Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - While all of the hype surrounding the
Kansas-bound Andrew Wiggins is understandable, it will not take Duke's Jabari
Parker very long to claim some of the spotlight.
Wiggins is already expected to be the No. 1 selection in the next NBA Draft
thanks to his stellar senior season at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. The
6-foot-8 Canadian phenom has incredible athleticism, pro-level ball-handling
skills and a jumper accurate enough to keep defenders honest. The Jayhawk fans
that pour into Allen Fieldhouse will be even more excited than they were last
season when the team returned three starters from the 2011-12 squad that lost
in the NCAA Championship game and Wiggins is the reason why.
There is no doubt that coach Bill Self has an unbelievably talented freshman
to lead his team on the court this season, but it might be too early to deem
Wiggins the best of his class.
Wiggins is considered the best prospect since LeBron James. But what does that
make the 6-8, 235-pound Jabari Parker? Mike Krzyzewski went back to his
hometown of Chicago to recruit the latest elite talent out of Simeon Career
Academy to the dismay of the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Parker was the first freshman to start on the varsity team at the same school
attended by stars such as Derrick Rose, Nick Anderson, Bobby Simmons and the
late Ben Wilson. His vertical leaping ability may not measure up to that of
Wiggins, but his jump shot is more reliable and he still has no problem
finishing at the rim. Parker led Simeon to the Illinois Class 4A Championship
in every season of his high school career, which tied the record for the
longest championship run in the state's history.
By the end of his freshman season, Parker had already received scholarship
offers from a handful of elite programs, including Illinois, Kansas,
Pittsburgh, Florida and Washington. Nike made sure to renew its contract with
Simeon after the campaign to insure Parker would be sporting their brand for
the remainder of his high school career. At the end of his sophomore campaign
he was the youngest player named to the All-Public League team which included
former Kentucky star Anthony Davis and Kansas' Wayne Blackshear.
Before the start of his junior year, he was considered the best high school
player in the country regardless of class. Over 40 different Division I
schools sent scouts and coaches to his individual workout prior to the season,
including Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Roy Williams, Self and Coach K. Parker did not
disappoint once the season began and broke the Simeon single-game scoring
record in just 21 minutes with 40 points to go along with 16 rebounds and six
blocks. The team finished with a 33-1 overall record and added another title
to the display case. He became the fourth junior in history to win the
national boy's basketball Gatorade Player of the Year Award, joining LeBron
James, Greg Oden and Brandon Knight.
Parker became the No. 2 prospect in his class when Wiggins reclassified in the
summer of 2012. He was never quite 100 percent during his senior season due to
a foot injury, but that did not stop him from leading Simeon to a 30-3 record
to arrive at a 118-15 prep career finish. He became just the second player in
Illinois High School Association to start in four state title games.
There was speculation that Parker, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, would undertake a mission before or instead of an NCAA
Durham was thrilled when Parker verbally committed to Duke. Since Jay Williams
had his No. 22 retired in 2003, Parker will be the second player ever to wear
No. 1 in school history. The first player to do so was Kyrie Irving, the first
overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Duke's top three scorers -- Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry -- were
all seniors last season. Still, the Blue Devils are ranked in the top 10 on
every current preseason rankings list in existence thanks to Parker. In
addition to receiving arguably the best coaching in the nation, Parker will
have plenty of help around him with Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon manning
the backcourt and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood becoming eligible
after sitting out last year and helping in the frontcourt.
Parker comes from an excellent pedigree as his father Sonny Parker played for
Texas A&M before being selected 17th overall in the 1976 NBA Draft. He was
often trained and mentored by his older brothers, one of which started for the
Oregon Ducks 1995 NCAA Tournament team.
If Wiggins is the next LeBron, Parker could be considered the next Carmelo
Anthony, who proved he was a winner by leading Syracuse to a national title in
his only season of NCAA play. Wiggins is also frequently compared to his local
hero Vince Carter, who played the prime of his career for the Toronto Raptors.
That would make Parker the Paul Pierce of his class, comparing him to a player
that found a way to win an NBA title.
Coach K has done an impressive job with elite small forwards in the past.
Grant Hill may have been the best small forward in basketball history had his
career not been hindered by injuries. Luol Deng, who was ranked No. 2 in his
high school class behind James, posted 15 points per game en route to the 2004
Final Four before going on to the professional ranks where he has been
selected to the NBA All-Star Team twice.
The fact of the matter is both players have a very high ceiling, although
stardom is not guaranteed for either. Plenty of great high school players have
fallen by the wayside. Although neither has officially come out and declared
their intent to make the jump to the NBA after this season, Wiggins and Parker
are expected to be the first two names called in the next draft.
College basketball fans will not have to wait very long before Wiggins and
Parker collide as Kansas and Duke are set to square off on Nov. 12 at the
United Center in the Windy City. That may be the first of many future head-to-
head matchups and could be the inaugural bout of a long rivalry. If Parker's
dominance in his hometown continues, the question of "Which team will win the
Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes?" will transform into a "Wiggins or Parker?" themed
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