The last time Sports Illustrated featured a high school basketball underclassman on its cover, it was a 17-year-old prodigy from Ohio named LeBron James. Now you can add Simeon (Chicago) star Jabari Parker to that exclusive club, as the junior will grace the front of SI's May 21 issue.
Parker was the Gatorade National Player of the Year this season, and he's ranked No. 1 in the class of 2013 by ESPN. Most scouts believe he's a sure thing to become an All-Star in the NBA, and SI even touts him as "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James." The smooth, 6-foot-8 forward has led Simeon to three consecutive state championships, and he's spending his summer playing with the elite Mac Irvin Fire AAU team.
This is a huge moment for Parker. Lots of players are ranked No. 1 at one point or another, but few reach a level where Sports Illustrated feels the need to put them on the cover. Parker will now have a ton of pressure placed upon him during his senior season, especially since he hasn't committed yet. His college decision is likely to become a huge national media story until he signs his letter of intent, and that kind of intense spotlight can have a negative effect on some players. After all, since LeBron in 2002, the only other high school baller on the cover of SI has been Sebastian Telfair (March 8, 2004), who never quite lived up to the hype.
But as the SI story points out, Parker is a humble, faith-driven kid who seems to have his head on straight. It's up to him whether he becomes the next Sebastian Telfair or the next LeBron James.
MCI drops post-grads
Maine Central Institute (Pittsfield, Maine) will drop its post-graduate basketball team, according to The Portland Press Herald. Last week, MCI’s Board of Trustees voted to discontinue the team beginning July 1.
Post-graduate teams traditionally exist to allow student-athletes an extra year after high school to raise their academic marks in order to meet NCAA athletic eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and to further develop their basketball skills after their regular high school eligibility has expired. The school’s post-graduate team produced more than 130 Division I players and 10 who eventually played in the NBA, but MCI Athletic Director Earl Anderson told the newspaper, “the post-graduate basketball program no longer fit into the vision for MCI’s future.”
The school opened in 1866 and the student body is made up of both boarding and local students. According to the school's website, tuition for boarding students for the 2012-13 school year is $40,850.
In year’s past, prominent MCI post-graduates -- including future NBA players Erick Barkley and Caron Butler -- came under NCAA scrutiny in regards to who paid part of their tuition.
Last season, MCI’s post-graduate team went 10-17 while competing in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference after winning the NEPSAC's Class AAA title in 2011. During a 10-year period in the 1990s under former coach Max Good, MCI went 275-30, won five NEPSAC titles and managed a 79-game winning streak. Good developed nine of MCI’s 10 NBA players including Barkley, Butler, DerMarr Johnson and Brad Miller.
It's not clear at this time if MCI will compete only as a regular high school team in the Maine Principals' Association division of interscholastic activities.
More on post-grad front
The news about MCI dropping its post-graduate team came on the heels of The Winchendon School (Winchendon, Mass.) also leaving the NEPSAC's Class AAA ranks. The Winchendon School is looking to move down to Class C.
Despite the NEPSAC’s Class AAA ranks losing two members once considered flagship programs, the news shouldn’t be considered any sign of the demise of post-graduate basketball at prep schools in New England.
The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors recently implemented new eligibility requirements that will take effect in 2016 and those requirements will be tougher than ever for freshman eligibility. That will continue to make prep schools a desirable option for student-athletes looking to improve their academic marks.
Under the new NCAA academic standards, potential scholarship players must complete their required 16 core courses before their four years of high school are complete. That is likely to lead to an increased number of student-athletes leaving to a prep school prior to the completion of their senior season of high school in order to increase their chances of qualifying under the new guidelines.
NYC AAU figure passes
Ernie Lorch, the founder of the New York Riverside Church AAU program whose legacy was tarnished amid charges of sex abuse, died on May 13, according to the New York Daily News.
Lorch, who reportedly suffered from dementia and diabetes, was 80.
Lorch, a Manhattan-based lawyer, founded the Riverside Church program in 1961 as an avenue to help underprivileged New York City kids. Erick Barkley of Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) was one of the kids he helped and the NCAA ruled Lorch paid $3,150 of Erick Barkley’s tuition at Maine Central Institute for the 1997-98 school year in violation of its rules. During the NCAA’s investigation of Barkley’s eligibility for St. John's University, Lorch admitted to financially assisting many student-athletes over the years.
During the Riverside Church’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, the flagship program won countless national tournaments and produced future NBA players such as Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, Malik Sealy, Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) and 1989 Mr. Basketball USA Kenny Anderson. The 1996 unit that included Barkley, Artest and Elton Brand, was honored in July 2007 by the Grassroots Basketball Association of America as the best Nike-sponsored AAU team ever.
Over the last decade, Lorch’s legacy as an AAU pioneer was tainted by accusations of sex abuse. Because the incident was said to have occurred in the late 1970’s, New York’s statue of limitations laws prevented him from ever being charged. Massachusetts’ statue of limitations laws are different, and Lorch was indicted in that state but never extradited to stand trial on those charges because of his dementia.
Former dropout signs with D1 school
When a 6-foot-8 junior college transfer signs with a Big Sky conference school, it usually isn’t big news. When that player was a highly-regarded prospect in high school who dropped out of school before his senior season and is a main subject of a critically acclaimed book, however, it’s noteworthy.
Aaron Moore, who was a freshman standout at Dominguez (Compton, Calif.) in 2005-06, signed with Portland State for the 2012-13 school year after a standout season at San Bernardino (Calif.) Junior College.
Moore’s youth career and turbulent high school career was chronicled in George Dohrmann’s “Play Their Hearts Out.” Dohrmann, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a writer for Sports Illustrated, followed the triumphs and tragedies of a Southern California AAU team over a period of eight years. Based on the content in the book, it looked like Moore was going to be the most tragic figure among the players on the team and now he has a new chapter.