Parker already dealing with expectations

CHICAGO -- Jabari Parker is used to significant attention by now but that doesn't necessarily mean he enjoys all of it.

As a throng of local and national media descended upon a seated Parker in the hallway of the United Center during the McDonald's All-American Game Media Day, the future face of Duke Blue Devil basketball smiled and patiently answered the hundreds of questions lobbed at him by reporters.

For around an hour a group of reporters crowded around and fluctuated in size, as Parker, seated with his back against the wall, was mostly surrounded and unable to escape. Two McDonald's game staff members frantically worked to keep the volume of questions down at times to give Jabari a breather as amused fellow McDonald's All-Americans occasionally stopped by to witness the circus – including future Duke teammate Matt Jones.

The commotion didn't seem to faze Parker.

Although Parker was sitting a shoulder length below most of the reporters blurting out questions over one-another, he handled the herd of media and responded to each question with patience and poise as he looked at each reporter that threw him a question.

One reporter began asking questions more typical of a first date or a college entrance interview -- as typically happens at events similar to the McDonald's All-American Game when general media talks to athletes for a larger introduction to the general public.

The group of reporters quickly learned three things on Jabari's bucket list (visit Australia; community service in Africa; find a lost civilization) and three people Jabari would like to eat dinner with (Martin Luther King Jr.; John Wooden; Abraham Lincoln) before hearing Jabari's pet peeve. 

"Being too close to people; like in awkward situations," Jabari said with a smile.  

At the McDonald's All-American Game at the United Center last year, Jabari Parker was only a spectator in street clothes seated across from press row near the east sideline watching former club basketball and camp opponents that he had played over the years. As the game ended and autograph-seeking fans began to descend towards the United Center floor in search of the game's participants, Jabari and his 6-8 frame stood from his seat to leave the arena.

The focus of the autograph-seekers quickly turned to an exposed and available-in-the-seats Parker as people began to recognize the local superstar that was rated No. 1 nationally in his class and fresh off a third consecutive Illinois Class 4A state title with Simeon. Soon, Jabari was surrounded by people asking for autographs and pictures. He obliged with smiles and he slowly and patiently exited the United Center.

Another Illinois Class 4A state title – Parker and Simeon's fourth consecutive title – and a Sports Illustrated cover story later and Parker is ready to move on to Duke and continue his basketball career. 

By now Jabari is used to the significant attention a star player receives everywhere he goes.

"I just have fun, I don't let the media praise and criticism blind me from what's most important and that's the love of the game and using basketball as a tool," Parker said. "I love the fact that I'm getting a chance to go to college for free and don't give my parents that burden to pay off my expenses."

Next year Duke is going to rely heavily on Parker with the departure of three seniors: Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly. The three senior starters played heavy minutes and Parker will be a go-to guy to offset the loss of their production.

"Kelly, Curry and Plumlee are leaving so that gives me the opportunity to get more experience and more exposure," Parker said. "I think I can fill myself in right away without stepping on any toes."

Parker primarily sees himself in the role that Ryan Kelly played for the Blue Devils.

"I think my primary position is like a 4; you know (Rodney) Hood is going to be there (at the 3)," Parker said. "The offense is so versatile because it's 4-out, 1-in and they allow other people to come out, so there's basically no position except forward."

During McDonald's week, Jabari looked to be in better condition and health than the high school season with Simeon.

"I'm feeling good right now. I can't give myself any excuses any more as long as I'm out there. But I'm feeling good," Jabari said with a smile.

Duke fans are also waiting on Jabari to officially sign his letter of intent, which he has a specific plan for.

"When am I signing? Probably the last day possible," Parker said. "That's what a friend gave me advice on. "

It will be a long wait this offseason as Duke fans await Parker's freshman season to begin. The expectations will be high, but then again, they were also high for Parker as he entered Chicago's high school basketball scene as the "next big thing." Four years later and Parker won four state titles and two Mr. Basketball awards and cemented his legacy as the most celebrated high school basketball player in Illinois' tradition-rich basketball history.

Parker will likely only have a season or two to cement his legacy in Duke's tradition-rich program, but his history has shown that he's a good candidate to lead a new group into the NCAA Tournament.

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