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.
Special to ZAGSBLOG
As we write this, Jabari Parker, the 6-foot-8 2013 forward from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago has completed three official visits — Michigan State, Duke and Florida. He will take a fourth this weekend as he heads out west to visit Stanford.
At this point, everything seems to be proceeding on schedule with respect to the timetable that Parker has set for when he will announce his college choice. Except for one thing. It has been reported here and there but there has been very little if any analysis when it comes to its overall significance. And the fact of the matter is that it just might be the most important thing that is driving Parker’s recruitment right now.
We are talking about the recent development in which the Church Of Latter Day Saints lowered the age requirement by which males of the Mormon faith can serve a two year mission from 19 to 18. Parker is a devout Mormon and will turn 18 upon the completion of his senior year at Simeon.
Those who are not able to immediately make the connection may wonder how this impacts Parker’s recruitment. The answer is that it does so in more ways than one can begin to imagine. Above all else, it is the one thing that could cause Parker to offer up a college commitment much later than even he ever envisioned, if at all.
The questions surrounding Parker and the mission are ones that he and his family are not ready to address publicly just yet. In fact it is actually the opposite–they have pretty much put this issue on the backburner until the time comes whereby they will have to confront it. Nevertheless, it is important to break down all of the possible scenarios relating to whether or not Parker will take the mission and how they pertain to his recruitment.
While Parker’s recruiting process is obviously of foremost importance to him, at the same time his ultimate goal is the same as any other elite high school basketball player–being able to acheive the quickest road to stardom in the NBA. With that in mind, let us remember the NBA rules that govern entry into the NBA draft. One does not have to attended college in order to enter the draft–a player simply must be at least one year removed from college.
Because of the NBA draft rules being what they are, most people have assumed that if Parker were to end up taking his mission that he would do so right away, forego college altogether and then head to the NBA once the mission is completed. Not so fast! As it turns out, this is not the only manner in which Parker could fulfill the mission requirement. We actually believe that it is the least likely route that Parker would decide to take.
Another route would be for Parker to attend college for one year beginning in the fall of 2013. He would then still be able to fulfill the mission requirement right after that, meaning that the NBA would be put on hiatus for two years. Possible? Yes, but it is extremely risky. It would mean that Parker would be completely away from basketball for a two year stretch–he wouldn’t be able to work out or practice–nothing! While it wouldn’t affect Parker’s draft status (NBA scouts have said that Parker would still be a lottery pick) one has to wonder how NBA-ready Parker would be by taking that path.
How about the following option, one that no one has mentioned at all up until now. What if Parker were to take his mission upon graduation from Simeon and then go to college for a year (in 2015-16). Yes, it would delay his NBA aspirations, but it would allow college to serve as somewhat of a tuneup. He would then be in better shape and less rusty upon entering the 2016 NBA draft, whereby he would still be a top pick. It may sound a bit crazy but think about it–it is not out of the realm of possibility.
It is also possible that Parker could somehow get an exemption which would allow him to forego the mission altogether. While that may seem impossibile at first, it is not out of the question, with former Brigham Young and San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young having served as a precedent.
We do not know if Parker will end up deciding to take the mission or not. But we do know this–it is the only reason why his recruitment could end up going longer than he anticipated and the main reason why he has already said that he will wait until
the spring to sign a letter of intent. Make no mistake about it–this is currently driving Parker’s recruitment as much if not more than any other factor out there. The choice is not an easy one, which is why we are glad we are not in Parker’s shoes.
Having said all of this, at the end of the day we still think that Parker will opt for a year of college. It is important to remember that one of the foremost things that he has said will play a part in his final decision is the opportunity to win a National Championship. That is why Michigan State and Duke are still the recruiting frontrunners. However, at the present time it would be foolish to count out Florida. When Parker cut his list to five and finalized his official visit schedule we felt that his visit to Gainesville was the one that could end up being the most significant. That is because if that visit were to end up blowing Parker away, it would no doubt put the Gators right there with the Spartans and Blue Devils and perhaps get Parker to reevaluate his thought process.
The way we see it, the mission is the only thing that could prevent Parker from being ready to commit during the time frame that he and his family have laid out from the get-go. Sonny Parker (Jabari’s father) recently pointed toward Jabari likely committing in December due to the fact that his final visit to BYU won’t be until the weekend of November 24. However, keep in mind the following date–November 21. It is the final day of the Fall signing period and could end up being more significant than most people realize.
There is no question that Parker has some extremely important decisions awaiting him, ones that are not only about basketball but also about life. Therefore, if there is one thing that he truly deserves in all of this it is time. That is something that we are more than willing to give him. We can only hope that everyone else does the same.
Roy & Harv Schmidt are the Co-editors & publishers of Illinois Prep Bulls-eye, Illinois’s most respected basketball scouting service. They haveknown Sonny Parker for 15 years and Jabari for six.Follow Roy Schmidt on Twittter
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.