The 10 Biggest CBB Stories Of 2012 — #10: The Recruitment of Jabari ParkerPosted by Chris Johnson on December 27th, 2012
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.
The legend of Jabari Parker hit the mainstream before his likeness landed smack dab on the cover of Sports Illustrated, abutted with the title “The Best High School Basketball Player Since Lebron James…” and followed by his name. Parker became a household name in recruiting circles when he earned the first starting spot ever awarded to a freshman at famed Chicago basketball powerhouse Simeon Career Academy. He went on to win three Illinois state championships and was named the state’s “Mr. Basketball” as a junior, the only non-senior recipient in the award’s 32-year history. Parker is a very good basketball player, but living up to that lofty SI catchphrase is an enormous burden. And in today’s social media-infused sports scene, in which the thirst for recruiting news is abundant and relentless, Parker had his every move and statement dissected, analyzed and magnified on message boards and recruiting sites across the country.
It was a case study in the warped nature of high-level recruiting. Through it all, Parker remained humbled. He stayed within his own circle as his parents constructed a barrier of confidentiality to limit media contact (his dad, Sonny, relayed his son’s musings to the media). He spurned the national spotlight, and remained unstirred when his No. 1 ranking fell by the wayside after he missed part of the critical July evaluation period while recovering from an ankle injury.
As he approached a decision date, Parker narrowed his list -– his early-October elimination of Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky came as a surprise, what with Calipari having strong ties to Simeon (Derrick Rose) and plucking five-star recruits like general managers on draft day – then embarked on a national goodwill tour, which produced this tremendous show of support from BYU fans. When he reached the end of his recruitment, it was hard to think Parker felt anything but immense relief and inner peace. The moment he flashed that royal blue Duke long-sleeve shooting shirt on an ESPNU broadcast, the matching of Coach K’s transcendent coaching legend and noted character building with Parker’s genuine modesty and unpretentious demeanor felt like a perfect marriage.