One On One With Jabari Parker

He's the top overall player in the class of 2013. He's already gotten an offer from a who's-who of college basketball including Duke. But who is Jabari Parker? TDD sat down with the five star prospect to get a better idea.

TDD: Over the summer you shared your membership in the Mormon faith. Can you elaborate on what lead you to that path?

Jabari Parker: I was first introduced to the Mormon faith by my mother. She's from Utah and is an LDS member, so she started bringing me to church and then it became something that I wanted for myself. I wanted to have my own faith in God, so I started taking the steps to learn more about the Mormon Church and then I went through the process of becoming a Mormon for myself.

There's a good amount of Mormon athletes who play Division 1 sports who take Mormon missions for two years either before they start playing college basketball or while they are playing, is that something you see as a possibility?

That is something I'm aware of and that opportunity is there, and I see a lot of people go on those trips, but I don't know if I'm going to do one.

You've also got the reputation of being a big academics guy. What are you doing to get ready for the demands of university academics?

I do take my academics very seriously and going to Simeon is different because it's a career technical school, so it's different from a typical public school. I am taking an AP Class in Composition and Rhetoric and I'm really liking that a lot. It's really helping me, I think, to get ready for college with my reading and comprehension skills which is something I know I need to do well in at college. Even though there aren't a lot of AP courses offered at Simeon, it's helpful for me to take what is offered because the lectures I hear in class are just like college lectures.

Have you always been a self-starter when it comes to your education?

Yeah, I tend to work real hard with my schoolwork because I feel like that's my responsibility to utilize my God given ability and match that with knowing that not everything comes easy in life and in school, so I make sure I work hard to make the most of that opportunity.

What is the driving force behind that academic approach?

I think it's because academics have always been a big deal to me and my family. Basketball is such a short term thing whereas college and a degree lasts a lot longer. For me, I want the best education possible and to have schools like Stanford and Duke and other schools recruiting me, it's important to me to go to a school that will look good on my resume in a variety of ways, both for the education I get there and for the basketball program as well.

Do you already have a vision for what kind of college education experience you're looking for?

I've been thinking a lot lately about wanting to go into something related to Sports Management because I want to study to do something that I will enjoy as a profession.

So are you looking at working in professional or college sports?

I think either or I could see myself doing something in a front office somewhere.

It sounds like you've done a lot of thinking about bigger issues. Where does that come from?

To be honest, it's not too hard to think about because the people at school know who I am as a person. They are all my people and I think it helps a lot coming from a two parent household, it doesn't really matter to me what people think about me, it's important to me and my family to make sure that I do the right things.

That's interesting that you mention a two-parent household. Can you elaborate?

My parents are both really good examples to me, they teach me how to be grounded as a person. It's a big reason why I don't like to promote myself all that much. I just want to be a kid and enjoy life as a kid right now, it's important to me that when people look at me, they see the real Jabari.

Switching gears, let's talk about your experience playing AAU basketball. How you deal with the intense spotlight from being regarded as one of the best high school players on the circuit?

AAU, I mean it's so big. It's the best thing for high school basketball players to play in. I try to stay real close with my coaches, friends and family, I don't let the hype get to me because it doesn't matter at the end of the day.

There are comparisons out there to Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. How do you address those comparisons?

I do think it gives me recognition for the talent that God has given to me, but it also truly lets me know where I'm at as a player. It also lets me know where I need to be. I mean, to be compared to guys like Kobe and Kevin Durant, it's crazy to think about that since I'm just in high school.

You mentioned friendships you have on the circuit. Can you talk about your analysis of your friend Julius Randle?

Julius, he's just really, really good. He's so talented and gifted and at 6 ft 9, the way he moves and how versatile he is, he's just so hard to guard you know? I mean, you see a lot of big guys who all they do is just run the floor, post up and that's their game. But with Julius, man, he's got the whole package, he can come down in transition, he can post up, he can get out in space and take his man off the dribble, he's just a great player.

Is Julius a player that you feel like there's overlap between you and him and what you guys do the court, or do you see yourself as able to play with him potentially in college?

Yeah, I would say we are two guys who could for sure play together with each other. You hear other guys talk about making a Dream Team and going to the same school together, and that's something I'm looking at as possible with him. We could definitely play together and compliment each other as players.

Let's talk about Team USA and your participation in that arena. What benefits have you found in those experiences?

I'd say that it has done a lot for me. Somebody was telling me the other day that you should use basketball to get from point A to point B and not let basketball use you. Playing for Team USA has been such a blessing because it's given me an opportunity to see parts of the world that you never get another opportunity to see. We went to Mexico as a team before and it just told me that Chicago is just one city and it gives me a chance to form real bonds with guys on the teams.

Like who?

I've formed a really good bond with Jahlil Okafor, it's really easy to form that friendship when we are out of the United States and we are the only Americans where we are. It really helps you grow through difficult situations, and having friends like Jahlil to talk with is really great because he helps me talk about things that are on my mind, opportunities that I have, stuff like that.

