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Duke’s Jabari Parker returns to Chicago for UC showdown

 
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Davidson v Duke

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Updated: December 13, 2013 6:28AM



Jabari Parker embarked for Duke in mid-August, leaving a big hole in the Parker household on the South Side.

“He’s been away for a while now,’’ said Sonny Parker, Jabari’s father. ‘‘It’s the longest he’s ever been away from home. It’s kind of lonely in a sense. We are so used to him being around.”

Jabari Parker arrived back home in Chicago on Monday evening. He will play his second college basketball game — a high-profile matchup against Kansas — Tuesday at the United Center in the maine event of the State Farm Champions Classic. It’s another showdown with Andrew Wiggins, the Canadian-born star who knocked Parker from the No. 1 spot in most recruiting rankings last summer.

This version of the Parker-Wiggins matchup has almost the same script and setting as the first — the McDonald’s All-American game at the United Center in April. That battle ended more or less as a draw. Wiggins outscored Parker 19-10, but Parker had several successful stretches guarding his counterpart. That’s something he will likely be called on to do on Tuesday, and Dad will be watching.

“I know [Jabari] is looking forward to coming home,” Sonny said. “We will have a large group of family there watching. I’ll probably only be able to see him after game.

‘‘College is a lot different than high school. They are on a strict itinerary and will probably leave pretty quickly.”

Sonny wasn’t surprised by his son’s debut college performance, a sparkling 22-point effort in a ­victory over Davidson.

“That’s just the way that he plays,” Sonny said. “If you haven’t seen him, of course you would be shocked and surprised. Last year he was injured. He didn’t miss that many games but wasn’t on the level he is now, just due to his health. I’m not surprised at all with how he has started.”

More than 70 NBA credentials have been issued for the doubleheader (Kentucky squares off against Michigan State in the first game). Wiggins, Parker and ­Kentucky’s Julius Randle are expected to be among the top six picks in next year’s NBA draft.

Simeon coach Robert Smith plans to be at the game, but he had trouble securing tickets for his ­entire team, so there won’t be a large contingent of current Wolverines in the stands.

“Jabari has a lot of people there [in Chicago],’’ Duke special assistant Jon Scheyer said. ‘‘It’s been a tough thing for people wanting to talk with him and be with him. For him, we just want to make sure he has the opportunity to focus on the game. I think he’s all about Duke, it’s not about him going home in his mind.”

Young center Jahlil Okafor is expected to attend the game. It’s doubtful he had much trouble getting a ticket. Okafor, the nation’s top player in the Class of 2014, has made official visits to Duke and Kansas. He’s narrowed his list to those schools and Baylor. Okafor announced via Twitter Monday that he will make his college decision at 3 p.m. Friday at Young, so he’ll likely watch Tuesday’s matchup with particular interest.

Email: mobrien@suntimes.com

Twitter: @michaelsobrien



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