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Jabari Parker, ­Cliff Alexander ­developing skills in Nike Pro-Am league

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The moment was enough to accelerate the pulse of any Chicago high school basketball junkie. In the third game of the new Nike-backed Chi-League Pro-Am on Saturday at Young, Jabari Parker delivered a perfect pass to a trailing Cliff Alexander.

The 6-9 Curie star finished with a dunk that brought roars from the crowd. The play punctuated a second-half surge that saw the Mac Irvin Fire storm back from a 13-point deficit against an Antoine Walker-backed team of college and former college players led by ex-St. Joseph and Illinois standout Demetri McCamey.

Walker’s collection of veterans survived the Fire’s run to win. In the Pro-Am, winning is important but not crucial. What’s important is the showcase the league provides for newly graduated players such as Parker or rising seniors such as Alexander. It gives them a chance to develop their skills against varied and distinguished competition.

“It’s great to play against older guys than you because they just know more about the game,” Parker said. “That team hurt us with their knowledge of the game, and that’s a great thing to have.”

Former Marshall star Patrick Beverley is a prime example of persistence and tenacity in pursuing a professional dream. After a couple of years on the professional margins, playing in Russia and the NBA Developmental League, Beverley emerged as an important reserve for the Houston Rockets this season, appearing in 41 games.

Beverley is spending the bulk of his summer training in Houston. He’s flying home on weekends to participate in the Chi-League.

“The summer is the time of the year when you really have to improve your game,” he said. “Especially in the month of June. You might spend the time just working on an individual move, or just work at developing different skills.”

Anthony Davis, the former Perspectives-MSA star who completed his first year with the newly named New Orleans Pelicans, inaugurated the Pro-Am on Saturday with former Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Davis said his life has undergone a dramatic change.

“Looking back, probably the best time I had was playing [high school] and AAU [club basketball],” he said. “Three years ago, nobody really knew who I was. Then I got to play [at national tournaments] in front of the college coaches, and it all changed.’’

Now Parker and his two high school-aged teammates on the Fire, Alexander and Young’s Jahlil Okafor, are being talked about as high picks in the NBA draft.

“I’m not really [qualified] to comment on that,” Davis said. “They have to get through college first. It does go to show you how much there is in Chicago high school right now.”



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