If you don’t know who Jabari Parker is yet, you won’t have to wait long.
With next season’s freshmen class all but determined, the Class of 2013 is now the focus of all college hoops recruiting circles, and Parker is the biggest name in the country. A 6-foot-8 small forward from Chicago’s South Side, Parker — who has a 3.6 GPA and is just finishing up his junior year at Simeon High School, which counts Derrick Rose as an alum — was recently named the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year.
But Parker, who is black, is so much more than the stereotypical, high-profile hoops recruit. He’s smart, he’s humble and he’s mormon. Every day, before he goes to school, Parker spends an hour studying the bible. His goal? According to the profile done by Time.com on him, it’s to change the stereotype that people have of him. Not just as a basketball player, but as a black kid from Chicago.
“Right off the bat, they look at a black person as fatherless, as being a thug, teenage boy that’s so good at basketball,” Parker said. “I’m from this neighborhood. I have a good family. And I want to get rid of that cliche.”
Parker’s mother was born in Tonga, which is where he gets his faith. His father, Sonny Parker, played in the NBA, a place Jabari plans on being once he is projected as a top five pick.
I strongly suggest you watch the video linked above, because Parker really is a fascinating kid. A couple of other interesting notes:
– Of the attention he gets as a high-profile player: “It sucks.” He doesn’t like the focus on him, he doesn’t like the expectations and he doesn’t like the results if he makes a mistake any 17-year old would make. In the days of red carpets being rolled out for recruits to announce their college decision, it’s refreshing to hear a star high schooler talk about shunning the limelight.
– Parker was asked how he felt about his coach saying he would be one of the top five players in the league in five years. He said he didn’t believe it, because guys like LeBron and Dwyane Wade would still be around. So who does he model his game after? “Brian Scalabrine,” he said. “One of the unknown people in the NBA. He’s just grateful to be there in that situation. They can’t look at themselves as ‘Oh, I’m a superstar.’ They’re still humble. They’re still open.”
“I want to be like that.”
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.