Thursday, April 4, 2013
Jabari Parker ends prep career to big cheers
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Jabari Parker threw down a baseline dunk. He dished out a few assists. He grabbed a few rebounds. He made a few steals and blocked a few shots.
On the court Wednesday, Parker was being Parker as he displayed his all-around game and showed why he’s been considered one of the premier high school players in the country for much of his career.
But when Parker and most people think back of his McDonald’s All American Game experience, what they’ll remember isn’t Parker’s West team winning 110-99 or anything he did during the actual game. It’ll be the memory of his introduction before the game at the United Center.
Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Game at the United Center was a homecoming of sorts for Chicago's Jabari Parker, who said he wanted to "represent the city of Chicago on the way."
With the lights out and the spotlight on and after every other player already on the floor, Parker was announced as being from Simeon Career Academy and Chicago. The welcoming decibels were well beyond those of anyone before him.
It was the perfect reception for the hometown Duke commit Parker, a four-time state champion and two-time Mr. Basketball who is No. 2 in the ESPN 100 ranking index.
“It was like homecoming,” Parker explained after the game. “It’s just a homecoming day for me, see everybody out there. You know we can celebrate. I know I represent all the high school players, so that’s all I wanted to do. Be there and represent the city of Chicago on the way.”
Whitney Young High School junior center and fellow Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s No. 1 junior, was just as moved by the fans’ love for Parker.
“Seeing the crowd embrace him as they did, he deserves it more than anybody,” Okafor said. “Seeing everybody cheer that loud, I was really happy and just put like chills down my body. It’s something I can work hard for and maybe I can experience that next year.”
It was nearly the same feeling for Ronnie Fields, a former McDonald’s All American from Chicago, who was attending his first McDonald’s game in nearly 20 years.
“I was so happy,” said Fields, who was a McDonald’s All American in 1996. “I was waiting for him to come out.”
“To see the city continue to breed these guys out, it just made me proud,” he said. “You go down the list. We got Jabari. We got Derrick Rose. We got Okafor coming. That goes back to Isiah Thomas. The list goes on and on.”
Parker was thought to be playing his final game in Chicago for the foreseeable future, but he hinted at another game, possibly meaning a Duke game in Chicago next season. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski did bring Jon Scheyer back to play before his hometown Chicago crowd, and that also could be the case for Parker, who is expected to spend just one season in college before bolting for the NBA.
Whether or not Parker will be back in Chicago next year, he left a bit of everything on the floor Wednesday. He had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks; didn’t allow anything easy to No. 1-ranked Andrew Wiggins (uncommitted; from Canada by way Huntington Prep in West Virginia); and came out on the victorious side, just as he did throughout his career.
All in all, Parker realized his hometown experience was unique at this game.
“I know I’ve been spoiled a little bit more being in Chicago and playing at the United Center,” Parker said. “This was a great experience.”