He’d love to kick back and relax behind a college team’s bench and hear thousands of passionate fans chant his name while clapping in unison.
He’d love to watch the players compete in dunk contests, perform wacky dances and go head-to-head in an intra-squad scrimmage to usher in the start of the college basketball season at a Midnight Madness event.
He’d love to, but he can’t.
Jabari Parker is skipping out on Midnight Madness to practice with Team USA.
“I love competing for my country even more,” said Parker, a junior swingman at Simeon (Chicago).
Parker, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 60, and 26 other high school players from 17 states will meet up at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to participate in a mini-camp for the USA Basketball Developmental National Team from Oct. 14-16.
In June, Parker was named MVP after Team USA cruised to the gold medal in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship. He averaged 15.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and two steals in five tournament games.
“It’s basically a practice, but I’m excited about getting back over there to play,” Parker said. “It’s similar to what the professional team did. It should be fun. I’d rather be there working.”
Parker opting to hop a flight to work hard instead of being the object of an entire college campus’ affection for a weekend doesn’t surprise Simeon coach Robert Smith at all.
“Jabari is just a different kid,” Smith said. “He’s not normal, but in a great way. Here’s a kid who won MVP at an event this summer and was seriously wanting to give it to another kid because he thought the guy deserved it more. When his teammates don’t make their sprint times, he’ll run the do-overs. So him skipping Midnight Madness to go play for Team USA, that’s just Jabari. It's a testament to the type of player he is.”