If you missed Sports Illustrated’s article highlighting Kentucky recruit Jabari Parker, take a few minutes at some point today and check it out. It’s an interesting (and thorough) look at a kid with a unique background, and paints a good picture of an elite, yet “incredibly humble” person. I particularly like the description of the rims at his favorite practice gym: “One of the rims in the church gym is still bent from the ensuing years of Jabari’s dunks. The other rim is straight: That’s where he honed his jump shot.” Good stuff.
But, while the story is largely about his character and his faith, the author flippantly, and perhaps unwisely, brandishes the title “best high school basketball player since LeBron James,” which is certainly no small claim. Consider, between James’ senior year in 2003 and now, high school basketball has seen the likes of Greg Oden, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, and Anthony Davis. Davis was probably the least touted of that bunch, only garnering substantial attention through his senior year, but any player who averages 30 and 20 deserves to be on that list. Through in two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year Brandon Knight, and you could almost fill that list with Calipari recruits. But it’s an undeniably intimidating list, to be sure. Surely Jeff Benedict really doesn’t think that Parker should be put at the top of it?
Jabari, 17, is not just the best high school player in the state. He’s the best high school player since LeBron James.
Oh. Well, okay then. While there’s little doubt that Parker is the top player in the 2013 class, there is some debate as to the “best since James” title. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish took up the opposing side:
I don’t think SI did [Parker] any favors putting him on the cover while calling him “the best high school basketball player since LeBron James” because nobody I know genuinely thinks Parker is the best high school basketball player since LeBron James. That label probably belongs to Greg Oden or Dwight Howard, both of whom were overwhelming at the prep level. And this is precisely the problem with the cover. Parker is an elite prospect and, by all accounts, a fine young man. But that label SI bestowed upon him transformed a conversation about Parker as a player and person into a debate about whether he’s truly what the cover proclaimed, which caused Parker’s interesting story to be immediately overshadowed by a label that’s at best debatable and at worst complete BS. The kid? He’s just caught in the middle of the debate, and that’s unfortunate because I’m confident he didn’t ask to be projected that way.
Okay, so maybe not “best since James,” but Jabari’s still ridiculously good, right Gary?
Yes, he’s awesome. … Kid’s legit.
So whether or not SI’s claim proves to be true (Parker has his senior year to prove or discount it), one thing is for sure: this kid would look good in Blue. Big Blue Nation eagerly will eagerly anticipate his announcement this coming year.