Chicago has been kind to Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Having grown up in the Windy City, Krzyzewski has recruited from his old stomping grounds better than perhaps any other area in the country by securing commitments from Chicago natives Jon Scheyer, Cory Maggette, Sean Dockery, Shaun Livingston and current assistant head coach Chris Collins throughout the years.
This weekend, Krzyzewski will attempt to add to that illustrious group as he hosts arguably the best high school basketball player to ever come out of Chicago for an official visit—Jabari Parker.
Until Thursday, Parker had been the No. 1 player in the class of 2013 according to ESPN, but small forward Andrew Wiggins—previously the No. 1 player in the class of 2014—reclassified to 2013 and has surpassed Parker as the No. 1 overall player in the class.
After entertaining a host of schools, there are now only five still standing—BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford.
Parker will attempt to lead Simeon Career Academy to its fourth-straight state championship this season. Playing in one of the toughest high school leagues in the land, the 6-foot-8 small forward averaged 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game last year. As the stats illustrate, there are few things that Parker cannot do on the hardwood. He possesses terrific size, a polished skill set reminiscent of a young Carmelo Anthony and a picturesque jump shot.
Perhaps best of all, he is as driven and grounded as he is talented. His upstanding character can be attributed to both his Mormon faith, his close-knit family and his NBA pedigree—his father, Sonny Parker, played for the Golden State Warriors from 1976-1982.
Since Parker was an underclassman, Krzyzewski has persistently recruited the Chicago prep prodigy. He was the first player in the class of 2013 to receive a scholarship offer from the Blue Devil coaching staff. Parker last visited Duke in January of 2011 for the home game against Maryland. Playing a national basketball schedule at Simeon, Parker was unable to take an unofficial visit to Durham last season. Last fall, Krzyzewski reportedly arrived to Parker’s open gym in a limo.
Unlike most stars, the soft-spoken Parker is attention-averse. To avoid the hoopla, he has changed his cell phone number multiple times in the past few years. Regardless of his efforts to avoid it, the hype surrounding Parker’s recruitment reached an unprecedented level last spring when Sports Illustrated put the Simeon star on its cover, dubbing him “The best high school player since LeBron James.” Joining an elite fraternity, Parker is one of six high school basketball players to ever grace the cover of one of the most popular sports publications in the world.
In a classic instance of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, Parker was riddled by injuries this summer, forcing him to miss much of his highly anticipated final summer on the AAU basketball circuit with his team, the Mac Irvin Fire. In the meantime, Wiggins’ dominance in June and July enabled him to dethrone Parker as the best player in high school basketball. Parker’s absence further limited media accessibility to the star, which largely took him out of the spotlight and made his recruitment even tighter lipped.
Among the schools left, Duke and Michigan State are widely considered the frontrunners to land Parker. Spartan head coach Tom Izzo has relentlessly recruited Parker, selling the blue-collar nature of his program as well as the proximity to Chicago. The Gators, meanwhile, are the dark horse of the race, while the Cougars and the Cardinal are seemingly on the outside looking in. Despite the perceived advantage that the Blue Devils and Michigan State may have, the quietness of the Parker sweepstakes throughout the past few months has kept people guessing.
“I don’t know anymore,” said ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep, when asked who leads for Parker. “His recruitment has taken on a little bit of a life of its own in that everything is pretty contained.”
The containment should not last too much longer. Even though it does not appear that he will sign during the early signing period from Nov. 14-21, Parker is expected to announce his college decision before his high school basketball season kicks into high gear. Having already visited Michigan State, Parker will take official visits in the coming weeks to Florida Nov. 2-4, Stanford Nov. 9-11 and BYU Nov. 16-20.
Landing Parker would give Krzyzewski one of his most talented players ever. Telep, who has scouted high school basketball for more than a decade, sees Parker as one of the best players in recent memory.
“He’s up there with Jason Williams, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden,” Telep said.