Parker enduring tough stretch

Jan. 07, 2014 @ 10:52 PM

Jabari Parker’s struggles on the basketball court are unprecedented, especially compared to his lofty standards.

The Duke freshman averaged 21.4 points over the Blue Devils first 12 games, vaulting himself in to the national player of the year conversation.

But the 6-8 forward has managed just 19 points over Duke’s last two games, a 79-77 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday and Tuesday night’s 79-57 win over Georgia Tech at Cameroon Indoor Stadium.

Both times, Parker found himself on the bench during the final stages of the second half. On Saturday, it was his ineffective play. On Tuesday, it was the fourth foul he picked up with 7:53 to play. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski removed Parker and didn’t call on him again, just as he did over the final 3:35 at Notre Dame.

“The last couple of games it’s just been off times,” Parker said. “At the same time, I’m seeing a lot of my teammates doing well. That’s an excitement for me. I know I’ve just got to be patient. Things are going to just come through.”

Parker’s shooting is markedly off. He’s made just six of 22 shots over the last two games. He made four of 12 against Georgia Tech with only two of his baskets coming on jump shots.

Krzyzewski said his freshman star is the victim of his own success, which means people expect him to churn out 20-point games with ease. Krzyzewski said the same is true for the nation’s other top freshmen – Kansas’s Andrew Wiggins and Kentucky’s Julius Randle.

“They’re 18, 19 years old,” Krzyzewski said. “They’ve never played at this level. They’ve never played the physicality. They haven’t been as closely scrutinized as everyone’s closely scrutinizing them. They’ve been promoted and marketed as way beyond what they should be. But that’s the way it is. So it’s difficult.”

Parker shooed away a question about the pressure created by living in the media’s fishbowl.

“I never let you all get to me,” Parker said. “I love the game. That’s my joy. I don’t ever look ahead. I just want to win the game. Whatever it is, just focus on that.”

Still, he does have 10 games where he’s scored 20 or more points this season. They haven’t come against weak competition, either.

He scored 27 points against Kansas in a game played in his hometown of Chicago on Nov. 12. He also poured in 27 against Alabama at Madison Square Garden before tallying 19 two nights later against No. 1 Arizona.

He scored 23 in another Duke game at Madison Square Garden, this one a win over UCLA on Dec. 19.

But he’s struggling to score half of his average in his first two ACC games.

Krzyzewski is not panicked over his star’s downturn in production.

“Nothing is instant,” Krzyzewski said. “And so I’ve got to make sure that we don’t let the pressure get to him where he loses the ability to have fun. He plays the game because he has fun playing it and he’s a great kid. Still a kid.”

Parker did contribute six rebounds during his 12-point performance against Georgia Tech. He did it in just 21 minutes on the court.

He knows he’s capable of producing more. But he’s not pressing to do it at the expense of being a detriment to his team.

“My time will come again, hopefully,” Parker said. “But if it doesn’t, as long as we win, as long as I can do things that help the team that’s all my focus.”