The potential of Jabari Parker wasn’t realized when the Milwaukee Bucks made him the second overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.
In fact, it was just beginning.
The resume that Parker built while developing into a consensus prep All-American at Chicago Simeon Career Academy and during his one season as a unanimous NCAA All-American at Duke University is as impressive as they come for a 19-year-old, but it is still being expanded on a daily basis.
Parker got his first taste of NBA basketball while playing for the Bucks’ entry in the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. He arrived in Milwaukee well in advance of training camp to work tirelessly on his game and acquaint himself with his new Bucks teammates.
So before he walked into his first camp session, his maturation as a professional athlete was already underway.
“I think he wants it,” first-year Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd said. “I enjoyed being here with him during the summer. He was here in the mornings and was back here at night. When you put in that type of work, good things happen. For him, individual success will be team success. When the team wins, he wins.”
Center Larry Sanders also spent a lot of time at the Bucks Training Center during the summer and became instantly impressed with several of the prized rookie’s characteristics.
“He’s a very talented player,” Sanders said. “He works hard. He’s very mindful. He’s very humble, and very hungry. That’s a good recipe for success. I look forward to playing with him.”
Guard Brandon Knight, beginning his second season with Milwaukee, has learned a lot during his three years as a pro. Still just 22 years old, Knight showed the insight of a savvy veteran with a future in coaching or management when asked for his impressions of Parker.
Knight had witnessed the 6-8 forward’s substantial skill set, become aware of his credentials and no doubt heard the hype over his potential, but he wasn’t going to be swayed by either when sizing up his new teammate.
“He won me over when I found out what type of guy he is,” Knight said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s a very straightforward guy. I didn’t need to see or hear anything else.
“Those types of people always find ways to improve and get better. When you have a guy who has those characteristics that you can add to your team, you can only get better.”
Many a rookie has entered the NBA believing or acting like he was headed for overnight superstardom.
Though only one of the 60 players selected in the 2014 NBA Draft was taken ahead of Parker, there might not be one among the 59 others who is approaching the beginning of his pro career with greater humility or a more intense quest to learn.
“There’s a little bit of anxiety,” Parker said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m looking forward to it. I’m anxious. I’m ready to learn. Those are my emotions.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to deal with people who’ve been very honest with me. That goes a long way where I’m from. At first, a lot of people weren’t really buying into my development or my style of play. I’m fortunate to have that in my corner and with all the expectations, just worry about the team first.
“My role is to just learn and be a rookie for my first year.”
Parker is well aware of the great expectations that come with being a high lottery pick.
“I deal with expectations by not putting myself higher than the team,” he said. “I put myself in my place. I am inexperienced. I am a rookie. I am a first-year NBA player. I’m just anticipating having to learn.
“What I want to achieve in training camp is to look forward to learning every day. I’m also looking forward to practice. I know nobody likes practice, nobody enjoys it, but you have to build some type of excitement and expectation and learn something.”
Spend a few minutes around Parker and it becomes obvious that he took the student part of the student-athlete equation very seriously during his one year at Duke.
“Every day I think about it,” he said. “Right now, I’d be in school, learning. Every day, I think about my classmates I went to school with, my friends at Duke. It was very hard for me to say goodbye, but that was the easy way out, if I would have stayed.
“It’s a little harder to be in the position I’m in. I want to grow a little bit more and help myself be the player I want to be. You’ve got to throw yourself in with the best players. It wasn’t a matter of money. I loved being poor, because it teaches you humility.”
Parker enjoyed getting the opportunity to play alongside one of his two 19-year-old Milwaukee teammates, Giannis Antetokounmpo, during the NBA Summer League. He believes their games began to mesh in a hurry.
“Our games mesh really well,” Parker said. “They complement each other. I think you’re going to see some exciting things when we play during the preseason.
When I learn where he wants to be on the floor and he learns where I want to be, we’re going to do some special things.”
Parker got a taste of something else during his Las Vegas stint that he did not experience much as a collegiate or prep star.
“I hate to lose, but as soon as I got to summer league, we lost like five games,” he said. “You’ve almost got to get used to it, because it is a building process. It’s going to take time.
“And also, losing really does build character; I don’t care what anybody says. It makes you a little bit stronger. If you can get through losses, you can get through wins.”
Parker has been asked a number of times to name his favorite NBA player. His answer just might be exclusive when put alongside the responses of his NBA contemporaries, but it has a lot of merit, and it ought to impress longtime Bucks fans.
Jabari Parker says his favorite NBA player is Oscar Robertson. He commented on his first visits to the Bucks Training Center and the BMO Harris Bradley Center and seeing the photos and banners honoring the Bucks legacy of “The Big O.”
