Friday, December 21st, 2012 at 11:00 am  |  13 responses

Jabari Parker’s Duke Decision

The Simeon senior had some interesting moments at his announcement on Thursday.

by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

Jabari Parker chose Duke, but that’s not the story

The story is how he did it, and why that makes him one of the most interesting players to come out of high school in a long time.

First and foremost, let it be known that Parker had his heart set on Michigan State, not Duke, for a very long time.

“I wanted to go there since my sophomore year,” he said.

Now consider that while he praised Duke for its education and history of success, he also indirectly and directly threw some jabs in its direction.

Parker singled out Florida’s Billy Donovan and Rashon Burno as his two favorite coaches during recruiting.

And his least favorite recruiting visit? That was his trip to Duke.

“To tell you the truth, that was probably the worst on-campus visit I had because I didn’t do what I wanted to do, and that’s being a kid,” Parker said. “I know being in college is all business, and that’s what they wanted to show me.”

The reason that Parker did choose Duke seemed to have less than to do with anything the Blue Devils did and more with Branden Dawson being on Michigan State’s roster.

“It was the main reason why I didn’t pick them today,” Parker said. “I didn’t want to mess up his thing. He’s been there two years, so me coming in there would be disrespectful to him and the program. I just want him to do well. He’s a local kid from Gary, Ind.”

While those statements appear as selfless as an athlete can get and an oddity in this era, it also places a huge target on Dawson’s back from Spartans fans, as he has been singled out as the reason why Michigan State did not land the elite prospect.

That’s a lot of pressure for a sophomore averaging 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game after suffering a torn ACL last season.

The entire setting of the announcement was a tad different too. The normal elements were there, as it featured a packed gym, ESPNU and five hats of schools he was considering.

But let’s stick with those hats for a second because one was missing. There was Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Stanford and BYU. But a top-five player without a Kentucky hat sitting at the table? That’s blasphemy in this era.

When asked why Kentucky wasn’t in the mix, his father, Sonny, stressed comfort.

“He has to feel comfortable with the type of program and school overall,” he said.

At about 3:15 p.m. local time, the gym at Simeon hushed and Parker emerged. Dressed sharply, he had on a blue and white striped shirt and skinny maroon tie.

He got through the ESPNU interview as comfortably as a high school kid could. He had to be instructed where to look and tried to think quickly on his feet for each question. He announced it was Duke by taking a Blue Devils shirt out of a backpack and showing it to the camera.

But when the formal portion was over, Parker loosened up and said whatever was on his mind. It was a quality he doesn’t seem to be losing anytime soon.

One of the first things he mentioned was his distaste for press conferences like these.

“Everybody knows I hate this,” Parker said. “It wasn’t a choice for me. A lot of people wanted to know, and it would be selfish for me not to.”

He said he chose Duke over Michigan State and Florida about two hours before the press conference and told his godfather, who lives in California. His parents didn’t even know until he said it in the gym.

At least that’s what he told the gym, considering there was a “behind the scenes look” at why he chose Duke on Sports Illustrated’s website just minutes after the announcement.

Also unclear is how long he will be at Duke. The Chicago product and his father said he would get a degree and could possibly be more than a one-and-done.

“I may play in college for two or three years,” Parker said. “I want the college experience.

Parker, a Mormon, also said he had not decided yet if he would at some point take a year off for his mission.

So to recap, today or maybe not today Parker chose the school he took his worst visit to because it didn’t have Dawson and announced it a press conference he didn’t want to have. And in two years, he might be at Duke, the NBA or on a Mormon mission.

Ladies and gentleman, Jabari Parker.

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  • abc

    Guy just seemed like he liked Duke to me…

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Regardless of how it went down, I think he’ll do great at Duke.

  • ChosenOne

    He will also have the best coach in the NCAA to develop his game in Mike Krzyzewski, so yeah it was a smart move by him.

  • Brandon

    As a Michigan State alum, you really can’t argue against choosing Duke. Their coach and their program are everything a kid can ask for. I really wanted him to come to East Lansing, but I wish him the best in Durham.

    I don’t think the fans will resent Dawson, at least I won’t.

  • K Kutter

    Right, I think the author is reading a bit too far into his statements. Clearly he picked Duke because he liked Coach K, wants the Duke degree, which is a big deal for those that are serious about academics, and because Duke is a winning program. To dissect every single thing he says is a bit too much. As the author noted, in the behind the scenes article, it indicated that he told his brother and parents a day or so BEFORE the gym announcement. So that his parents didn’t know until he said so in the gym, simply is not true. Anybody that attributes Michigan State’s miss to Dawson is woefully misguided. This was a can’t miss decision for Jabari with a perfect match in Duke. Finally, and this should be made clear, Duke is a TON of fun for all students, including athletes. I’m a Duke grad and used to have friends come down from all over. Everyone remarked at how great the social scene was in the Triangle (which includes, Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh) in general and on Duke’s campus specifically. In the behind the scenes, Jabari also said that he ranked Duke’s campus life No. 1 of all his schools. So there was no jab at Duke. He was just commenting on the purpose of THAT particular trip. All in all, Duke fans are happy to have Jabari. Hopefully we will cut down the nets either this year, next or in both, though I must admit, Kentucky will have plenty to say about that. Go Jabari. Go Duke.

  • Asad Khan

    Guy just tried to be as nice as possible to the programs that lost out on them. He had to make up excuses to make them feel better.

    Kid is a class act. You can tell by his smile that he wanted to go to Duke all along.

  • Floridaguy12

    This is thee worst, misleading article I have ever read. Terrible journalism

  • David Cassilo

    I wrote the article, so I’d just like to address some of the concerns in the comments.

    All the reporters left Simeon discussing one thing: that was a little weird.

    While he did list the obvious reasons as to why Duke was his choice (education, Coach K and history of success), he stressed multiple times that the primary reason why he went with Duke over Michigan State was that Branden Dawson played his position at MSU.

    Agree with the comments that he is nothing but a class act, and that is probably why the reasoning sounded so strange. Can you think of any other player that would turn down a school because he didn’t want to take a guy’s minutes? It’s a breath of fresh air.

    And as far his parents knowing before the announcement. Sonny Parker told reporters yesterday that he didn’t know until he said it on ESPNU. Then the SI article comes out that refutes that.

  • DarthChewie

    This article is blatantly misrepresenting Parker’s comments about the Duke visit being the “worst.”

    Parker DIRECTLY said that it was the worst because he just wanted to have fun and be like a kid but the Duke staff forced him to be all business that weekend.

    It’s kind of like when people say they had a really tough professor but it ended up being the best for them because they learned the most. Parker’s comments were CLEARLY intended in that spirit.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Thank you for your answers, David. I hope people read your reply. This is not a “bashing,” just a reporting of what transpired yesterday.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Mr.Phortunate Philip Craig Aldrich

    lol Couldn’t have stretched Jabari’s words and intentions any more than this.

  • Josh

    lol at the Dawson thing. Duke is loaded with wings, yet he still signed up. Murphy, Semi, Jefferson, not to mention Rodney Hood who is a projected lottery pick next year all on the team he just committed to. And we’re talking about Dawson? Dawson? LOL.

  • theozisback

    Exactly. His game is much more similar to Murphy’s and Jefferson’s. Dawson is a freak athlete who has to polish his skill set further. They wouldn’t really compete for minutes.