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Jabari Parker looks to escape Derrick Rose’s shadow

11-18-05 sun-times writer Michael O'Brien. Phoby Jim Frost.

11-18-05 sun-times writer Michael O'Brien. Photo by Jim Frost.

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Updated: December 22, 2011 8:16AM



The comparisons to Derrick Rose began the first time Jabari Parker walked onto the court in a Simeon uniform nearly two years ago. And they aren’t about to stop, so it’s probably time to check and see how Chicago’s current phenom stacks up next to Rose, who is clearly the most popular player in recent history to move from the city to the NBA.

Rose won two state titles in his three years of varsity basketball. Simeon coach Bob Hambric didn’t allow freshmen on varsity, so Rose had to make do freshman year with leading the Simeon sophs to a city title. Rose also led Simeon to city titles in his junior and senior seasons, and the Wolverines went 120-12 in Rose’s three seasons.

Parker doesn’t have a city title yet, but he already has two state titles and a legitimate shot at getting four. He’s likely to eclipse Rose in that category, but there is no question that Parker’s teams have been more talented (in large part thanks to the aura surrounding the Simeon program that Rose and coach Robert Smith have created). It’s also much easier to win a state championship in the current four-class system than it was in the old two-class system that Rose played under.

Parker and Rose share two distinct qualities: a sort of natural hunger to win, and a tendency toward humbleness, although Parker has never seemed as embarrassed or uncomfortable with the attention directed toward him as Rose did early in his high school career.

“[Jabari] is coming into his own a little bit, becoming more vocal,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “Which is good, he’s growing up. The pressure doesn’t bother him, which is like Derrick. That’s something that was always huge when Derrick was here. I didn’t know how he could handle so much pressure at that young of an age. They both have done it. I think it has a lot to do with their homes and their upbringing.’’

Parker is dealing with even more pressure than Rose did. Rose was practically an unknown on the national scene until after his sophomore year and didn’t start getting major national attention until after the club basketball season before his senior year

For Parker, it seemed to start as soon as he began high school.

“All the internet video and social media stuff was really just starting when Derrick was here,” Smith said. “Now we have guys at gyms that are putting video up right away online. If we had that type of social media Derrick might have been the No. 1 player in the country when he was here. Jabari has definitely had a lot more publicity and things going on over his first two years than Derrick had.”

During his high school career, Rose never received enough credit for his work ethic. His Olympic-level athleticism made it seem that everything came easily to him. That wasn’t the case, and it’s his work ethic that has helped separate him from other talented guards in the NBA.

It’s a trait shared by Parker.

“Jabari has the work ethic,” Smith said. “How he values and appreciates basketball is very similar to Derrick. They appreciate the game and go at the game totally different than a regular kid. That is something huge. Jabari wants to be great at it. When you have a kid that wants to be great they put out their full effort at it, like a doctor or a brain surgeon wants to the best. Jabari wants to be the best basketball player ever.”

Parker is one of the rare players I’ve talked to over the years that regularly references past players and games and seems to know his hoops history.

“Jabari has an old soul,” Smith said. “He researches things and wants to know who was the best, how can I be the best, what do I have to do to be the best. That’s a great quality to have. Some of these other guys that are real good don’t know. He knows all the kids in the country that are good. He researches them, how they are doing, how they are playing.”

Like Rose, Parker has a strong family helping him deal with all the publicity and college coaches swirling around him. His father, former NBA player Sonny Parker, and his mother Lola, have handled most of the recruiting calls. Everything goes through them.

“There is a lot of pressure on me,” Parker said. “There is a lot of hype, a lot of people in Chicago that care about high school basketball and recognize me. A lot of people trying to get to me. I’m sure I can expect that to keep up until I get to college. I still want to stay with my inner circle so I don’t get off track.”

Parker’s high school resume is likely to best Rose’s. However there is one thing he doesn’t have yet: that signifying moment where he rises up and announces his presence as an all-time great. Rose had three: the back-to-back dunks against Washington in the city championship at the United Center, the game-winning shot in overtime to give Simeon the state championship against Peoria Richwoods and the dismantling of Oak Hill, the top-ranked team in the country.

But Parker has two years remaining at Simeon to grab moments like that for himself.

“I still haven’t reached the peak of my high school career,” Parker said. “I haven’t had the one moment that people stop and say ‘Oh wow,’ with people immediately recognizing that it will take me to the next level. Let’s hope one happens this year.”



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