If Jabari Parker were just an unfailingly polite and devout honor student from Chicago’s South Side, he’d still be one of the most remarkable 17-year-olds you’ve ever met. But Parker is also the nation’s top high school basketball player and his unique mix of athletic talent and Pollyanna charm has him poised to become basketball’s next big thing.
Parker’s day starts before dawn with an hour of Bible study at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His Mormon faith comes from his mother; his 6’8” frame is passed down from his dad, former NBA first-round pick Sonny Parker.
On a recent morning, Parker’s Spanish class was interrupted by NBA veteran Alonzo Mourning, who dropped by to surprise Parker with the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. Always eager to please, Parker is bound to disappoint dozens of colleges when he chooses a school this fall. The scholarship offers started in 7th grade. As a devout Mormon is he interested in Brigham Young University? “Oh yeah.” As a Chicago native, is he considering Illinois? “I’m very interested in staying at home.” There’s seemingly no college Parker won’t consider.
But in the end he may even disappoint the university he attends–Parker says he’ll leave for the NBA once he’s projected as a top five draft pick, which will likely be after just one year in college. First, he needs to finish 11th grade.