Kwe Parker emerged as a freshman in North Carolina, where he and classmate Dennis Smith blew up simultaneously and earned invitations as freshmen to the prestigious Carolina Challenge.
Parker and Smith also combined as sophomores for Fayetteville (N.C.) Trinity Christian, where Parker executed highlight reel play after play and attracted offers from Virginia Tech, Charlotte, Clemson and Western Carolina.
He opted to go his own way for his junior season. Parker teamed with Harry Giles and others for a loaded High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan squad that was one of the most gifted in the country. He had demonstrated progress transitioning from the wing into a legitimate combo guard, but a broken foot felled him late in the season and, upon return, hindered him somewhat this past summer.
Parker competed with the Karolina Diamonds in July, enjoying some fine moments in Las Vegas to close the live period. He cut his list to Rutgers, Wake Forest, Florida and Florida State, noting that a decision likely would come very soon.
He took a little more time than anticipated but pledged to Eddie Jordan’s Scarlet Knights in late August, giving the program a sensational athlete to groom into a multi-faceted player.
Let’s start with the obvious. Parker may be the most spectacular dunker in all of high school basketball, possessing the kind of explosive two-footed leap to potentially win many, many dunk contests as his career progresses.
Of course, there’s only so much value in leaping ability for a 6-1 player, but it’s certainly entertaining. Parker does some young Allen Iverson-type things above the rim, and that’s no exaggeration.
But he’s also laterally quick. Parker’s defense may be the hallmark of his game at present, and he’s likely to specialize on that end of the floor early at Rutgers. He’s thin but wiry strong and a tough-nosed competitor in general, so he won’t be afraid to accept the challenge of guarding an opponent’s ace scorer.
While he isn’t ready yet to take the reigns at point, Parker has improved his dribbling and passing when playing on the ball. And the fact that he has worked so hard to make progress certainly bodes well for his future development.
He also has become a capable jump shooter, but of course there’s still room for improvement. Most importantly, Parker has added some inside-outside balance, enabling him to attack the basket more freely now that defenders must guard him more honestly outside.
Parker remains a work in progress. He still can look awkward at point guard or suffer through an extended shooting slump, and thus offensively he still tends to perform unevenly.
Beyond that, he’ll need to get stronger. Parker’s height will be a disadvantage whenever he’s on the wing, so compensating for that with muscle will be significant.
Fans likely will need to be patient with Parker offensively as he continues to evolve, but from the outset he should give the team a valuable defensive spark. Along with that, of course, he projects as a weapon in transition and will bring elite-level finishing over the top.
Parker to me projects as a three- or four-year player. If that’s true, the coaching staff will enjoy ample time to bring him along at his own pace. Down the road he could become one of the most versatile and valuable guards in the Big Ten.