Jabari On Jerrance Howard: : "That's My Guy!"

College basketball coaches are recruiting younger players all the time. Freshmen in high school are committing to colleges, and coaches sometimes admit watching middle school athletes just to make sure they don't get behind in the recruiting wars. But some of these kids are precocious and deserve watching, like Chicago Simeon freshman Jabari Parker.

The son of former NBA star Sonny Parker, Jabari Parker is mature beyond his years. Still just 14 years old, he played considerable minutes for his Chicago Simeon high school team at two recent Illinois team camps. Simeon coach Robert Smith has no qualms about playing the talented youngster.

"Robert Smith feels comfortable that I can play in pressure situations," Parker explains. "So I'm used to it. It was a real good feeling for me."

The 6'-5" future star has already become accustomed to the limelight through his play in previous years. He was the subject of a recruiting battle won by Simeon. Despite his youth, his previous experiences allow him a comfort level with the media.

"I've had some experience with the media. There were reporters at the NBA camp. There wasn't a lot of peer pressure because I think I'm used to it now."

Due in part to his natural gifts and partly due to the uncertainties of the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team makeup game by game, Parker was asked to suit up for their 17U team at the recent Chicago Hoops Classic. He played infrequently, but he feels the experience was beneficial.

"It was good. It gave me a good opportunity to get some exposure and get to know how it feels to play 17U one day."

Normally, Parker would play on a 15U team or even 14U. However, in some ways it is harder for him to play with his age group than with the upperclassmen. At the younger levels, he must be a star all the time.

"It's kind of difficult because, playing against younger people, I've got to play above the competition level. So it's really hard.

"When I play up, it's good because it will get me to work hard. I know I need to do that. Working with the other guys gets me better. When I play varsity, I get to know how it is playing high school basketball."

When asked his best attributes as a player, Parker answered from the perspective of a young player with a much older team.

"My game is to really do the things nobody else does, that gets my teammates involved and makes the team better so against really good teams my team will be ready."

That was the politically correct thing to say, but it implies his own game must take a back seat for a year or two. Right now, he may not see the ball often.

"Yeah. If I feed them the ball, maybe they'll give it back to me."

The intelligent, articulate young man realizes there are aspects of his game he must improve.

"I can always work on my defense. I need a lot of work learning how to defend a guy. And probably my jumpshot because it ain't the best."

As mature as Parker appears to be, he showed his youthful enthusiasm at one point during the Chicago Hoops Classic. There were a large number of college coaches in the crowd. They can watch but not speak to the players. When Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard walked past him, Parker broke into a big smile.

"That's my guy. I've been knowing him since 6th grade. He's been coming to high school games, so I've gotten to meet him."

Parker has a connection to Illinois through Howard, and a number of other Simeon players have gravitated to the state school. But Parker will be a national recruit, and his recruitment may continue for several years.

In the meantime, it will be fun to watch his progress. The sky is the limit.

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