UNC, Duke in the mix again - this time for prized prospect Jabari Parker

UNC, Duke are among the 10 programs in the mix for the nation’s top basketball recruit, rising senior Jabari Parker.

acarter@newsobserver.comJuly 12, 2012 

  • More information It’s always on Duke and North Carolina are among Jabari Parker’s final 10 schools. According to Rivals.com, other elite prospects since 2005 have selected one of the two after receiving scholarship offers from both. They include: 2012 Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke 2011 Austin Rivers, Duke 2010 Harrison Barnes, UNC 2009 Ryan Kelly, Duke Leslie McDonald, UNC 2006 Gerald Henderson, Duke Brandan Wright, UNC 2005 Greg Paulus, Duke

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 Parker’s 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 that’s 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 he’s 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 there’s something different about Parker, too, said Dave Telep, the national recruiting analyst for ESPN.

“For a guy that’s 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. It’s 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 can’t tell you if they’re [both] going to make the final three, but they’re firmly in the mix,” Telep said. “They’re not going anywhere. They’re 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. It’s 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 wasn’t. 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. “… Don’t tell me I ain’t 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, hasn’t 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 he’s not comfortable following the Kentucky model of building an entire team around players who might only stay one season.

“You know, John’s comfortable with that,” Williams said of Kentucky coach John Calipari. “I’m not comfortable with that. But it’s today’s world, too. I’ve had somebody say you should mark off the top 50 and start recruiting those other guys. And I said, well, that’d 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 doesn’t 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 he’s clearly embodied what it’s 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 you’re tellin’ me there’s 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.

Carter: 919-829-8944

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