Freshman Science: http://t.co/Crwnx9us65— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 5, 2014
Parker has averaged 18.8 points and nine rebounds per game, along with 1.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and a steal each contest. With a solid outside jumper to go with his prowess on the front line, there's no telling how good Parker can be as his exciting development continues.
What should Jabari Parker do?
Learning more under a leader like Krzyzewski, who has coached many marquee superstars at both Duke and through Team USA basketball, would be a sound, logical move by Parker. Then again, he is clearly pro-ready in the eyes of scouts, analysts and fans alike. It would be rather shocking if he went against the grain and stayed in school, as many of his highly touted predecessors haven't.
Even though Parker seems to be of a different frame of mind than others who have been in a similar position in the modern era, he would have to justify his decision to stay by dominating in college once again. That year could be viewed as a lost chance at developing in the NBA and grooming his game against better competition.
Parker's noble allegiance to the Cameron Crazies, his teammates and the Duke program probably won't be enough to prevent him from turning pro after the Blue Devils' NCAA tournament run. The fact that he's being public about giving the matter some serious apparent thought feeds the notion that Parker is indeed a unique prospect.