It was just last month when Jabari Parker was surprised with the Gatorade National Basketball Player of the year award in his spanish class. One month later, he’s graced the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine labeled as “The Best HS Basketball Player Since LeBron James.” Parker is only 17 years old and he joins a select group of high school athletes to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. There has only been 8 high school players to ever make the cover of Sports Illustrated; Rick Mount (1996), Tom McMillen (1970), Mike Peterson (1971), Kevin Garnett (1995), Richie Parker (1996), LeBron James (2002), Sebastian Telfair(2004), and now Jabari Parker (2012).
With all of the hype surrounding Parker, his basketball future appears to be a straight-forward path to the NBA. Which it is, however Parker is faced with a pivotal decision that just might be as important to him as a promising NBA career, his Mormon faith.
Parker is a committed Mormon. His high school team(Simeon Career Academy) moved their Sunday practices to the afternoon so he could attend church services, and he left his team the night they won the state title so he could be ordained as a priest the next morning. Did I fail to mention that Parker has led Simeon to 3 consecutive state championships? That’s right, (insert Lebron joke here:“not one…not two…) three consecutive state championships and to top it off, he’s also been named Illinois’ Mr. Basketball. For the record Parker boasts a 3.6 GPA and attends gospel study every morning one hour before school starts.
When Parker turns 19 years old he will be eligible for the NBA Draft in 2014, so he’ll have to choose between beginning his pro hoops career or embarking on a two-year Mormon mission. This is based on the assumption/more so fact that Parker will be a one-and-done college basketball player. In the SI article Parker described his Mormon faith at length and it’s customary for Mormons to go on a two-year mission when they turn 19. Parker who is 17 years old, is projected to be a one-and-done recruit so he will be eligible for the draft at 19. That is of course if David Stern doesn’t push the age limit back further like he wants to.
“I want to go,” Parker told SI. “But I have doubts. The NBA is the biggest dream of basketball players, and I’m no different.“
The last two prep stars that graced the cover of SI are both Mormon; Parker, and the latter Sebastian Telfair. If you have never seen Parker play he’s a 6’9″ guard with the skill-set of a guard and the basketball IQ of a seasoned pro. My translation: basically he’s a young LeBron with a little dash of Tebow. Check out this video below via Ball Is Life on the Chicago high school hoops star.