Monson: Jabari Parker shows up at BYU
The fast-acting pill that would help remedy what ails BYU basketball sat in his seat at the Marriott Center on Saturday night, watching what needs to be made whole.
Jabari Parker, the Chicago high school recruit of all recruits, the kid being wooed by the biggest college basketball names in the land, was on hand for the BYU-Cal State Northridge game. And the Cougar love washed over him maybe we should rephrase that with a building full of focus on him, with thousands of students and fans wearing T-shirts that read: "Chicago to Provo." A sign in the stands made vital stats clear to the phenom: "BYU 15,994 Mormon girls, Duke 13 Mormon girls."
Whether that made the kid feel more comfortable or less is unknown.
For basketball alone, the notion of Parker being interested in BYU is a rubbery stretch hard for some to take seriously. But the Cougars are dead serious about it, and their fans have blown right past excitement, straight to frenzy. The final five schools remaining on his list are Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Stanford and BYU. To great heartbreak for them, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina already had been eliminated by Parker.
How often does anybody around here see that â¦ the Cougars outlasting the Jayhawks, Wildcats and Tar Heels?
Parker's high school coach, Robert Smith, told ESPN last month that the No. 1-ranked senior, who is LDS, is earnest about his inclusion of BYU, which despite a decent basketball program, seems like the oddball in Sesame Street's one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others sketch.
"All five schools are schools he's really interested in and really thinking about attending," Smith said. "He's really thinking about BYU. I know his faith has a lot to do with it. The coaching staff has been great with him. They've been a winning program. That's one of his choices."
If Parker were to select BYU, he'd have a huge, if brief, impact. He was the Gatorade national player of the year as a junior last season, averaging 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks at Simeon Career Academy. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound athlete is considered by many scouts a transformative, generational-type talent. Some say he would be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft in 2014, if he made himself available.
A couple of things:
There are guesses about whether Parker will go on an LDS mission. Nobody but him knows for sure. That variable changes things. If he doesn't go, chances are he'll be a one-and-done collegian.
But that one year could be sweet for whichever school gets him. There obviously are busts among hoop wunderkinds, but based on what Parker has shown in his early development, it would be shocking to see him tailspin. He's remarkably skilled, a conscientious worker, a mature kid who seems to get it. It's different than the last time BYU landed a No. 1 recruit, a quarterback named Jake Heaps, who found his troubles in Provo before transferring.
The one-year thing is significant. Getting Parker likely would boost a Cougar program in a major way for only that minor amount of time, but while it lasted, it would give BYU precisely what it lacks and what it needs so badly: a star.
The Cougars essentially right now are what they almost always are a nice little team that plays in a nice little conference with nice little results. They aren't a big threat on a big scale. Short of having a karma-altering force like Jimmer Fredette, that's probably what the Cougars will go on being. Dave Rose gets solid recruits and makes as much of them as he can. The incoming classes in the near future look promising but familiar.
Unless he gets Parker.
That changes the deal and the hype and hullabaloo surrounding the program for 2014. Add Parker to the talent already in hand, which is solid but limited, and the Cougars become a legitimate threat. It would be a heady ride, a burning ball of flame and fire for a short season. But what a ridiculous season it could be, a season equaled only by the anticipation leading up to it.
Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
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