Duke, Jabari Parker won’t make Notre Dame’s ACC opener easy
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media January 3, 2014 9:34PM
Duke forward Jabari Parker, formerly of Simeon, promises to make Notre Dame’s first game in the ACC difficult Saturday. | Chuck Burton/AP
Updated: February 5, 2014 6:06AM
Jabari Parker is just 13 games into his college career at Duke, but Notre Dame coach Mike Brey sees someone whose makeup screams veteran.
‘‘The poise and demeanor are more that of a guy who has played 100 college games,’’ Brey said Thursday. ‘‘That’s what has made [Duke] so good. He was going to be the guy as a freshman, but he’s handled it more like an upperclassman than a freshman.’’
Brey and the Irish (9-4) will get a closer view of the former Simeon star in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener today, when the No. 7 Blue Devils (11-2) visit.
The game marks the beginning of a new era for the Irish.
‘‘It’s almost like the non-league schedule continues because we don’t have a history [with the ACC],’’ Brey said. ‘‘That’s interesting territory as we’re trying to figure out each team.’’
It’s also Parker’s ACC debut.
‘‘There’s a lot of energy coming in,’’ he said in an interview on Duke’s website. ‘‘I’m highly anticipating how the games are going to be now that we have to go on the road.’’
The forward has lived up to the preseason hype, averaging 21.4 points and eight rebounds. He has scored at least 20 points in 10 of those 13 games.
‘‘He’s a beautiful basketball player,’’ Brey said. ‘‘He’s the combination of great physicality as a young guy, but he is [also] a skilled guy who has a feel for the game and really knows how to play.’’
Parker isn’t Duke’s only option. Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook are averaging 17.2 and 13.5 points, respectively.
‘‘I don’t know if you can be overly focused on just [Parker] because they have a lot of other weapons,’’ Brey said. ‘‘There’s a great player there, but there are a lot of different guys that can score the ball. And so, where you are aware of him and there is a team awareness of him and different guys will guard him and we’ll play some zone, I don’t know if you can be totally distracted there. Because there are other guys that can go off.’’
There’s no easing into the ACC for the Irish. And the challenge became even greater after guard Jerian Grant’s recent departure.
‘‘I don’t think anybody gives us much of a chance Saturday,’’ Brey said. ‘‘But we’ve been in these situations before in this building, and we’ve played and rallied really well.’’