- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Simeon junior forward Jabari Parker, ESPN’s No. 1 ranked Class of 2013 player, is featured on Sports Illustrated’s most recent cover and is deemed “the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.”
Parker joins James and Sebastian Telfair as the lone high school basketball players to be featured on Sports Illustrated’s cover in the past decade. Kevin Garnett also made the cover when he was a senior at Farragut High School in Chicago in 1996.
In Sports Illustrated’s article, Parker talks about his Mormon faith and being torn on whether to go on a mission when he turns 19.
As a junior, Parker was named the ESPNChicago.com Player of Year, Illinois’ Mr. Basketball and the national Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year. He is being recruited by nearly every top college program.
Simeon coach Robert Smith, who was quoted in the article, was overwhelmed when he was sent a copy of the Sports Illustrated cover on Tuesday.
“I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” Smith said. “For him to be able to represent Chicago like the way he did, that’s bigger than Jabari himself. It’s not just about Simeon, Jabari and me, it’s about Illinois and the great basketball we have in Illinois.”
Smith passed on the cover image to Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who also played at Simeon.
“He said, ‘Wow,’” Smith said.
As for Parker being labeled the best high school player since James, Smith believes Sports Illustrated is entitled to its opinion.
“They’ve been around long,” Smith said. “They know what they’re talking about. We talked a couple years ago when you see the overall picture, he could be the next LeBron with his work ethic and him getting bigger and stronger.”
While Parker’s potential may still be unknown, Smith is confident none of the publicity will change Parker as a person.
“Jabari, he doesn’t even want to do any of this,” Smith said. “We just had a conversation because he had to go to New York to be on ‘Good Morning America.’ He didn’t want to go. He doesn’t want to deal with recruiting. He doesn’t want to deal with media stuff. He just wants to go to school and be a 17-year-old.”