COMMENTARY – Jabari Parker is rated as the best or second-best high school basketball player in the United States.
He’s 6-foot-8, has a killer crossover, dunks with ease and has a Magic Johnson-like grasp of the game, which means he passes and rebounds as easily as he scores.
And he’s also a Mormon, which means besides the usual suspects of schools a rare talent might attend to play basketball and get an education (Duke, Michigan State, Florida), Parker is also very interested in BYU.
Rarely has BYU basketball had a chip in the big game.
Parker, who attends Chicago’s Simeon High School, the No. 1-ranked prep basketball team in the country, has narrowed his choices down to five schools, which include the four mentioned above and Stanford.
One week from today, Parker will announce which school he will make his home next year and perhaps beyond.
For the Cougars, signing Parker would be epic, akin to dating the hottest girl in school, who also happens to be the smartest and the richest.
This BYU program has been very good under head coach Dave Rose. He has done a phenomenal job with the limitations that are placed on him.
Rose, who used to coach at Dixie College and whom I call a good friend, has embraced BYU’s high academic standards and honor code and has consistently won 20-plus games.
But, given those restrictions, it is unrealistic to think the Cougars will ever compete for the National Championship. Truth be told, if BYU gets to the Sweet Sixteen, it is an exceptional season.
As we saw in 2011, the Cougars just don’t have the incredible athletes it takes to compete beyond that.
Winning a conference title is a grand accomplishment. Winning a couple of NCAA Tournament games is fantastic. But going all the way to the top? Let’s face it, there are only 10 or 15 teams that ever really have a chance to make it to the top of the heap.
They are easily listed: Duke, Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Florida, Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Louisville, Syracuse, Ohio State, Georgetown, Connecticut, maybe UCLA or Stanford. That’s just off the top of my head.
But all four of the other teams on Parker’s list are also on that list.
So why would he choose BYU? Well, here’s the funny part: If he does pick Brigham Young, we could add the Cougars to that list. Yes, one transcendent talent makes that big of a difference.
Just ask Indiana State. The Sycamores have toiled for decades in anonymity, except the couple of years that Larry Bird made them a national power.
Or talk to the folks at the Naval Academy, which saw unprecedented success with David Robinson playing center.
Or more recently, Gordon Hayward leading Butler all the way to the championship game and Kenneth Faried teaching us all about Morehead State.
I don’t know who Parker is going to pick next week. But I do know he could make a big impact in Provo, whether he stays one year or four.
Some people look at BYU’s honor code as a curse. Clean leaving, church attendance and short hair is not for everyone. But then, some people live that way by choice and going to a place where everyone else also lives like that sounds pretty appealing.
Parker recently asked former NBA superstar Isiah Thomas (also a Chicago native and a family friend) what he thought and Thomas told him he should go somewhere he feels comfortable on campus, a place where he would fit in the 21 hours a day when he wasn’t playing basketball.
Clearly, that is BYU.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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