There's always some deliberation as to whether the one-and-done route is best for college basketball's brightest young stars. In the case of Duke forward Jabari Parker, there was little doubt he'd take his talents to the NBA draft, and that decision became official Thursday.
Parker revealed his decision in a piece for Sports Illustrated with Jeff Benedict:
Ultimately, I boiled my decision down to two simple questions:
Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player?
Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court?
The answer to both questions is undeniably the NBA.
There is something else. My father, Sonny, played in the NBA. I know firsthand that the career span of a pro basketball player is finite. The lucky ones play until their mid-30s. With that perspective, I shrink my professional career with each year that I remain in college. It's ironic, but true.
The basketball prodigy had entertained the idea of staying in school, as he told The Associated Press' Joedy McCreary on March 7:
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.
Parker doesn't have much more to improve upon at the collegiate level, though, and should be a prime candidate to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in what's one of the most hyped draft classes in recent history.
The Blue Devils were fortunate to land such a blue-chip player, if only for one season. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski is as good of a mentor to have as any in the country, given his contagious passion for basketball and ability to communicate with all types of players.
Krzyzewski is confident Parker will be a franchise player at the next level, per Paul Pabst of The Dan Patrick Show:
"Eventually, he's going to be a franchise player for an NBA team. The kind of guy who averages 25 a game." Coach K on Jabari Parker.— Paul Pabst (@PaulPabst) March 13, 2014
Following the announcement, Krzyzewski wished Parker the best at the next level, via Duke's Twitter account:
"We'll be on Jabari's team the rest of our lives & we know JP & his family will be on the Duke team for the rest of their lives.” Coach K— Duke Basketball (@dukeblueplanet) April 17, 2014
While Kansas' Andrew Wiggins was slightly more heralded entering college, he struggled to acclimate and deal with the expectations placed on him. From the beginning, Parker appeared undaunted by the big stage and the spotlight—another encouraging sign for his professional aspirations.
Look no further than Parker's 30 points against archrival North Carolina—the most for a freshman in that battle for Tobacco Road supremacy in approximately three decades, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Jabari Parker scored 30 Pts, most ever by a Duke freshman vs UNC and most by a freshman in a Duke-UNC game since 1974 (UNC's Walter Davis)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 9, 2014
The 19-year-old received the Wayman Tisdale Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association as the nation's top freshman, which is saying a lot. With a frame of 6'8" and 235 pounds, there is already pro-sized bulk to Parker's body, and he has even more room to add thickness.
Averages of 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks per game overall only begin to tell the story of how much of an all-around impact Parker can make. With his athleticism, versatility and explosiveness in the open floor, he's capable of making a big splash or game-changing play at any moment.
Former college star and NBA player Rex Chapman also noticed signs of Parker's leadership on the court:
I love the willingness of freshman Jabari Parker to grab a teammate and move him away from the refs late in this game. Hint of leadership.— Rex Chapman (@rexchapman) March 9, 2014
Wearing a No. 1 jersey is bold in and of itself and indicative of the faith Parker has in his own abilities. That should be instrumental to the likely instant success he will enjoy as a franchise cornerstone for some fortunate NBA lottery team for years to come.
Speculation has circulated throughout the Association that teams have been tanking to select players like Parker and Wiggins. Throughout the college basketball season, Parker has proven to be the most consistent and polished player in the country.
Whoever holds the top pick in the draft has an enviable dilemma in choosing between such exceptional players, but selecting Parker figures to be an excellent—and perhaps the very best—solution.