How serious is Jabari Parker's foot injury?

How serious is Jabari Parker's foot injury?
December 20, 2012, 10:05 pm
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Simeon basketball star Jabari Parker answered the question about his long-term future on Thursday by announcing that he will spend his freshman year in college at Duke.

And probably his only year in college. He wants to win an NCAA championship, then declare for the NBA, then embark on a Mormon mission.

Duke makes sense. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has an impeccable record and a reputation for preparing his players for the next level. Michigan State and Florida were sensible options, too.

Adding Parker to a recruiting class that already includes two other top 35 players, guard Matt Jones of De Soto, Texas, and 6-foot-6 forward Semi Ojeleye of Ottawa, Kansas, gives Duke the No. 4 class in the nation and a solid foundation for a run at the NCAA title in 2014.

In fact, one analyst described Parker as "the missing piece to get Duke to the national championship in 2014."

But what about Parker's short-term situation?

His foot.

How serious is the injury that has disabled the 6-foot-8 senior since last summer? If you saw him play in Simeon's last two games, you wonder if he is the same kid who was ranked No. 1 in the country after his junior year. Now he isn't playing at all.

All of this will become moot if he shows up at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27 and performs with all the gusto and bravado and skill of a player who is supposed to be ranked with Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett, Cazzie Russell, George Wilson and Isiah Thomas among the best high school players ever produced in Illinois.

That clearly wasn't the woefully out-of-shape player that a national television audience observed on ESPN last week.

That noise you heard was Morgan Wootten, Bob Gibbons, Dave Telep and other members of the selection committee for the McDonald's All-America team slapping their hands to their foreheads and asking themselves:

"What are the people in Chicago going to say if we don't pick Jabari on the 24-man team that plays in McDonald's All-America game in the United Center next April?"

Imagine if two of the top three players in the senior class don't participate in the 2013 McDonald's game. Julius Randle, a 6-foot-9 forward from Plano, Texas, already is a scratch. He fractured a foot in a Thanksgiving tournament and probably will miss the rest of the season.

What about Parker? If he is forced to sit out much of the season or only is able to play at the level he has demonstrated to date, will McDonald's pick him? Not likely, according to one member of the selection committee, even if the game is in Chicago.

It has to do with integrity, not politics.

Wootten, the legendary and retired coach at DeMatha in Hyattsville, Maryland, is the longtime chairman of the McDonald's selection committee.

A few years ago, he submitted his resignation because he felt politics were becoming too influential in the selection process. Apparently some well-heeled college coaches were trying to go over Wootten's head to persuade McDonald's officials to add their recruits to the 24-man roster.

Wootten wouldn't have anything to do with it. Cooler heads prevailed, however. McDonald's officials realized that the integrity of the game was at stake. Losing Wootten and some other members of the selection committee who agreed with Wootten's position was something that McDonald's couldn't accept. They persuaded Wootten to stay and assured him that they wouldn't permit his selection committee to be pressured by any outsiders.

Clearly, McDonald's made an unprecedented decision to conduct its annual All-America Game at the same site, United Center, for the first time in the history of the event for two obvious reasons.

Because of the anticipated local appeal in a major media market offered by the presence of Parker in 2013 and Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor in 2014. Okafor is ranked as the No. 1 player in his class. And, of course, Chicago is McDonald's home base.

Without Parker as a showpiece for 2013, what will McDonald's do? The senior class is headed by 6-foot-7 Andrew Wiggins, a Canadian who is playing at a prep school in Huntington, West Virginia.

Interestingly, Wiggins and Okafor are competing in the City of Palms tournament in Fort Myers, Florida, this week. Wiggins is uncommitted but it appears likely that he will be the next blue chipper to play for John Calipari at Kentucky.

McDonald's would have to break rank to add other local appeal to its
2013 game. Notre Dame-bound guard Demetrius Jackson of Mishawaka, Indiana, is rated as the No. 30 player in the nation.

Two Illinois recruits, guards Kendrick Nunn of Simeon and Malcolm Hill of Belleville East, rank Nos. 45 and 67 respectively. Purdue-bound guard Kendall Stephens of St. Charles East ranks No. 59.

"All things considered, we can certainly see why he picked Duke," said recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Bulls-Eye. "It was the choice that both he and his parents felt most comfortable with. You can't argue with Coach K's track record. And he can also point to the success that another Chicago area one-and-done player had for the Blue Devils--Corey Maggette."

But the Schmidt brothers argue that Michigan State would have been a better choice--if you consider that Parker's most important criteria is to win an NCAA title.

"That is where we think he would have had the best opportunity to win a national championship in only one season of college basketball," Roy Schmidt said. "Why? Because in all likelihood all of the key players will be returning next season...Keith Appling, Adresin Payne, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson.

"At Duke, there is less certainty as to who will be there next season.
However, if everybody stays there is certainly an outstanding core of young talent with Amil Jefferson, Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood.
Jabari also is virtually assured of immediately moving to the small forward position, which may have been the icing on the cake in his decision process."

As for Thursday's live telecast of the Parker press conference, between self-indulging promotions for a Sam Bowie documentary to be aired later in the day, ESPNU did a commendable job of handling the hoopla...an interview with Sonny and Lola Parker, Jabari's parents, and Simeon coach Robert Smith, and a feature on the youngster's adventures in the classroom.

Dressed in white shirt and tie, poised and articulate while thanking one and all, Parker couldn't avoid one bit of theatrics. Instead of playing the tiresome hat game, with the assistance of his coach, he pulled a blue Duke shirt out of a bag while making his long-awaited announcement.

Next stop: Pontiac. Duke and the NBA will have to wait their turn.