11-18-05 sun-times writer Michael O'Brien. Photo by Jim Frost.
All over the country Wednesday, high school basketball players eagerly signed on the dotted line, completing their national letters of intent and securing college scholarships.
At Simeon, senior Jabari Parker watched four of his teammates take part. Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate signed with Illinois, Kendall Pollard signed with Dayton and Quron Davis signed with Chicago State.
Parker hasn’t picked a college yet, and after talking with him, it sounds as though he might not have signed Wednesday even if he had made up his mind. He might make a decision in December or January, then sign in April.
It’s a very smart move. A player as in demand as Parker holds all the cards. College coaches switch jobs at the drop of a hat. NCAA sanctions can pop up out of anywhere. There’s no reason for Parker to sign now and possibly get stuck in a less-than-ideal situation.
“Exactly,” Parker said. “I’ve already established myself. I’m just going to take my time. I’ll probably take another month to make my decision, then I will know what school I’m going to and not have to worry about anything during the season.”
The college recruitment process is full of empty promises, and nearly all of the leverage sits with the schools. Most players have to take what they can get. Parker is at a different level, and he knows that.
“There is always some chance where something pops up at the last minute that could change my decision,” Parker said. “That’s why I’m not too focused on making the early signing period.”
A dying breed
Most players are waiting until the summer before their senior year to orally commit to a school, then signing in the fall. That’s a departure from the last few classes, in which players such as Cully Payne, Jereme Richmond and Ryan Boatright committed as eighth-graders or freshmen.
For the last few years, most high-major players made decisions before their junior seasons. But none of the area’s high-major juniors, sophomores or freshmen has made their choice. Waiting seems to be en vogue.
The big question
Where will Parker go?
His list is down to five: Florida, BYU, Stanford, Duke and Michigan State. He has visited all of them at least twice, except for BYU and Stanford, and he plans to make a second trip to both this winter.
Parker and his family have been better at keeping a lid on rumors and unnamed sources than any major Chicago recruit in recent memory. But a source close to the Parkers believes that the family was blown away by the trip to Duke a month ago.
Yes, you always hear that recruiting trips go well. That’s why they are very rarely worth mentioning. But this was the first time something substantial had emerged from a credible source. Still, Parker has said numerous times that he hasn’t made his decision and that things could change even after he makes it.
Little interest at home
While fans in Michigan, Utah and North Carolina are buzzing about Parker’s recruitment, the overall mood in Chicago is pretty calm. Jon Scheyer’s recruitment was a three-ring circus, the biggest in the Chicago area in the last decade. Derrick Rose’s was huge, as was Julian Wright’s.
There is a simple reason why Parker’s recruitment isn’t as big locally: There appears to be very little chance he’s staying home. Illinois and DePaul are no longer in the picture.
Remember Rose’s surprise visit to Champaign for Midnight Madness? That stunt had the state dreaming of Rose in orange and blue. Parker’s recruitment hasn’t had a single moment of real intrigue or drama. It has resembled his game: smart, composed, controlled and efficient.