When Jabari Parker announced for Duke last December, the Blue Devils certainly were no stranger to winning out for elite talent. But Parker's pledge gave them a true superstar, someone who might be able to step into the starting lineup as a freshman and deliver All-American impact.
Duke didn't quite get that from Austin Rivers two seasons ago, and a toe injury prevented Kyrie Irving from launching as he might have the year prior.
And that brings us back to Parker. Hailed regrettably as one of several "best since LeBron" high school prospects, he received so much hype as a junior that he experienced some pushback and almost quietly navigated his senior campaign while Andrew Wiggins — who reclassified forward from the 2014 group — suddenly became the consensus top senior.
Through Duke's first few games this season, however, Parker might ultimately register as the country's best freshman. Wiggins and Julius Randle have made their case on the national stage as well, but Parker certainly has conceded nothing upon the opening of the season.
The Chicago native has topped the 20-point mark in each of Duke's four contests, and he has grabbed at least nine rebounds in three of those outings.
His signature performance thus far occurred last week versus Kansas. Although the Blue Devils dropped a tight contest — and Wiggins also impressed — Parker carried the day with 27 points and nine boards on 9-18 shooting. His pull-up jump shooting game already is NBA ready, and on top of that he's rebounding capably from the post to help alleviate pressure on Duke's smallish center committee.
Neither of Duke's other 2013 signees projects to have an impact similar to Parker's, but both ranked among the national top 30.
Matt Jones is a pure shooter who teamed with Julius Randle on the EYBL circuit and was one of the most feared shooters in the league. With junior transfer Rodney Hood holding down the wing forward spot and Rasheed Sulaimon likely to earn the lion's share of the minutes at shooting guard, Jones will have to wait his turn.
But the situation in the post is far thinner, and thus Semi Ojeleye may be called upon to contribute his natural strength and athleticism. Ojeleye isn't ready to become a key cog in the offense, but with Duke likely to experience frontcourt foul trouble versus first-rate opponents, he must be ready to defend and hit the glass.
Still, evaluating Duke's class last spring boiled down to Parker versus some other schools that had signed larger classes — but do you think Duke would trade? It's all about having star players, and Parker has proved to be nothing if not a freshman sensation.