Chicago native and Duke player Jabari Parker (right) celebrates with teammate… (Getty Images )
Jabari Parker will go down in Chicago Public League history as the first player from the city to lead his team to four consecutive state championships. That's no small feat, especially when you consider not only the talent level in the city, but across the state.
Coming from Simeon, a high school that has produced the likes of Ben Wilson, Nick Anderson, Bobby Simmons and Derrick Rose, many have placed Parker in the conversation as the best player Chicago has ever produced.
Those state titles, being a two-time Illinois Mr. Basketball and making the cover of Sports Illustrated are enough for a persuasive argument. But Parker chooses instead to focus on getting better at his craft and leaves his place among this city's prep basketball elite for others to hash out.
"I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish at Simeon," Parker said. "I wouldn't change a thing. Now it's on to the next challenge."
That challenge is at Duke, which always has national championship aspirations. The Blue Devils play Kansas at the United Center on Tuesday in the State Farm Champions Classic as part of that journey.
Before his senior year at Simeon, Parker was forced off the court for five months with a stress fracture in his foot. And once he came back, he was 20 pounds overweight and his timing and feel for the game were off. The experience challenged him on several levels.
"Sitting out because of my foot injury and then not being able to pick right back up where I left off once I started playing again was tough for me mentally," he said. "But looking back, I also feel like it was necessary for me to go through that because it helped me to rebuild my confidence in myself, my game, and I think it made me a better player."
And in the midst of trying to get his game and his body back together, Parker had another issue weighing heavily on his mind: Which college to choose? His decision came down to Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Stanford and BYU before settling on becoming a Blue Devil.
"It was tough to make that decision," Parker said. "I didn't want to let any of those coaches down who were recruiting me. They were all great coaches and great schools and I didn't know how to tell the other four that I made a decision to go someplace else."
Once the decision was made, Parker said it felt as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and it began to manifest itself on the court as the ease and smoothness with which he played the game started to come back.
His improvement and the versatility of his game were on full display during his senior year, and on the high school all-star game circuit.
Now he's starting over again at Duke. In his debut against Davidson on Friday, Parker had 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. Nothing to sneeze at.
And fortunately for Parker, he's suiting up for a coach who has Chicago roots—Mike Krzyzewski—who will do whatever he can to help him add to his already impressive basketball resume.
"He has a huge growth process to go through," Krzyzewski said. "He's not a finished product, but he's a good product. If he's healthy, he's going to keep getting better. He's coachable. He's a good kid. He doesn't have any demons."
Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.
Bryan Crawford is a RedEye special contributor.
STATE FARM CHAMPIONS CLASSIC
College basketball doubleheader Tuesday at United Center (both games on ESPN)
Michigan State vs. Kentucky, 6:30 p.m.
Duke vs. Kansas, 9 p.m.
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