Jabari Parker is only a sophomore, but he is almost a legend within high school basketball circles in the state of Illinois. A starter for Chicago Simeon as a freshman, he helped lead his team to an Illinois 4-A state championship last year and hopes to repeat this season. His coach Robert Smith describes what makes Parker special.
"His understanding of the game. He has to play multiple positions, so that's what separates him right now from a lot of other kids."
Parker willingly played a supporting role last year, but he was required to assert himself this past summer on the AAU circuit and proved capable. He is now needed to do the same for his high school team according to Smith.
"Yeah, that was something we talked about earlier. He has to pick up the slack from Brandon Spearman, who did a great job for us last year. He's doing a great job. He's our toughest player, and he gets his teammates involved."
The 6'-7" athlete seemed a little heavy last summer, and yet he was still nearly impossible to guard. He has lost weight, and his quickness is improved.
"Yeah, and he's grown a little bigger too," Smith agrees. "He's lost a couple pounds."
Smith keeps tight reins on his players and will not let them do interviews during their high school seasons. Parker is being pursued by a large number of schools. But Smith knows Parker will not let college recruiters distract him from the task at hand.
"I don't have to give him any advice. All he wants to do is win. He doesn't even care about that other stuff. It doesn't even bother us. Him thinking about college and stuff, that isn't even in his mind right now. He just wants Simeon to win a state championship."
Joe Henricksen, author of the City/Suburban Hoops Report and long-time talent evaluator in the Chicago area, praised Parker recently on WDWS radio and discussed his importance to the University of Illinois.
"That 2013 group is where the Illini have to hit a home run. Jabari Parker is obviously the guy. He's a special, special talent and kid who can transcend an entire program, even if it's just one year in college basketball. I really truly believe that.
"He's a Paul Pierce clone. He's 6'-7" and could grow another inch or two where he can be a versatile player in all aspects: on the floor, off the floor, leadership, character, everything. He is a special, unique kid.
"Illinois has put so much time and effort into the first half of this recruiting process since his 7th, 8th grade year. And now he's just a sophomore and got a cell phone for the first time a month ago. This is the guy I think is the most important recruit, definitely in Bruce Weber's career, because it's his first legitimate shot at bringing in a legitimate top 5, top 10 player nationally.
"Illinois has put themselves in position to be there at the end. I think the biggest factor with Illinois going forward with Jabari Parker is the success Illinois has on the floor. He's an elite player looking for an elite program. If Illinois puts themselves in that position, then I really feel good about Jabari Parker and Illinois.
"That has to get done; we'll see if it does get done. Michigan State's in there really hard; they're gonna be tough to beat for him. He went to Duke (recently) to visit unofficially. Kansas is involved. He's got some ties to Washington. I really think Illinois is in good shape with Jabari Parker."
Son of former NBA star Sonny Parker, Jabari Parker is a man among boys at the high school level. Illinois coaches will do everything in their power within the rules to secure his signing with the Fighting Illini.