It began Wednesday with a tease. Jabari Parker, considered the best high school basketball player in the class of 2013, signed onto his Twitter account.
My college list, he wrote, coming out at 4:15. Tune in!!! Lol!!
L.O.L. Laugh out loud. Few of his 20,000 Twitter followers likely were, especially those wondering whether their favorite college team had made Parkers cut. Finally Parker, a 6-8 small forward, revealed his list: Kentucky, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul and North Carolina. He wrote the schools in that order.
And then wrote, No order.
So now it begins, a recruiting battle thats likely to be the most intense and scrutinized among any in during the next several months. Duke and North Carolina, longtime rivals on the court, are again fighting for the same player off it.
They have plenty of company, with eight other schools vying for a rising high school senior who appeared in May on the cover of Sports Illustrated. On the magazine cover Parker is wearing a yellow Simeon Career Academy jersey, and hes dribbling on a ledge overlooking a body of water, the Chicago skyline in the background.
The text next to him and across him reads, The best high school basketball player since LeBron James is Jabari Parker. The recruiting experts seem to agree.
Yet theres something different about Parker, too, said Dave Telep, the national recruiting analyst for ESPN.
For a guy thats had so much thrown his way, there is an incredible sense of humility to him, Telep said. Underneath that layer is a very competitive kid I think that he has the proper wiring to be a really, really good basketball player long term.
Telep said he and other journalists who regularly cover recruiting found it somewhat amusing when Parker revealed his initial list of finalists Wednesday. Its not often, after all, that a prospect trims a list and still leaves 10 contenders.
Based on recent history, at least, both Duke and UNC are likely to stay alive for a while.
I cant tell you if theyre [both] going to make the final three, but theyre firmly in the mix, Telep said. Theyre not going anywhere. Theyre going to have their crack at them.
Years ago, before recruiting coverage and popularity boomed, before the Internet helped make it a year-round passion for some, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils rarely seemed to contend for the same players. More and more, though, they are crossing the same paths on the recruiting trail.
They split a pair of prospects in the latest signing class, with Rasheed Sulaimon turning down an offer from UNC to go to Duke, and J.P. Tokoto turning down Duke to go UNC. Its rarer, though, that UNC and Duke have both targeted a player considered the best in his class. That last happened in 2009, when both schools attempted to lure Harrison Barnes from Iowa to North Carolina. He chose, of course, to play for the Tar Heels.
At an April booster club tour stop in Charlotte, UNC coach Roy Williams bristled when a fan asked if he was afraid to recruit head-to-head against Duke, and Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. Williams briefly recounted Barnes recruitment as evidence that he wasnt. In fact, Williams sounded as though he liked it.
I went to freakin Ames, Iowa [to recruit Barnes] 11 times and his [butt] went twice, Williams said. Dont tell me I aint going to go head-to-head.
One thing both programs have seemed hesitant to do in recent years is recruit a multitude of players assumed to be one-and-done. Duke lost one-and-done players each of the past two seasons, first Kyrie Irving then Austin Rivers.
UNC, meanwhile, hasnt had a one-and-done player since Brandan Wright left school in 2007. Williams, who has commitments from two other top players in the class of 2013, said recently hes not comfortable following the Kentucky model of building an entire team around players who might only stay one season.
You know, Johns comfortable with that, Williams said of Kentucky coach John Calipari. Im not comfortable with that. But its todays world, too. Ive had somebody say you should mark off the top 50 and start recruiting those other guys. And I said, well, thatd be good, but I like to have some of those top-50 type players.
I like a mix. I loved Marvin Williams and Quentin Thomas in the same class.
Like Wright, Williams, a sensation the moment he arrived on campus at UNC in 2004, played one season and left for the NBA. Many recruiting analysts, Telep included, believe Parker likely will play just one season too.
But, Telep said, Parker doesnt fit the mold of other players with similar ability and following.
I think Jabari is probably a one-and-done type, Telep said. But I think the reason why he has such broad appeal is because there is a substantial history of winning in his background, and I think hes clearly embodied what its like to be part of a team. And I think that separates him from the one-and-done guys.
After Parker posted his list on Twitter, he received a few responses, including one from an apparent BYU fan that read, So youre tellin me theres a chance!
For Duke, UNC and the other eight schools Parker listed as finalists, there is a chance until the next round of cuts come in a long journey that began Wednesday.