Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
All you need to now about Jabari Parker is that he’s so humble he doesn’t even think he’s the best player in the Class of 2013.
Instead, he defers to big men Julius Randle and Nerlens Noel.
“You can put those two probably at the top,” the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Parker said by phone from the Nike Global Challenge in Hillsboro, Ore.
“Both of them, either 1 or 2. Me, I probably got a lot of work to do. I’m probably not there yet. But as time [goes on], I’ll get better.”
Get a crew of high-major Division 1 coaches together and you could have a great debate over who’s the No. 1 player in the Class of 2013.
Parker? Randle? Noel? The debate could last for hours.
Even though Parker has been compared to Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce and Grant Hill, he defers to the big men in his class.
Randle is a rugged 6-8 power forward from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian, and Noel is a 6-10 shot-blocker from the Tilton (N.H.) School. Rivals ranks Randle No. 2 in the class (behind Andrew Harrison), Parker No. 4 and Noel No. 5.
ESPN.com goes Randle-Parker-Noel at 1-2-3.
“Well, you know, they’re so tall, they’re so big,” Parker said of the other two. “Nerlens, you can’t touch him on defense, not just offense. He blocks shots, rebounds, that wins games.
“And Julius, he can do everything, especially at his size, he’s so big. When he moves, step out the way. He can be a presence down low.
With his smooth ability to score from inside and out, Parker scored 20 points to help lead Team USA Midwest to a 121-101 victory over USA West in the semifinals of the Global Challenge. USA Midwest meets Canada Sunday night in the title game.
Parker averaged 17.7 points across six games at the Peach Jam last month in North Augusta, S.C.
He also put up 27 points and 10 rebounds in Team USA’s gold medal win over Brazil at the FIBA Americas U16 championships in Cancun, Mexico.
Those performances have led to comparisons with an array of NBA superstars, with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski making analogies to Bryant and Hill, according to Parker.
“That makes me feel real special, being compared to pros as young as my age,” Parker said. “Being similar to them, that’s just an honor and just to see my level and how well I’m improving.”
Parker’s list had previously consisted of Michigan State, Duke, Illinois, Washington and Kansas, but he recently received an offer from North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
“I really didn’t get a chance to talk to the coach but my parents [Sonny and Lola] did,” he said.
“They offered me a scholarship and they’re interested in me. And they think I would fit in their program well.
“It’s just a good experience getting an offer from one of the top colleges, so I’m very excited.”
Parker grew up as the rare Mormon African-American in Chicago, and he said his friends didn’t know much about his religious beliefs.
“They really don’t even know what that stuff is, but they kind of look at me as different because I don’t do the stuff they do,” he said. “Like I don’t get a chance to…as far as using drugs and stuff.”
When he was 10, Parker began to earnestly learn basketball from his father, Sonny, a first-round draft pick of the Golden State Warriors in 1976. (Current Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar was a teammate of Sonny’s with the Warriors.)
“[My father] saw that I liked the game, but my brothers really taught me,” he said. “But my dad really didn’t force me to play the game so I was pretty glad about that.”
Because of his Mormon background, Parker is also considering BYU.
“Yeah, kind of,” he said. “I’ve seen the development of Jimmer [Fredette] and how he developed as a freshman to the [NBA] Draft. That just depends on what my future is going to be. I’m looking at that so I can be a pro one day.”
Still, college is two years away and Parker, who doesn’t even see himself as No. 1 in his class, is in no rush.
“I’m just going to take my time,” he said. “Probably my senior year [I will have a list], so I can focus on stuff that’s going on right now. And when it’s time to make that decision, I’ll just focus on the right school that I’m going to be able to develop as a player and win a national championship.”
(Photo courtesy Kelly Kline/Nike)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.