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Jabari Parker is headed to the NBA

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MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

Jabari Parker announced his intentions to head to the NBA on Thursday afternoon, releasing a statement through Sports Illustrated.

Parker was a first-team All-American in his one season at Duke and is expected to be a top three pick in the NBA Draft. He averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 boards this season despite going through a slump during the middle of the season. Parker’s as versatile of a scorer as you’ll find at this level — he overpowers smaller defenders in the paint, he beats bigger defenders off the dribble, he’s got three-point range and he can dunk in traffic over shotblockers — but the question mark with him is on the defensive end of the floor. He’s got a ways to go before he can be considered above-average defensively.

Believe it or not, there was actually some doubt as to whether or not Parker would actually turn pro. He’s a different dude, and I mean that as a compliment. He’s quite religious, he’s an excellent student and he’s the kind of curious mind that values his education and experience at Duke as much as he would value the chance to make millions at the NBA level. It’s clear in the lengthy statement that he released on Thursday, in which he discusses his intentions to return to school and earn his degree — “I was an honor student when I arrived at Duke, and I’d like to graduate as one,” he wrote — and is decision not to go on a Mormon mission as much as he does he thought on becoming a professional basketball player.

In the end, here is what Parker said determined his choice to enter the NBA Draft:

Which environment — college or the NBA — offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player?

Which environment — college or the NBA — offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court?

The answer to both questions is undeniably the NBA.

There is something else. My father, Sonny, played in the NBA. I know firsthand that the career span of a pro basketball player is finite. The lucky ones play until their mid-30s. With that perspective, I shrink my professional career with each year that I remain in college. It’s ironic, but true.

Duke will be just fine without Parker. They add a loaded recruiting class, headlined by Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, and return guys like Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson and Quinn Cook. They were No. 2 in our Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 with the assumption that Parker, and Rodney Hood, were bound for the league.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.