Preps Talk

Does Jabari Parker belong on all-time Top Five?

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Does Jabari Parker belong on all-time Top Five?

How good is Jabari Parker?

Better than his father?

Better than Derrick Rose?

Good enough to rank among the top five players in Public League history?

Good enough to rank among the top five players in state history?

How good is Simeon's 6-foot-8 junior?

For openers, Simeon coach Robert Smith, who coached Rose and Parker, cast his vote for Parker, claiming he is a better all-around player than Rose, the best he has ever coached.

He almost certainly will be the first junior to be named Mr. Basketball in Illinois since the voting began in 1981.

Longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye, who have observed Rose and Parker and many other elite players over the last 25 years, said Parker "already has sealed his legacy as one of the all-time great players in Chicago Public League history."

"But whether or not he belongs in the top five remains to be seen," Roy Schmidt said. "That is because the final chapter is still unwritten. We need to see what he does between now and the time he is finished playing at Simeon."

At the moment, the Schmidt brothers argue that Parker isn't as good as Isiah Thomas was as a junior. "But, then again, we aren't sure anybody from Chicago since then has been better than Isiah. But that doesn't mean that Jabari isn't a great player," Harv Schmidt said.

"We would also say that as of now Jabari probably ranks just a tad behind Derrick Rose. However it is almost an unfair assessment because it is also based on what Rose has done since leaving Simeon -- at Memphis and now in the NBA."

Is Parker capable of achieving the same level of greatness as Rose and all of the others? "Absolutely. He has continued to develop and improve upon significant facets of his game each and every year. And he has a work ethic that is second to none," the Schmidts said.

"With that in mind, we will be as anxious as anybody to see how Parker progresses over the course of the next year. As long as he continues to go about things in the manner that he has, we think that when it is said and done Parker could make a very strong case for ranking among the top 5 or 10 All-Time great players in Chicago. We would not bet against him."

I have observed high school basketball in Illinois since the 1950s. As of this date, my all-time top five are Marshall's George Wilson (1960), Carver's Cazzie Russell (1962), St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas (1979), Farragut's Kevin Garnett (1995) and Simeon's Derrick Rose (2007).

In good conscience, I dropped my all-time favorite player, Thornridge's Quinn Buckner (1972), from my original list to make room for Rose.

That puts four former Public Leaguers on the all-time list. The fifth member of the all-time Public League team? My choice would be Westinghouse's Mark Aguirre (1978).

So where does Parker rank?

Old-timers might argue that he isn't as good as his father, Robert "Sonny" Parker, who starred at Farragut in the early 1970s, was a two-time All-America at Mineral Area Junior College, led Texas A&M to back-to-back Southwest Conference championships, was named to the Southwest Conference's all-decade team, was the 17th pick in the 1976 NBA draft and played for six years with the Golden State Warriors.

At the moment, it is difficult to find a spot on my all-time first five for Jabari Parker. But he still has another year to get better.

How about the second five?

It would include Aguirre, Buckner, Proviso East's Glenn "Doc" Rivers (1980), Collinsville's Tom Parker (1968) and Centralia's Bobby Joe Mason (1955).

I can hear critics from the Public League hollering: Who is Parker? Who is Mason? They rarely concede that anyone south of Altgeld Gardens or west of Austin or north or Rogers Park can play the game as well as a city kid.

After all, I still haven't mentioned other Public League icons, including Parker's Tom Hawkins and Bo Ellis, Dunbar's Bernie Mills and Ronnie Lester, Simeon's Ben Wilson, Deon Thomas and Nick Anderson, King's Marcus Liberty and Jamie Brandon, Hirsch's Rickey Green, Crane's Tim Robinson and Jerome Freeman, Westinghouse's Hersey Hawkins, Eddie Johnson and Kiwane Garris, Vocational's Juwan Howard and Carver's Tim Hardaway and Terry Cummings.

