Jabari Parker: Latest Rumors and Buzz Surrounding Duke Star's NBA Draft Decision

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIApril 2, 2014

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It's possible that Duke Blue Devils freshman phenom Jabari Parker has played his final game in college, with the 2014 NBA draft looming and his status cemented as a top-flight lottery pick.    

Updates from Wednesday, April 16

The Chicago Tribune's Staff reports Jabari Parker will not announce his plans to stay at Duke or declare for the NBA draft today:

Contrary to reports, Duke and former Simeon star Jabari Parker is not scheduled to announce whether he will return to school next season or enter the 2014 NBA draft on Wednesday.


Duke basketball associate director of sports information Matt Plizga said there was no press conference scheduled at this time.

Updates from Monday, April 14

The Associated Press confirms when and where Jabari Parker plans to make his decision on if he'll declare for the NBA draft or stay at Duke:

Jabari Parker says he plans to "set up an appointment" with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski when he returns to Durham, N.C., on Tuesday and he will decide Wednesday whether to declare for the NBA draft or return to college for his sophomore year.

Parker was in Oklahoma City to accept the Wayman Tisdale Award as college basketball's top freshman. He says his decision will be based on where he can grow the most.

Parker says he'll talk with Coach K and "lay out my options, but I'm just really glad I get the best of both worlds."

Updates from Friday, April 11

Bucks County Courier-Times reporter Tom Moore has an update on Parker's status:

ESPN.com reports that Parker is set to meet with Coach K next week:

Duke freshman star Jabari Parker said Friday he still hasn't decided whether he will enter the NBA draft and will meet with coach Mike Krzyzewski next week to discuss his situation.

Parker, who is ranked No. 2 by ESPN.com's Chad Ford, said he has ruled out going on a Mormon mission, leaving his decision between another year at Duke or the NBA.

"It's a very tough decision especially potentially leaving behind my coach and the program that really helped me out this year so I really have to keep them in consideration in this whole process," Parker said Friday on ESPNLA 710.

Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy provided more:

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However, there is no guarantee Parker is going to take his talents to the pros just yet. According to ESPN.com draft expert Chad Ford, both Parker and Kansas first-year big man Joel Embiid are both considering staying in school for at least another year:

Both are weighing their options. Both are seriously considering returning ... with Parker so much so that several scouts are claiming he's coming back to school. But I think that's premature. They have time. The deadline is April 27th to decide. However, if they declare after April 15th, there's no turning back. They'll lose their college eligibility. Parker is really NBA ready. He could obviously improve if he stayed, but he's a NBA starter from Day One. He'll get minutes and playing against the best competition is the best way to improve. The only good reason for him to stay is because he loves college, wants to lead Duke to a NCAA Championship and is OK just waiting. But as far as development goes, the NBA is his best option...I think both will probably declare at the end of the day, but I wouldn't be shocked if they stayed either.

It's difficult to dispute the notion that Parker will be an instant NBA starter because he has uncommon polish for such a young prospect. At 6'8" and 235 pounds, Parker already has a strong enough frame to make the jump to the next level, and his finesse, athleticism in the open court and all-around offensive game project him to be an immediate impact player in the Association.

Even with all those positives, though, it makes some sense that Parker would consider another year in Durham. Before the NCAA tournament, Parker discussed his future with Joedy McCreary of The Associated Press and implied he might have areas to improve before leaving college:

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.

That was before mid-major upstart Mercer upset the third-seeded Blue Devils in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament. If that was Parker's final game at Duke, he didn't wrap up his college career on a high note.

While he scored 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds, he also finished with four turnovers and four personal fouls. Additionally, head coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled Parker during the second half of the game due to his limitations on defense.

Given the upside he still has to explore, it's hard to say whether Parker would benefit playing against the best possible competition in the NBA now or honing his skills and having another dominant season in college. Even in what's viewed as a very deep draft class, though, Parker is still viewed as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick.

Kansas' Embiidalong with Andrew Wiggins, who entered the draft on Mondayfigures to vie for the top selection. Embiid ended his freshman season sidelined with a back injury, while Wiggins disappeared in the Jayhawks' third-round loss to Stanford in the Big Dance.

ESPN analyst Jay Williams feels neither Parker nor Wiggins harmed their draft stock despite the sour endings to their seasons:

Parker does seem the most prepared to handle the big jump. He didn't wilt from the spotlight and showed more consistency than his fellow highly touted freshmen in 2013-14, putting up 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest while sprinkling in impact plays at the defensive end, too.

It's admirable that the 19-year-old star has perspective and allegiance to the school that facilitated his continued rise to prominence. With how much of a difference-maker he can be for an NBA franchise this coming fall, though, Parker will be hard-pressed to turn down a lucrative contract, endorsement deals and the chance to shine in the Association in favor of developing his game against inferior competition as a prospective college sophomore.

Should he not declare himself eligible for the draft, several pro teams suffering through tough seasons in the hopes of landing someone like Parker will certainly be disappointed. But if he does return to school, makes a deep run with Duke in the 2015 NCAA tournament and shows marked improvement, he should retain his status as a top pick while not having to deal with the weight of expectations to carry an NBA squad before he's in his 20s.