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Prestige of top NBA draft pick awaits Anthony Davis, Chicago

FILE - In this March 31 2012 file phoKentucky forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts during second half an NCAA Final

FILE - In this March 31, 2012 file photo, Kentucky forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts during the second half of an NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball tournament game against Louisville, in New Orleans. Davis is a possible pick in the NBA Draft on Jan. 28. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

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Updated: July 29, 2012 5:18PM



On June 8, 1976, Sonny Parker was nervously waiting to find out his professional fate when the call came. The Golden State Warriors drafted the former Farragut star with the 17th pick of the first round of the NBA draft.

It was all matter-of-fact.

‘‘There was no Madison Avenue draft headquarters or green room back then,’’ Parker remembered. ‘‘I got the call from one of the executives in the Warriors, and that was that.’’

Parker is following Thursday’s draft with great personal interest. He coached Kentucky star Anthony Davis, the presumptive No.  1 pick, when the South Side native was a 5-11 grammar school kid.

The New Orleans Hornets won the draft lottery and the right to pick Davis. After powering Kentucky to the national championship in April, the 6-11 Davis is on the verge of completing his remarkable transformation from an unknown prospect who a year ago played in the Public League’s obscure Blue-West division to an elite prospect now being described as a hybrid of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Davis is also poised to become the fifth former Chicago high school star to be the top overall selection of the NBA draft, following Carver great Cazzie Russell (1966), De La Salle and Loyola star LaRue Martin (1972), Westinghouse and DePaul great Mark Aguirre (1981) and Simeon star Derrick Rose (2008).

Parker’s son, Simeon star and Sun-Times Player of the Year Jabari Parker, is universally regarded as the top high school prospect in the country, forecast as a viable No. 1 pick in 2014.

He’s not alone. Young’s 6-11 rising junior, Jahlil Okafor, is being touted as a prospective No.  1 draft choice. Parker and Okafor have turned in eye-opening performances on the U.S. U-17 international squad.

Since the NBA mandated that American-born prospects be one year removed from high school to be draft eligible, five of the last six No. 1 picks have been college freshmen. With Parker and Okafor, it’s not out of the realm that four Public League players could be the No. 1 pick of the draft in an eight-year period.

‘‘I could definitely see that happening,” said Mike Irvin, the CEO of the Mac Irvin Fire club team that features both young stars. ‘‘Okafor is a true center, and there’s always going to be a premium on that kind of player. As far as Jabari, he seems destined to be the No. 1 pick since he was born.”

Like Davis, Illinois center Meyers Leonard has been invited to the draft and is projected as a late lottery pick. Quincy Miller, a North Chicago native, is considered a late-first-round selection. Former Glenbard West star John Shurna, Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer, and former Cincinnati’s Dion Dixon, a former Crane star, are dark horse second-round choices.



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