There are a few names that stand out among the loaded crop of freshman talent entering college basketball this season. Kansas signee Andrew Wiggins is the one you’ve heard most about. Kentucky’s Julius Randle is another headliner. And Aaron Gordon, who made waves this summer while winning MVP with Team USA at the Under-19 FIBA World Championships, has so many YouTube dunk reels that any college basketball fan with even a marginal interest in the art of the slam (and there are a lot) must have seen him on tape by now at least three times. There’s one other name that hasn’t received anywhere close to as much publicity as his looming impact on the upcoming college basketball season – and the ACC and national championship pictures – merits: Jabari Parker. It’s a strange thing, really, that Parker is being overlooked in conversations about this year’s top freshmen. Don’t get me wrong, college hoops diehards and recruitniks have known about Parker for years. Most casual sports fans should remember him, too. He was only on the front cover of, like, the most popular sports magazine in the United States – his 6’8″ frame draped in a yellow Simeon high school uniform, plastered in front of a murky Chicago skyline, the words “The best high school basketball player since LeBron James is… ” printed beside him. (Perhaps Wiggins’ recent appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated distracted attention from Parker’s placement in the same magazine?)
That edition came out less than two years ago (May 2012, to be exact). People should remember. Instead, most of the hype about this year’s insane freshman class has revolved around Wiggins, Gordon and Randle – with a late push from Kentucky wing James Young, a player Wildcats coach John Calipari believes has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft, according to ESPN college hoops writer Jason King. None of those players is expected to flop in their first respective (and probably last) seasons of college hoops. These aren’t ordinary top-ranked recruits; they are recruits ranked near the top of one of the greatest recruiting classes of all-time. The guys being talked about most frequently should be great – tremendous talents with bright professional futures. To use standard recruiting terminology, none of them, most experts assure, will be “busts.” Not Wiggins, not Randle, not Gordon.