The NCAA tournament is when the top names in college basketball shine on a big stage, and there are few bigger stars in the nation than Duke's Jabari Parker.
According to 247 Sports' composite rankings, the 6'8" forward entered the season as the No. 3 recruit in the country behind Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. Since then, he has completely outplayed his fellow freshman while showcasing his wide skill set and elite scoring ability.
Parker scored 22 points in his first game of his career against Davidson and did not slow down much from there, putting him in the conversation as a candidate for the National Player of the Year award.
His impressive play goes beyond just the numbers as he has put together some incredible highlights in his first year in the NCAA:
March Madness will give him a chance to truly showcase his ability with the spotlight directly on him. Here is a look at what to expect from the talented player over the course of the NCAA tournament.
|High School||Simeon Career Academy|
Parker has been considered one of the top basketball prospects in the country for a long time. According to his school's official profile, he was the first freshman ever to play for Simeon Academy and he named ESPN HS Freshman of the Year in 2010. A year later he followed that up as the Sophomore of the Year in 2011.
While Wiggins past him on many lists over the past few years, he remained one of the more highly rated players in the 2013 class.
The two will likely be competing once again in the offseason to be selected with the first overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft. This duo is considered to be among the top-three NBA prospects in the class along with Kansas' Joel Embiid by ESPN's Chad Ford.
Of course, there is still a question whether he will end up declaring for the draft. According to the Associated Press (via ESPN), Parker recently explained:
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. 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.
On the other hand, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders hears that the freshman is likely heading to the NBA:
Some scouts are very confident that Jabari Parker will enter the 2014 draft. One said there is "a 90% chance" that Parker is one-and-done.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 27, 2014
Interestingly, though, Parker has yet another option for next season. Laura Keeley of the News Observer points out that the Mormon athlete could potentially put off an NBA career to serve a mission for a year. Ford also explained in a chat that this scenario "isn't out of the question for him."
There are a lot of options for the young player, but you can be certain he will find a way to play professional basketball eventually.
After posting a 26-8 record and a loss to Virginia in in the ACC tournament final, Duke enters the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed. Based on what we have seen this season, the Blue Devils have a chance to go all the way toward a national title.
Parker is the key, as someone who can score from anywhere on the court. He has a versatile game that allows him to shoot from three or hit a mid-range jumper. If a player comes to close, he can blow by him and do this:
What helps him even more is the group of shooters that surround him on the court. Duke stars Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton can all hit open three-point shots, which means that opponents need to stick with him at all times.
As a result, the lanes are cleared for Parker to drive through and finish whenever he wants. This could lead to the freshman averaging over 20 points per game throughout his tournament run.
Of course, Duke's overall success will be based on the team's ability to hit the outside shot with consistency. The squad recently suffered an awful loss to Wake Forest when it hit only 6-of-27 attempts from beyond the arc.
The Blue Devils live by the three and die by the three, and this will be the biggest indicator of their success in March. With this in mind, you can expect them to grab a couple of wins, but an upset in the Sweet 16 is a very real possibility.
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