Jabari Parker open to John Groce
The father of Jabari Parker, who is the nation's top-ranked junior out of Chicago's Simeon Career Academy, said Thursday that new Illinois coach John Groce was welcome to recruit his son, but time was running out.
Parker, a 6-foot-8 forward, had a relationship with former Illinois coach Bruce Weber dating to when Parker attended Illinois' basketball camps in grade school, and the Illini were involved in Parker's recruitment. Parker's father, Sonny, said he didn't know Groce and had yet to speak with him.
"We've been pretty consistent in taking everyone's phone calls," Sonny Parker said. "In terms of recruitment, we're open, but it's getting late in the game. My son has to have a relationship with the coach. It's not something that happens overnight. It's like getting married. You don't say, 'Let's get married next week.'
"I know Jabari knows the school, knows the program, has known Coach Weber since fifth grade and known Coach Jerrance (Howard) and Coach (Wayne) McClain. But we don't know where and what direction the program is going."
Sonny Parker said he and his wife likely will sit down and discuss recruiting with Jabari next week, after he returns from a spring break trip. They have criteria they're examining with every program.
Sonny Parker said his son would like to commit to a school in the fall.
"Whatever school he wants to go to, he wants to make sure he fits in whatever system they run," Sonny Parker said. "Then, it's also he wants to know the type of team, type of players he's going to play with. The other part is development. The last part is he want to have an opportunity to win a national championship. Those are the things he wants to evaluate when making those types of decisions."
Sonny said he wasn't too familiar with Groce or his style of play. He said he did know Ohio junior point guard D.J. Cooper, whom Groce recruited from Chicago, and his family well, and might reach out to them for information.
"You have to do your background check, research and check it," Sonny Parker said. "Not only are they recruiting my son, we're recruiting him, too."
Sonny Parker also said if Simeon coach Robert Smith joined Illinois' staff as an assistant, it would help the Illini with their relationship with Jabari, but it wouldn't guarantee anything. Smith has said he would listen to Groce if he were approached about a position.
"(It would help) to certain a degree," Sonny Parker said. "We've known Coach Rob for a while. It has some advantages, but that won't be the determining factor. Everyone thinks it will, but it's more than that. It's more complicated than what it is.
"It's a due process. It's going to take some time, and we don't have that much time."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.