Jabari Parker, the Class of 2013 high school basketball star whom Sports Illustrated recently labled the top prep talent since LeBron James, released a list of 10 colleges he is considering via Twitter on Wednesday night, and somewhat surprisingly the list did not include his home-state Illinois Fighting Illini.
Parker's father, Sonny Parker, said Illinois' coaching change after last season, when Bruce Weber was fired and replaced by John Groce, played a role in the Illini being excluded from the list.
"It's the timing," Sonny said Thursday. "He's been to Illinois since fifth, sixth grade, going down to the camps. He had relationships with Weber and (former assistant) Jerrance (Howard). He went down to Midnight Madness. He had a really good experience with the coaching staff there. He liked the school. He really liked the school.
"I guess at this stage it's the relationship part. Coach Groce, I've been talking to him, my wife has been talking to coach Groce. He seemed nice. (Jabari) had to have a relationship with him, too. It had nothing to do with the school per se. He has to feel comfortable with who's there and who's going to be the coach. I don't think he had a chance to (know Groce) because of scheduling and timing. It's hard for coaches to call Jabari because we don't allow coaches to call or text him.
It was nothing personal (with Groce.) He likes the school. His dream is to play for his state school and win a national championship like all kids, but I think the timing, where they were and where we're at."
Jabari's familiarity with DePaul assistant coach Billy Garrett played a role in the Blue Demons being included on the list.
"He's been up there several times," Sonny said. "Coach Billy is close to Jabari. His son Billy Garrett Jr. is a close friend. It's right here in the city. It's accessible to go and visit there. (DePaul's staff) has been there two years now. It's the timing. It's the relationships they've built."
Sonny said Jabari will eventually cut his list to five schools and will begin making official visits
"I want to make my decision in November if that's possible," the forward, ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 100, told The Associated Press on Tuesday at the Gatorade national prep athletes of the year dinner. "I just need to cut it down so I'll be able to go on visits and make my decision from there."
Parker said he hopes to reduce his list to five by this fall, when he will start his senior year at Chicago's Simeon Career Academy, where he is an A student. He said geography would play a role in his eventual choice.
"I don't want my family waking up at 12 o'clock in the morning just to watch my games," he said, "but then again I have to do what's best for me. I have to go with which program fits me the best and what system and style of play is going to allow me to expand my game out in the pros."
Parker declined to talk to the AP about a major religious decision that awaits him when he turns 19 at the end of his freshman year in college. That's the age when Mormon men decide whether to go on a two-year mission to spread the church's faith in the U.S. or overseas. Parker is part of a small segment of the U.S. population that is Mormon, and rarer still are the number of blacks like Parker who are Mormon.
According to Sports Illustrated, out of the 6.2 million in the United States who are Mormons, only about 186,000 (3 percent) are black. Sports Illustrated also reported that out of the 1,588 students at Simeon, Parker is one of only two Mormons.
Parker's inclusion of BYU among his college choices is clearly a nod to his faith.
As a junior, Parker was named the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, Illinois' Mr. Basketball and the national Gatorade Player of the Year. As a junior, Parker averaged 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per a contest in leading Simeon to its third consecutive state title.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.