- Scott Powers, Reporter
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The basketball future of Chicago Simeon Career Academy forward Jabari Parker, the nation's No. 1-ranked senior, could be affected by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' recent decision to lower the age minimum for men to serve a mission, his father said Monday.
Church president Thomas S. Monson announced Saturday at the 182nd Semiannual General Conference that Mormon men who have graduated from high school may go on their two-year missions at 18 rather than the previous age of 19.
"I am not suggesting that all young men will -- or should -- serve at this earlier age," Monson said. "Rather, based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available. ... We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty -- and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable, to respond to the call to serve."
Parker, who is Mormon and will turn 18 in March, had planned on attending college for at least one year, then deciding whether to go on a mission or enter the NBA draft. Parker told Sports Illustrated he was torn between heading on a mission and his dream of playing in the NBA.
Parker cut his list of schools he was considering to five on Friday -- BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford.
"When he's 18 and if he did want to go on a mission, he can now," Parker's father, Sonny Parker, said Monday. "He has to decide whether or not (he wants to). He hasn't decided one way or another. We've talked about it.
"If he's going at 18, he would go to a mission and then possibly go to college or to the NBA. I know his situation is different than a lot of people. We'll just see."
Parker's brother, Christian Parker, served a mission from 2006 to 2008 after redshirting one season at BYU-Hawaii. Following his mission, Christian played at Southern Idaho.
"When he came from his mission, we talked a lot about it," Jabari Parker told Sports Illustrated. "I want to go (on a mission). But I have doubts. The NBA is the biggest dream of basketball players, and I'm no different."
Sonny Parker said the family also has spoken to Mormon and former NFL quarterback Steve Young and other professional athletes who opted not to go on a mission.
"We've got a lot of information on it," Sonny said. "Some people have kind of served a mission without them going on it, kind of doing the same work through the church, still making a difference."
Sonny Parker said his son has set up his official visits. He will travel to Michigan State first, then Duke, Florida, BYU and finally Stanford. Parker is expected to commit and sign during the early signing period, which is Nov. 14-21.
Parker also visited his doctor Monday and was told he had four to six weeks before the fracture in his right foot is completely healed, according to his father Parker is scheduled to begin rehab in two weeks.
As a junior, Parker was named the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, Illinois' Mr. Basketball and the national Gatorade Player of the Year. He averaged 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals a game.
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