How good is Jabari Parker?
Better than his father?
Better than Derrick Rose?
Good enough to rank among the top five players in Public League history?
Good enough to rank among the top five players in state history?
How good is Simeon's 6-foot-8 junior?
For openers, Simeon coach Robert Smith, who coached Rose and Parker, cast his vote for Parker, claiming he is a better all-around player than Rose, the best he has ever coached.
He almost certainly will be the first junior to be named Mr. Basketball in Illinois since the voting began in 1981.
Longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye, who have observed Rose and Parker and many other elite players over the last 25 years, said Parker "already has sealed his legacy as one of the all-time great players in Chicago Public League history."
"But whether or not he belongs in the top five remains to be seen," Roy Schmidt said. "That is because the final chapter is still unwritten. We need to see what he does between now and the time he is finished playing at Simeon."
At the moment, the Schmidt brothers argue that Parker isn't as good as Isiah Thomas was as a junior. "But, then again, we aren't sure anybody from Chicago since then has been better than Isiah. But that doesn't mean that Jabari isn't a great player," Harv Schmidt said.
"We would also say that as of now Jabari probably ranks just a tad behind Derrick Rose. However it is almost an unfair assessment because it is also based on what Rose has done since leaving Simeon -- at Memphis and now in the NBA."
Is Parker capable of achieving the same level of greatness as Rose and all of the others? "Absolutely. He has continued to develop and improve upon significant facets of his game each and every year. And he has a work ethic that is second to none," the Schmidts said.
"With that in mind, we will be as anxious as anybody to see how Parker progresses over the course of the next year. As long as he continues to go about things in the manner that he has, we think that when it is said and done Parker could make a very strong case for ranking among the top 5 or 10 All-Time great players in Chicago. We would not bet against him."
I have observed high school basketball in Illinois since the 1950s. As of this date, my all-time top five are Marshall's George Wilson (1960), Carver's Cazzie Russell (1962), St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas (1979), Farragut's Kevin Garnett (1995) and Simeon's Derrick Rose (2007).
In good conscience, I dropped my all-time favorite player, Thornridge's Quinn Buckner (1972), from my original list to make room for Rose.
That puts four former Public Leaguers on the all-time list. The fifth member of the all-time Public League team? My choice would be Westinghouse's Mark Aguirre (1978).
So where does Parker rank?
Old-timers might argue that he isn't as good as his father, Robert "Sonny" Parker, who starred at Farragut in the early 1970s, was a two-time All-America at Mineral Area Junior College, led Texas A&M to back-to-back Southwest Conference championships, was named to the Southwest Conference's all-decade team, was the 17th pick in the 1976 NBA draft and played for six years with the Golden State Warriors.
At the moment, it is difficult to find a spot on my all-time first five for Jabari Parker. But he still has another year to get better.
How about the second five?
It would include Aguirre, Buckner, Proviso East's Glenn "Doc" Rivers (1980), Collinsville's Tom Parker (1968) and Centralia's Bobby Joe Mason (1955).
I can hear critics from the Public League hollering: Who is Parker? Who is Mason? They rarely concede that anyone south of Altgeld Gardens or west of Austin or north or Rogers Park can play the game as well as a city kid.
After all, I still haven't mentioned other Public League icons, including Parker's Tom Hawkins and Bo Ellis, Dunbar's Bernie Mills and Ronnie Lester, Simeon's Ben Wilson, Deon Thomas and Nick Anderson, King's Marcus Liberty and Jamie Brandon, Hirsch's Rickey Green, Crane's Tim Robinson and Jerome Freeman, Westinghouse's Hersey Hawkins, Eddie Johnson and Kiwane Garris, Vocational's Juwan Howard and Carver's Tim Hardaway and Terry Cummings.
There are some people who are already touting former Chicago Perspectives star Anthony Davis, now a freshman sensation at Kentucky, for all-time status in the Public League. My argument? Did they feel the same after his senior year, putting up big numbers against woefully weak competition? If an all-timer is evaluated on his high school performance, I don't think Davis rates with Wilson, Russell, Garnett, Rose and Aguirre.
I admit a partiality toward Tom Parker, a 6-foot-6 forward whom I covered while working for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1966-68. He was the best of four All-Americans produced by legendary coach Vergil Fletcher. In his senior year, he averaged 33 points per game. Later, he starred at Kentucky and was the SEC's co-player of the year in 1972.
Mason is one of three basketball players to have his jersey retired at tradition-rich Centralia, following Lowell Spurgeon and Dike Eddleman. He was an All-Stater in 1954 and 1955, was named to Bradley's 15-member All-Century team and played for 12 years with the Harlem Globetrotters.
"He was the best player I ever saw -- until I saw Earl Monroe in the NBA," said legendary coach Duster Thomas of Pinckneyville.
So how good is Jabari Parker?
"Parker is a better high school player at the same stage of their careers," said Simeon coach Robert Smith. "Derrick didn't understand how good he was until his junior and senior years. Jabari knew it as a freshman. He can play all five positions. He is a better all-around player.
"Sure, it is a hard comparison because they play two different positions. But Jabari had a better understanding of the game at an early age, when to score, how to score. Derrick was more of a passer. He didn't become a shooter until last year (in the NBA)."
Smith pointed out that Rose wasn't a dominant scorer in high school. "But he could have been. In his junior year, we had to make a rule for him. If he didn't take at least 10 shots in a game, the other players had to run in practice. Guys on the bench counted his shots. We wanted him to be more of a scorer. They had to run twice that season," he said.