CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – By now Jabari Parker’s reputation has been well-established. He’s been the top player in his class in high school, has fallen off from that and overshadowed by others, and has reminded people at times just how good he is as a college freshman.
Even so, his performance in Duke’s 89-66 win at Boston College might be his best one to date. He looked like a man among boys in more ways than one, and while it was a 6-17 Eagles team that he did it against, he was one of the youngest players on the floor all night. When the season is over, he might be in a class by himself in his program’s history.
“Jabari was a monster today with the amount of rebounds and points,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He wasn’t rewarded sometimes on his aggressiveness on the offensive boards with his finishes, otherwise it could have been a 35, 36-point night.”
The box score shows that Parker had career highs with 29 points and 16 rebounds. He was as dominant as those numbers suggest. Most impressive is that he was 12-17 from the field, with just one three-point attempt. He worked to get some easy baskets, especially in transition, and at times he made it look easy in the halfcourt.
“He scored inside, he scored on the break, and was very efficient, 12-17 and only one shot was a three,” said Krzyzewski. “He scored while moving a lot, so it wasn’t against a set defense a lot of times.”
Early on, you could see he was primed to dominate the Eagles. On a few occasions, he overpowered a defender inside for a basket. He made grown man power moves and couldn’t be stopped. But then he would also show his athleticism with his finishes and running the floor.
“He has an extra pop,” said BC head coach Steve Donahue. “It’s 6’8″, 235, but it’s extra explosiveness.”
And you understand why over 20 NBA scouts were in attendance. They tend to come when a team like Duke comes to town, anyway, but the attention naturally ramps up a bit when someone like Parker, a sure lottery pick, will be in the building.
When Duke broke the game open to start the second half, it was Parker who led the way. He scored the first five points on a dunk and a three-point play in transition, and then he and Quinn Cook, who Krzyzewski said is playing more like he was in earlier in the season, led an 18-0 run that put the game out of reach. Parker continued, playing 38 minutes before finally resting, something Krzyzewski was happy to see.
“Usually we have to sub him, because he gets tired,” said the legendary coach. “This is really the first game that I’ve seen him where he’s playing so well and he played through tired. It’s something a really good player has to learn to do, to be able to keep performing when you’re tired, and he did.”
In other words, Parker appears to have taken another big step forward.
Krzyzewski has coached a lot of great players in his illustrious career. The school has had numerous All-Americans and NBA players and likely has more to come, especially with the star-studded group of high school seniors they signed in November. But one thing they have never had is a freshman lead the team in scoring and rebounding, although two freshmen have led them in scoring and six have led them in rebounding. Right now, Parker leads the team comfortably in both categories, especially after his big game on Saturday. As he continues to put up the numbers he has, it looks more and more like he could accomplish that.
Think about that. All the talent that has come through Durham in the legendary coach’s tenure, which includes four national championships and many All-Americans, and Parker could be the first freshman to lead them in scoring and rebounding. Danny Ferry didn’t lead them in either category his freshman year, nor did Christian Laettner or Grant Hill in theirs. Elton Brand led them in rebounding but not in scoring. J.J. Redick, the ACC’s second all-time leading scorer, didn’t lead them in scoring as a freshman.
In other words, he’s well on his way to accomplishing something that hasn’t happened before, and it comes after there were plenty of players who were capable of doing it.
Parker will continue to be compared and contrasted to his fellow freshmen, as has been the case all along. It’s part and parcel of how we measure players nowadays when they first get to college, especially when they’re part of a celebrated group of young men like this freshman class. Regardless of where people ultimately place him, whether it’s fans, media or NBA personnel, he’s en route to placing himself in a unique position in Duke’s history, and that’s not something to take lightly.