There are some people who are already touting former Chicago Perspectives star Anthony Davis, now a freshman sensation at Kentucky, for all-time status in the Public League. My argument? Did they feel the same after his senior year, putting up big numbers against woefully weak competition? If an all-timer is evaluated on his high school performance, I don't think Davis rates with Wilson, Russell, Garnett, Rose and Aguirre.

I admit a partiality toward Tom Parker, a 6-foot-6 forward whom I covered while working for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1966-68. He was the best of four All-Americans produced by legendary coach Vergil Fletcher. In his senior year, he averaged 33 points per game. Later, he starred at Kentucky and was the SEC's co-player of the year in 1972.

Mason is one of three basketball players to have his jersey retired at tradition-rich Centralia, following Lowell Spurgeon and Dike Eddleman. He was an All-Stater in 1954 and 1955, was named to Bradley's 15-member All-Century team and played for 12 years with the Harlem Globetrotters.

"He was the best player I ever saw -- until I saw Earl Monroe in the NBA," said legendary coach Duster Thomas of Pinckneyville.

So how good is Jabari Parker?

"Parker is a better high school player at the same stage of their careers," said Simeon coach Robert Smith. "Derrick didn't understand how good he was until his junior and senior years. Jabari knew it as a freshman. He can play all five positions. He is a better all-around player.

"Sure, it is a hard comparison because they play two different positions. But Jabari had a better understanding of the game at an early age, when to score, how to score. Derrick was more of a passer. He didn't become a shooter until last year (in the NBA)."

Smith pointed out that Rose wasn't a dominant scorer in high school. "But he could have been. In his junior year, we had to make a rule for him. If he didn't take at least 10 shots in a game, the other players had to run in practice. Guys on the bench counted his shots. We wanted him to be more of a scorer. They had to run twice that season," he said.

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

Network to televise LIVE coverage of the Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships from Redbird Arena in Normal, IL over the next two weekends

PLUS -- Live streaming coverage of EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast – including surrounding pre/postgame coverage – to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app

NBCSportsChicago.com/Preps to air highlight packages from all semifinal, consolation, and championship games; “High School Lites” Girls Championships specials to air Feb. 23 & Mar. 2 at 11:00 PM CT

Chicago, IL (February 20, 2018) NBC Sports Chicago, the home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Championships, will be airing LIVE cross-platform coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships on Friday, February 23 & Saturday, February 24 (Class 1A & 2A) and Friday, March 2 & Saturday, March 3 (Class 3A & 4A) from Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal, IL.  Over the next two weekends, Illinois preps hoops fans can look forward to seeing every action-packed semifinal, consolation and championship battle starting Friday at 11:00 AM CT featuring four, live semifinal match-ups, along with a pair of consolation and two huge state championship title games on Saturday.  Plus – EVERY game will be telecast in a high-definition (HD) format.  The 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships will be produced by the IHSA & PlayOn! Sports.

In addition -- EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast on NBC Sports Chicago, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, will be streamed LIVE on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.  Authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers can watch live IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships action from anywhere in the United States.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Several IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecasts will all air live on NBC Sports Chicago+…NBC Sports Chicago+ is located on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area and in South Bend, IN, and on ch. 285 in Comcast/Xfinity’s Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets…viewers are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s special “Channel Finder” section (http://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/channel-finder ) or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for ALL games throughout the state. 
  • Fans are also strongly urged to interact via Twitter throughout the entire weekend by utilizing the hashtag #IHSA to share their comments and showcase their school spirit for their favorite teams. 

In addition, NBCSportsChicago.com’s IHSA Preps section (NBCSportsChicago.com/preps) will feature highlight packages from all games over the next two weekends, plus – NBC Sports Chicago viewers can look forward to a special championship editions of High School Lites on Friday, February 23 & Friday, March 2 (both nights live at 11:00 PM) for a complete rundown of every girls championship game, including expanded highlights and player/coaches interviews, along with the latest highlights and playoff scenarios for the upcoming IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships, which will take place the weekends of March 8-10 & March 17-18 at Carver Arena in Peoria, IL.  (NOTE: Full schedule details regarding NBC Sports Chicago’s live coverage of the 2017 Boys Basketball State Championships will be announced the week of March 5.)