Wanted to ask you about Coach K since he's got a strong involvement with USA Basketball. Is it a big deal to you in your recruitment that he's coached guys like Kobe and LeBron and the stars of the NBA for Team USA or is it something you compartmentalize?

I think it's a very big deal because he's coached the best players in the world, and that gives him better knowledge than most coaches. I know, for me, I want to be coached by the best when I go to college. When we've talked about Team USA, he's talked about how with Kobe, his leadership and how he was there for his teammates when they were in China as something that I should look at because we both agree that I'm going to be a leader on my team being an upperclassman and leadership is a big deal on the court.

When you chat with him about those issues, what are your impressions?

To be honest, it's really easy for me to relate to Coach K. He's from Chicago like I am. He's from the West Side of Chicago, so he knows what it's like to live where I live and I really feel comfortable with him, I feel like I could learn a lot from him as a player and a person.

It's also been noted that you have a very strong relationship with Coach Romar.

Yeah, Coach Romar has a lot of experience and he's been a professional basketball player as well as a coach. I feel like he can give me insights into what goes into being a professional basketball player because he's experienced it. He's been a teammate of my dad's before with the Golden State Warriors.

Do you think it's harder to learn how to become a pro athlete from a coach who hasn't had the opportunity to play as a professional basketball player?

No, I'm not saying that. It really doesn't matter to me. It's not that big a deal that coaches like Coach K and others didn't play pro ball, I know with Coach K, that'd be good too for me as a player, he's a great coach that I'd learn a lot from.

Now that you've had the experience of being recruited by Duke, can you talk about what their approach has been like to you? How is it unique from other schools?

Yes, I would say they are different for sure. Duke is such a big program, and they have more to worry about as a program since they are held in such high regard as a program. When they started recruiting me, things went really fast after awhile because they knew my potential from watching me on AAU. They just try to do things the right way when it comes to recruiting me and I appreciate that.

When you spend time evaluating teams on the court, are you watching the system or do you see yourself zeroing in on the players at your position and how they are utilized?

I look at both the system and the players to see what they are doing on the court. It's also important to look at what kind of pro players schools have developed and I also look at the conference they are playing in. There are certain leagues that have a lot of exposure on TV and I know that's where scouts are going to be, so I do look at that.

Do those leagues have an advantage in your mind because of the TV?

Yeah, it is kind of an advantage, but it's not the only thing I'm looking at. if I just focused on that I wouldn't be able to make a full decision.

It sounds as if you arevery aware of how college could affect your personal brand and your future opportunity to play in the NBA.

I do think about my brand a lot in terms of my personal brand. My big thing is I want to be a role model and having good character is important as a person I think. When I look at guys in the NBA, I want to be looked at in the same way, especially with kids.

With the lockout going on there are a number of potential changes including the removal or extension of the age limit rule. If there isn't an age limit, are you thinking about going pro early?

I think if I have the opportunity to go pro, that's something I will look at potentially. I also know that college will help me grow quite a bit.

How so?

I think one area is I would learn even better how to budget my money and I know that college will help me get prepared for dealing with the business aspects of being a pro athlete.

There's a big debate going on when it comes to the value of going pro versus the value of going to college. Certainly there are strong arguments on both sides. Where do you fall in that discussion?

I think it really depends on the player. On how ready they are as players and people to make the jump. It depends on how high his stock is going into the draft, and I feel like it could be good if you look at guys like Kobe and LeBron. Those guys were ready when they went pro. But for other guys, and this could include me, it could be a 50/50 deal. It could be good or could be bad. I do feel like I think I need to go to college, I want to make sure I go pro when I'm ready.

What are some of the other benefits that you feel like you get by going to college? Are schools talking to you about what they can do for you as a person by having you in their basketball program?

I think one thing I like is that schools have told me that they do look out for their guys and try to give you time to grow as a person in education, in basketball, and in life. Sometimes things can be really harsh being in the spotlight in the media, so I like that some schools talk to me and my family about how they create environments where they protect their players and help them grow as normally as possible.

I wanted to also ask you about the possible rule change that could result in juniors being allowed to take official visits starting in June next year. If that rule goes into affect would you take advantage of the opportunity to go on official visits early?

Maybe. Like on one hand I'd like to have some time to not have to deal with recruiting, but I'm not really sure if I want to wrap things up quickly because my feeling is I'm blessed with God given talent and that allows me to have schools come watch me play and practice which then opens up opportunities for other teammates of mine to have schools watch them too.

So then does that mean that for you that you don't want to do official visits early on?

If a school were to call me and tell me that they really wanted me, that shows me how important to them and I greatly appreciate that, but I also feel like it shows me even more how much they want me if they are willing to wait and not rush things because I want to make a good decision and not rush things.

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