Jabari Parker, the No. 2-rated high school senior in the country, received some pretty influential advice from from former NBA great Isiah Thomas last week as he gets ready to announce his collegiate decision on Dec. 20.
Thomas understands the pressure that Parker is dealing with because he was a former Chicago high school star and one of the top recruits in the class of 1979. Thomas instructed Parker to make his pick based on more than the program itself.
“Pick a school that you will be comfortable with the campus,” Thomas told ESPN.com by phone Tuesday. “You’re going to be in the gym two to three hours a day. The other 21-22 hours you spend on campus. You got to make sure you enjoy the campus more than the gym.”
The Chicago Sun-Times and USA Today broke the news Wednesday that Parker plans to announce his decision next Thursday. Parker has narrowed his list down to Duke, Michigan State, BYU, Stanford and Florida.
The most important advice Thomas gave to Parker had nothing to do with game itself, but more to do with being a positive role model on and off the court.
“That’s what I try to emphasize to Jabari. Being the leader in basketball and being the leader in the community, kids are looking up to you,” Thomas said. “You have a responsibility for the kids to see you in their future in the right way. It’s not just about basketball. It’s about making an impact through education and basketball.”
The 6-foot-8 Parker started to gain major notoriety when he entered high school. He was named ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, Illinois’ Mr. Basketball and the national Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior. During his junior season he averaged 19.5 point, 8.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game.
He was ESPN’s No. 1-ranked player until Andrew Wiggins reclassified this year from the Class of 2014 to the Class of 2013.
Parker has sat out most of his senior season after fracturing his right foot while playing with Team USA at the FIBA under-17 World Championships in Lithuania in July.
Sonny Parker, Jabari’s father, is still in the dark about where his son is going to attend college, but is guessing his choices are between Duke and Michigan State.
“He hasn’t told me where,” Sonny told USA today. “I didn’t ask him. It’s kind of hard to say. He’s liked all the schools we’ve visited. He’s hard to read sometimes. He keeps things to himself, so I don’t put any pressure on him. I think it will probably be between Duke and Michigan State. That’s what I’m thinking.”
One focus that Sonny would always emphasize to Thomas when he would come home from the summer while playing for the Golden State Warriors is grades.
“Whenever his father would come home from the summer when he was playing with Golden State, he never asked me about my jump shot; he never asked me about my crossover dribble and my between-the leg dribble. He only asked me about grades, how I was doing in school and if I needed something to eat.”
Thomas wanted to deliver the same message to Parker, so he can pass the same knowledge down again some day as well.