The following schedule details NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships over the next two weekends (all times Central Time) (play-by-play/color analyst/sideline reporting teams are in parentheses):

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23

11:00 AM –      Class 1A Semifinal #1: Okaw Valley (Bethany) vs. Stockton (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A Semifinal #2: Lebanon vs. Schlarman (Danville) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #1: Harlan (Chicago) vs. Eureka (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #2: Marshall (Chicago) vs. Teutopolis (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24

11:00 AM –      Class 1A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

FRIDAY, MARCH 2

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

SATURDAY, MARCH 3

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air in its entirety on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER  for the exact channel location in your area)…ALSO, this game will be joined in progress on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel location immediately following “Blackhawks Postgame Live”

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

2017 grade: C-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Willie Young (contract), Pernell McPhee (contract), Sam Acho (free agent), Lamarr Houston (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Ansah, Adrian Clayborn, Connor Barwin, Kony Ealy

 

Would you believe that no true outside linebacker in this year’s free agent class had more sacks than Lamarr Houston did last year? Houston and the Rams’ Connor Barwin each had five, underscoring how rare it is for an elite edge rusher to make it to free agency.

 

There are a few that, for now, are due to hit the open market. DeMarcus Lawrence racked up 14 ½ sacks with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but played as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. The same goes for the Detroit Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah, who had a dozen sacks in 2017. But if either reaches free agency, it’d be a surprise -- again, pass-rushers with that kind of production rarely escape the franchise tag.

 

If Lawrence or Ansah do become available, the Bears would likely be a part of the feeding frenzy to sign either player. Whether they could convince either player that 1) Chicago is a desirable destination and 2) that they’d be just as, if not more, productive in a 3-4 base instead of a 4-3 is a different question.

 

The same goes for Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn, who had 9 ½ sacks last year (including a ridiculous six-sack game) but played in a 4-3 and may not be looking to leave Atlanta. The Falcons, though, could be in a tricky salary cap situation with defensive lineman Dontari Poe and longtime kicker Matt Bryant both due to hit free agency.

 

Fangio’s scheme is malleable, though, and any of these players would be a fit in it one way or another. Spotrac estimates Lawrence would command an average annual salary of $14 million per year, while Ansah would be slightly lower at $13.2 million. Either way, either of those guys could command the biggest contract Pace has given a defensive player (although the Bears were prepared to give cornerback A.J. Bouye more than the $13.5 million average annual salary that he’s receiving with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Both Willie Young and Pernell McPhee could be released this off-season, too, to free up cap room. Cutting Young would net $4.5 million in cap savings, while a release of McPhee would free up a little over $7 million, according to Spotrac. Of the two, Young may be the more likely guy to stick around, despite coming off a season-ending triceps injury. While he’ll be 33 next September, Young has 9 ½ sacks in the last two year while McPhee has eight (while playing in more games than Young). This may not be an either-or situation, though -- the Bears could very well cut both.

 

Houston is an interesting option to retain after he racked up four sacks in five games after returning to the Bears last December. He’s struggled to stay healthy in his career, though, and the Bears probably wouldn’t re-sign him and count on the 30-year-old to be a starter in 2018, especially considering the uncertain recovery status of Leonard Floyd. Sam Acho could be brought back as a solid depth option, too.

 

The success of this unit, though, will hinge more on Floyd than whatever the Bears are able to do in free agency or the draft. The Bears need their 2016 first-round pick to A) stay healthy and B) improve as an edge rusher after injuries have limited him to 22 games and 11 ½ sacks in his first two seasons. If every team needs three reliable pass-rushers, the Bears will need to pencil in Floyd next to Akiem Hicks (who, for what it’s worth, is more of a run-stuffer, but did total 8 ½ sacks in 2017) and then either a free agent or a draft pick.

 

The most likely route to land that third pass rusher, though, is probably through the draft unless a top talent like Lawrence, Ansah or Clayborn hits free agency -- and then matches with the Bears.