Friday, Sept 16, 2011
Posted: 1:24 p.m.
By Taylor Bell
The two most widely respected basketball recruiting analysts in the country agree that Simeon's Jabari Parker is the No. 1 player in the class of 2013, if not the best player regardless of class, based on extensive evaluations during the past spring and summer.
"He has improved his game in places that he didn't have, said Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com, who has been evaluating high school players for more than 30 years. Now he is a very good three-point shooter, which is why people have compared him to Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce.
"He is the most consistent player in his class. I saw him in Milwaukee in April and he never went downhill all summer long. He clearly was the go-to guy for Team USA. He lifts people around him. He understands the game, is a good passer, good handler and can play in a team concept."
Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports, who also has been evaluating teenage talent since the 1970s, said Parker rates ahead of Julius Randle and Nerlens Noel "because he has the total package of offensive and defensive skills. You could make a strong case for him being the best player of all."
Gibbons said Parker could be the best player he has seen since former Farragut star Kevin Garnett in 1995.
"I like the way he handles himself, he said. He isn't a showboat. He is athletic, knows the game, can score and has skills and abilities advanced for his age. You never would know by watching him on the court that he is in the class of 2013."
Coleman pointed out that the 6-foot-7 Parker dropped 20 pounds -- "He was getting heavy in the middle," Coleman said -- and appeared much quicker and more explosive. He is improving his skills, particularly his three-point shooting, as former Simeon star Derrick Rose did on his way from Memphis to the NBA.
If not Parker, then who?
If Parker isn't the No. 1 player in the nation, regardless of class, Coleman might give an edge to 6-foot-6 Shabazz Muhammad of Las Vegas, who is the top-rated player in the class of 2012,. Gibbons, meanwhile, is high on 6-foot-6 Julius Randle of Plano, Texas, who was rated as the No. 1 player in the class of 2013 before Parker made his spring and summer surge.
"Muhammad is a more explosive athlete," Coleman said, "but Parker is a better shooter and a more skilled player."
"Randle came on. He was pretty amazing and consistent in all events he played in," Gibbons said. "Some say he is the best junior. Physically, he is stronger than Parker. But Parker has more talent."
Class is in session
Parker wasn't the only Chicagoland product who impressed Coleman and Gibbons in recent months. Here is a look at representatives from the classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014:
: Simeon's Steve Taylor, a 6-foot-7 senior who is universally regarded as the No. 1 player in Illinois in the class of 2012, climbed to No. 67 nationally. His offseason play earned him a scholarship to Marquette.
"I saw him when Jabari Parker wasn't there and he made a difference, Coleman said. He could be a top 50 player by the end of the season. "In fact, at one event, a college scout said he would be a 'one and done' player an NBA draftee after his freshman year if he continued to play hard all the time. He has that kind of potential."
: Five Chicago players -- Parker, Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, Simeon's Kendrick Nunn, De La Salle's Alex Foster and Morgan Park's Billy Garrett -- could rank among the nations top 50 in the class of 2013 and as many as 11 could rank among the top 150. It is a deep class, like 1979 and 1998.
: Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Paul White and Curie's Cliff Alexander are headliners in the class of 2014. Okafor, a 6-foot-8, 240-pounder, is battling 6-foot-10 Dakari Johnson of Elizabeth, N.J., for the No. 2 spot behind 6-foot-7 Andrew Wiggins of Vaughan, Ontario, Canada.
"Okafor more than holds his own against older kids and dominates against kids his own age," Coleman said. "He has great hands, a nice touch and can power it up and throw it down."
: Alexander, a 6-foot-9 power forward, "has made as big a move as anyone in the last 8-10 months," said Coleman. "He has great hands, powers around the basket and can run the floor well. He gets the ball off the glass and gets it down the floor."
Alexander already has offers from Illinois, DePaul and Michigan State. He and Curie teammate Detalion Jackson, a 6-foot-10 freshman, recently made a visit to the Indiana campus. According to Coleman, Okafor and Alexander would rank among the top 10 in the nation in the class of 2014.
: Best player nobody knows about? McKenzie Moore, a 6-foot-7 fifth-year senior from Pleasant Hill, Calif. He didn't play as a true senior because of California rules. He was going to attend California-St. Mary's. Nobody knew anything about him. But he caught everybody's attention in Las Vegas. He has offers from the Big 10, Pac-10 and Big East. He may have to go to a junior college. But he could be a pro some day.
Coleman, who is based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, annually travels coast-to-coast to evaluate 10,000 kids at 30 events during a 26-week period. He averages 40,000 miles via car, 30,000 miles via air. His luggage once landed in Dayton while he was arriving in Dallas.
"There is no such thing as vacation," he said. "You take a day off when you can. When I stop traveling, I write and do scouting service stuff and write about commitments."
He lists about 50 great restaurants along his route but he insists the best meal he has at Rube's Steakhouse in Montour, Iowa, only 50 miles from his home. He says you can't beat Rube's signature steak, a 24-ounce sirloin.
The buffet at Bellagio in Las Vegas isn't bad, either.
The best hotel? Avia in Long Beach, Calif. It rates four stars. "I can't afford it. It's a luxury hotel. But I've got to go there," he said.
Now he is launching a new project, XnOfan.com, which will cover basketball and football, like Scout and Rivals. It will be free to one and all.
"My worst experience? I went to check in at the Minneapolis airport and lost my credit card," Coleman recalled. "Somebody found it but an airlines employee cut it up. They are supposed to keep them for three days.
"Well, I was going to Las Vegas and had only 40 in my pocket. I called my wife Kris and asked her to wire me 500 through Western Union. The bank said it would take some time to send me a replacement credit card. I was in Las Vegas with no money for two days."