2012 was an interesting year for Jabari Parker. The Simeon senior began the year as the No. 1 player in the country, regardless of class. But by the end of the summer, Parker found himself dealing with an injury to his foot and a drop to the No. 2 spot nationally. Huntington Prep's Andrew Wiggins emerged as the No. 1-ranked preps player from the class of 2013.
Through it all, Parker has maintained an air of positivity about him, choosing not to play into any perceived rivalry between himself and Wiggins. Instead, he decided to keep himself focused on his rehab, his Wolverines team, and where he would go to college. On Dec. 20, Parker announced he'd be attending Duke.
As an elite athlete from a high school with a powerful basketball tradition, Parker's received access to hoops sources and sage advice that the majority of young athletes can't get.
For Parker, the advice and words of wisdom came from Bulls superstar and Simeon alum Derrick Rose and current Los Angeles Clipper and Duke University great, Grant Hill. Both players, at different times, helped Parker through their own individual experience and the young superstar took the information he received from the two basketball greats to heart.
I talked to Derrick during his recruiting process when he was trying to go to Memphis, recalls Parker who is acquainted with Rose because hes been around the Simeon program since he was in the 7th grade. He said that it was good for him because he was going to play right away at the guard position. He also said that it was good to have a good relationship with the coach and whos going to push you and not tell you everything that you want to hear.
Hanging on the words of one of the best players Chicago has ever seen, Parker made a decision to play for a coach in Mike Krzyzewski who will indeed push him and help move him even closer to reaching his potential as a basketball player.
And now that hes officially a part of the Duke family, Parker revealed that when he was hurt, he was in communication with Hill, who happens to know a thing or two about injuries. The 17-year NBA veteran was able to counsel Parker on how to manage his own.
I talked to Grant and he just told me not to rush the process with my injury, said Parker. He had the same problems with his feet so he knows what thats like.
Parker returned to the court on Dec. 1 for the first time since July. He struggled through Simeons games early in the season, but after aggressively attacking his rehab, the All-American has slowly shown improvement in terms of the health of his foot, his conditioning and his on-court play. He finally appeared to have broken out during the Wolverines' march to a championship at the 2012 Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Parker was given the tournaments A.C. Williams Award after averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds, becoming the first player to win the award three times.
But despite the individual success he achieves for what he does on the court and the attention he receives, Parker is still focused on getting better as a player and seeing his Simeon Wolverines continue to get better as a group.
All we want right now is a healthy team in February. Weve had to play with different groups of guys along the line and thats going to help us become more versatile as a team, said Parker before joking that the teams cohesiveness and flexibility will help him the most as the elder statesman and veteran of the group.
I dont have the young legs anymore, quipped Parker. Im old. Im a vet right now.