Jabari Parker is a 6'-7" small forward from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago. Parker currently ranks as the #4 player in the 2013 class nationally, with an arrow pointing up as the star's game has risen to new heights this season.
Every major college program in the country is showing interest in the sophomore, but Illinois fans want him to stay in state. Parker is extremely high on the Illini and talked about what he likes about the program.
"I like Illinois because it is close to home, and I like Bruce Weber as a coach and the rest of the coaching staff there. I respect them very much."
Weber and assistant coach Jerrance Howard have been recruiting the sophomore for several years and were one of the first schools to identify Parker as a truly elite talent at a young age. The staff has built a great relationship with the Simeon forward. Parker talked about the two coaches.
"The relationship I have with Jerrance and coach Weber is pretty good. When I get a chance to talk to him, I can talk to him like he is a regular person. We get along great."
He has a versatile game that allows him to play multiple positions and be successful in different roles. Does he feel he could fit into a Jereme Richmond type role at the small forward spot for the Illini?
"Yea I think I can and be more free as a ball handler."
Parker is in the middle of a season that should last deep into March with Simeon. He will then jump right into play with the new Dwyane Wade AAU team in the spring. This does not leave much time for visiting schools. He hopes to take another trip to Champaign this June.
"If we go out for team camp that will be the time I will visit."
Illinois is not the only top program in pursuit. Parker has received interest and offers from a variety of schools all over the country. Right now he is focusing in on five basketball powers with top coaches and a winning history.
"The schools I am considering are Duke, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State, and Washington."
These teams have different styles of play and offensive specialties. The Simeon forward believes he could fit into any of their programs.
"I think I can fit into any structured offense because of the way I play, and that I can do the intangibles out there."
While it is the "in thing" to make early college decisions, Parker and his family are taking their time with his collegiate choice. They do not want to rush anything and are in the process of gathering every possible piece of information about each of the schools Parker is considering.
Although fans and college coaches would like to know where he is going, they are going to have to wait for another two years to find out. He has an excellent reason for why he is waiting.
"I am going to wait until my senior year so my other teammates can be looked at by the colleges that I am considering."
The young Parker has a mature game on the floor, but he might even be more mature off the court. He is smart, well spoken and knows what he wants. He talked about what traits the school he chooses will contain.
"The program I can be most successful in and the program that I best get along with and have the ability grow, mature, and become better as a basketball player and person."
Simeon is in the middle of a terrific season. They ran the first three months of the season without a loss despite playing against many of the top teams from the state and even around the nation. Parker likes how his team has played throughout the season, but he knows that the big games are still ahead of them.
"It has been going good. I like the team. We have been playing as hard as we can. We just now need to go out with a bang."
They fell in their last two games of the regular season to Whitney Young and Benet Academy. Parker was phenomenal in the loss to Benet. He talked about the loss in the battle of #1 vs #2.
"Benet was the better team out there. They wanted it more and got the loose balls. We could not do a lot about some of the shots they were making. It was just unbelievable."
While Benet won the game, Parker was without a doubt the best player on the floor on the biggest stage. His perimeter shooting has continued to improve throughout his young career.
He certainly displayed that against Benet as he hit multiple jump shots including a beautiful fade away en route to 21 points. If this becomes a consistent weapon for Parker, there is not going to be any defender in the country that will be able to check him.
His ball handling skills are top notch for a 6'-7" small forward. He handles the ball like a point guard through traffic and into the lane. The star drives the ball hard to the hoop and finishes at the rim.
When the ball is in his hands, good things tend to happen. He is a playmaker in the truest sense of the word. Parker makes the right play and is a mature decision-maker at important times.
He is a major mismatch. If a player of similar height attempts to guard him, Parker will blow past him. If a guard tries to defend him, he will take them into the interior and score with power and a nice post game.
His passing ability will allow him to play a point-forward role in college should his coach choose to use him in this fashion. He sees the floor and can make quick passes before the defense can react.
Parker is a good rebounder who takes pride in contributing on the glass. On the defensive end, he has all the skills to be a great defender. His wingspan alters passes and opponent shots.
Physically, Parker is built strong and has great length. At 6'-7" and some say still growing, he could grow into a power forward with perimeter skills. Many see him as a small forward in the Paul Pierce mold.
Parker's athleticism is very good, but does not overly rely on it like many in his age group to get where he needs to be. He gets the job done with smarts, craftiness, and advanced skill set.
His skill set is one of the best at a young age ever seen in Illinois. The combination of shooting, ball-handling, and other skills is remarkable for a freshman. This combined with his intelligence and intangibles make him the most unique prospect in the state of Illinois since Derrick Rose.
There is no question Parker is an elite prospect and has a strong argument for the top spot nationally in the class of 2013. Illinois has made it known that he is the top prospect on their board and will be in it until the end, even if that decision doesn't come until his senior year. He is well worth the wait!