Duke’s Jabari Parker off to ‘sensational’ start

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 14, 2013 

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    Fast starts

    Jabari Parker scored more points in his first two games than anybody in Duke history. Here’s how that compares (information for North Carolina was not available):

    Points;Player;School;Year

    53;J.J. Hickson;NCSU;2007

    49;Jabari Parker;Duke;2013

    46;Ivan Wagner;NCSU;1996

    44;Ishua Benjamin;NCSU;1994

    41;Luol Deng;Duke;2003

    40;Shavlik Randolph;Duke;2002

    39;Bill McCaffrey;Duke;1989

    38;Gene Banks;Duke;1977

During the preseason, Mike Krzyzewski didn’t hesitate to hand the keys to Duke’s offense to Jabari Parker.

After his performance against Kansas, it’s not hard to see why.

Parker was, without question, the best player on the floor for the first 20 minutes of the game, and his performance wowed even the most seasoned college basketball observers in the United Center.

He led Duke in points (27), rebounds (nine), 3-pointers (four), steals (two) and blocks (one, the only one). The Blue Devils lost 94-83, though, and that’s all he focused on after the game – not his Chicago homecoming, not his lights-out performance.

“It doesn’t mean anything because we didn’t win,” he said. “That’s the final result.”

It does matter, in the bigger picture. With 27 points against the Jayhawks and 22 against Davidson in the season opener, for 49 total, Parker is off to the best start in Duke history – better than Luol Deng (41), Shavlik Randolph (40), Bill McCaffrey (39) and Gene Banks (24). His 60.7 field goal percentage is second only to Banks (77.3) in that group.

Krzyzewski called Parker “terrific” after the debut. Tuesday, he used the word “sensational.” His night against Kansas came among the distractions of playing in his native city.

“It’s remarkable that a kid that is 18 and in his second game can come in here to your hometown and play against Kansas, and he was sensational,” Krzyzewski said. “He wasn’t just worn out towards the end because of the way the game was played. He was emotioned out. But he was terrific, and that’s how you grow. And I thought he handled everything extremely well.”

Parker was focused on what more he could have done. He could have defended better, he said. He and the rest of the Blue Devils needed to have wanted it more than the Jayhawks, he added. He needs to not settle and to be hungry to learn.

Parker has been doing that type of self-reflection after losses for years. His high school coach, Robert Smith, remembered seeing a young, middle-school-aged Parker crying in a corner of the Simeon gym after his team lost, despite an excellent individual performance. Smith told him he had done everything he could.

“If I would have done that, we would have won,” the young Parker told him.

Mature beyond his years, Parker will likely continue to be his harshest critic throughout this season. He will return to action at 7 p.m. Friday when the Blue Devils host Florida Atlantic.

Expect him to once again be all over the floor for Duke – taking the opening jump at center court, bringing the ball up the floor and handling it off pick-and-rolls, rebounding and guarding in the post and stepping back and hitting 3s.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas might have said it best before the season.

“Jabari Parker is one of the special players, not only in the country this year, but I think he’s one of the special players Mike Krzyzewski has ever had,” Bilas said. “He’s the real thing. And he’s only scratching the surface of how good he’s going to be.”

Team captain Tyler Thornton, for one, wasn’t surprised by Parker’s Tuesday performance, saying that’s how he looks in practice.

“That’s what we need from him every day,” Thornton said. “And I think he can give that to us every game.”

It would be unprecedented if Parker kept up his torrid start; Johnny Dawkins set the high standard for freshman scoring with 18.1 points per game in the 1982-83 season. But in two games, he’s shown everyone why Krzyzewski has all the confidence in the world in his freshman phenomenon.

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