Criticism aside, Parker is among top talents in draft

Duke's Jabari Parker. (Ted Richardson/AP)

Jabari Parker is arguably the most skilled player in the NBA draft.

The former Duke swingman is expected to produce in the NBA right away. Some project that he'll have a 12- to 15-year career. And he's almost certain to be off the board when the 76ers make the third overall pick on Thursday night.

But Parker also has been perhaps the most criticized prospect.

Citing unnamed sources, ESPN reported that the 19-year-old had gained weight and intentionally bombed in Friday's workout with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have the top overall pick. There have been other unflattering reports in the last month.

"I don't know where they get this information from," Jabari's father, Sonny, told the Chicago Tribune. "Did you see his body on the video [from a workout in Santa Monica, Calif.]? He's not overweight. He takes care of his body."

A league executive who was at the workout agreed. "In those individual workouts with his agency, he looked in shape to me," he said. "He wasn't out of shape."


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Being questioned is nothing new for the 6-foot-8, 235-pounder from Chicago, who left Duke after his freshman season.

Parker was deemed a defensive liability in college even though he played out of position in the low post. But he still was a consensus all-American, leading the Blue Devils in scoring (19.1 points per game), rebounds (8.7), and blocked shots (1.2). He also finished third on the team in steals (1.1).

He beat out former Kansas standouts Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid for freshman-of-the-year honors from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

But Wiggins has been receiving most of the NBA hype because of his athleticism. Some believe the Canadian will develop into a superstar; Parker has been viewed as a solid but unathletic player.

"He led his team in rebounding and blocked shots. So how is that if you look at all of his highlights?" Sonny Parker said in an interview with The Inquirer when asked about his son's perceived lack of athleticism. "Look at how many dunks he had during the year."

He pointed out that he has seen some athletic people in his neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago.

"We are talking about people that can jump!" said the elder Parker, who played six seasons for the Golden State Warriors. "I can take you somewhere where some guys can really jump out the gym.

"But what it comes down to is the longevity; you have to be able to do other things. All of the rebounds are below the rim. Larry Bird, man. Look at how many rebounds he was getting."

Parker is a product of Chicago powerhouse Simeon Career Academy, which produced Derrick Rose.

He led Simeon to four straight Class 4 state championships. Parker finished his prep career as the national player of the year.

"The formula is called it. He has it," Sonny Parker said. "Yeah, we can do all this and that. We can drink the same water and do the same drills. But certain players have what's called it. And he did it on his own. He wanted to participate and play."

As a first grader, Parker played on the sixth-grade Chicago Elite AAU team that his father coached. Looking to get better, he always practiced against older players.

"My wife, she really knew [he would make the NBA]," Parker said. "I kind of knew later on, maybe in, like, the sixth or seventh grade. . . . I didn't want to put all the pressure on him."

But some might argue that Parker was destined to become a professional athlete. His father averaged 9.9 points in his NBA career. On his mother's side of the family are Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and Buffalo Bills tight end Tony Moeaki.

"Jabari used to be Sonny Parker's son," the father said. "But now on the South Side, they say, 'That's Jabari Parker's dad.' "