“It’s been very surreal,” Parker admitted. “‘The Big O’ has meant big things here. To be able to look at his pictures and look at some of his stats, you want to put yourself in his shoes, in his position, and hopefully accomplish the same things he did. But everybody knows that’s not going to happen. A triple-double (for an entire season) … that’s awesome.
“Not only was he a good player who did so much on the floor; he also was very active in rights, with the players union and what he stood for. I just want to do something similar to that, as far as in the neighborhood, as far as philanthropy in different environments, trying to helping people out.”
Jabari Parker may be a 19-year-old rookie and one of the youngest players in the NBA, but he’s clearly already mature beyond his years.
NBA EXPERIENCE: 1ST SEASON
2ND OVERALL - MILWAUKEE
- Consensus First Team All-America selection at Duke
- ACC Freshman of the Year
- ACC Rookie of the Week a record 10 times
- First Duke freshman to lead the team in both scoring (670 points) and rebounds (306)
- Finalist for the Naismith Trophy, Oscar Robertson Trophy and John R. Wooden Award
- Honored as the top freshman in the country with the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award by the USBWA
PRO CAREER ... 2014 NBA Summer League:?Played in five games (five starts) and averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 28.4 minutes per game ... recorded Summer League highs of 20 points and 15 rebounds in the final game against Golden State on 7/18.
COLLEGE ... 2013-14:?Consensus First Team All-America selection ... also earned honors as a First Team All-ACC member, ACC Rookie of the Year and USBWA National Freshman of the Year ... averages of 19.1 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game were both Top-50 in the nation, with the points per game marking the fourth-highest effort by an ACC freshman ever ... fourth freshman in ACC history to lead the league in rebounding ... with 670 points and 306 rebounds, was the 14th player in Duke history to record 600+ points and 300+ rebounds in the same season ... sixth ACC freshman to ever reach the 600-point plateau ... first Duke freshman to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding ... posted a career-high 30 points (10-of-17, .588) to go along with 11 boards in a win vs. UNC ... that 30-point effort was the most by a Duke freshman in the 238-games played in series history win vs. UNC?on 3/8/14 ... grabbed season-high 16 rebounds on 2/8/14 vs. Boston College ... scored 10+ points in 18 straight games to end the season and 33 times overall, breaking the Duke freshman record for double-figure scoring games held by Gene Banks (1978)?and Luol Deng (2004) ... 14 double-doubles were the most by a freshman in Duke history ... additional honors earned include: First Team All-America from The Associated Press, NABC, USBWA, Sporting News and Sports Illustrated; finalist for the Naismith Trophy, Oscar Robertson Trophy and John R. Wooden Award; honored as the top freshman in the country through the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award by the USBWA ... named ACC Rookie of the Week a record 10 times ... on the All-ACC Academic Team.
For more information about the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award, please click here.
HIGH SCHOOL ... Attended Simeon Career Academy (Chicago), where he led Simeon to four IHSA Class 4A state championships ... second player in the history of IHSA basketball to start for four consecutive state championship teams ... averaged 18.4 points and 10.4 rebounds as a senior ... named MaxPreps National Player of the Year and Morgan Wooten Award ... named 2013 Jordan Brand Classic Co-MVP after collecting 16 points and seven boards in the game ... totaled 10 points and eight rebounds in the McDonald’s game ... scored a team-high 22 points in the Nike Hoop Summit ... two-time Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year and Illinois Mr. Basketball ... was the first Illinois Mr. Basketball non-senior honoree in the 32-year history of the award ... named National Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior ... tabbed by ESPN HS and MaxPreps as the top junior ... named National Sophomore and Freshman of the Year by ESPN HS in 2011 and 2010 ... played for USA Basketball, earning gold medals at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship and the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
CAREER TRANSACTIONS ... Selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the second-overall pick in the 2014 NBA?Draft on 6/26 ... signed his first NBA?contract with Milwaukee on 7/9/14.
PERSONAL ... Son of Lola and Sonny Parker ... has two older brothers, Darryl and Christian, and two older sisters, Iman and Tilah ... mother is a native of Tonga and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 3 ... father was selected with the 17th pick in the 1976 NBA Draft by Golden State and played six seasons in the NBA, averaging 9.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game ... Darryl played basketball at Oregon ... Christian played basketball at BYU-Hawaii ... has two uncles, Harvey Unga and Tony Moeaki, who played in the NFL ... has volunteered in his community with People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH), the Salvation Army, New Beginnings Church and is a senior citizen youth ambassador in association with the LDS Hyde Park Ward ... on Twitter as @JabariParker.