It has been a long journey for Jabari Parker, but the dream is about to become reality. Ever since we first saw Jabari as a chubby, do-it-all forward in the eighth grade, there was talk about him being that next dude from The Chi. Four state titles, countless individual accolades and a McDonald’s All-American selection later, he took his talents to Durham for what would be his lone year of college basketball. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, and an end to the season that I’m sure Jabari was not happy with.
A natural small forward, Parker spent much of this past year at Duke playing the post. At times, he was noticeably uncomfortable with his new role on the hardwood and like most freshmen, there was a transitional period to find his role on the squad. Still, the 19-year-old flourished. He was more vocal than he was at the high school level, showed off improved athleticism, and accepted his new position by adding a new facet to his ever expanding game.
“Coach K is doing a great job putting me everywhere on the floor,” Jabari told SLAM after a game in November. “I don’t have a structured position. I get to go inside-out, and that’s what I’m comfortable with.”
The development of Parker’s inside game only enhanced his value as a Draft prospect. He finished the season with averages of 19 points and 9 boards while shooting 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. In the process, he supplanted himself right in the mix for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. After deeply considering returning to the Blue Devils for one more year, he decided that the best move was to take his talents to the League.
We caught up with Jabari in LA during Wasserman Media Group’s pro day last week and saw a new player. He had the same smile that he’s always had, but a slimmer body to go along with it. Both in his upper and lower extremities, it was as if you were looking at a different player than you had seen during the college season. He was significantly more explosive, going through the drills with a pop in his step and soaring above the rim for dunks that we’ve never seen out of him before. The focus of Jabari’s pre-draft training had certainly paid off.
“Jabari is incredible with his skill level. The thing is to push him,” his pre-draft trainer Fred Cofield said. “He has to explore different levels of being in shape. We’re going to push him to continue to get his body in shape and to do what he’s doing.”
Working out alongside Kyle Anderson, Roy Devyn Marble, and Jerami Grant, Parked showed off the full package of skills that you look for out of a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. His handle was tight and crisp, working throughout the tight spaces that the workout simulated. He shot the ball well from the NBA three-point line and from mid-range off of the dribble. His step-back jumper was simply a thing of beauty. While Joel Embiid shocked the group of NBA executives with his athleticism, it was Jabari who astonished them with his skill and improved conditioning.
With the Draft just under a month away, Parker is right there in the mix with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid for the top pick in the Draft. While the others are better athletes, he is the most ready to come in and do work. It’s completely realistic to expect Jabari to not only start, but contribute significantly from the second he steps foot on an NBA court. It’s that type of readiness and confidence that has his camp confident that he’ll have a smooth transition to the League.
“He’s got such great skill sets that you really don’t see at the college level,” Cofield said. “He scores off the dribble, he can shoot it from the perimeter, he can post you, and he’s intelligent about it. You saw his pro day and the intensity and focus that he brings. He locks in to the game, and he is ready to play. Everyone that we talk to feels that you can plug him right in to an NBA team.”