Duke's Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood headed to NBA

Apr. 18, 2014 @ 06:45 PM

From the day Jabari Parker committed to play basketball at Duke, his quick ascension to top NBA draft pick was considered a fait accompli.

For all his mulling over the last month since Duke’s stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer, that proved to be spot on.

Parker announced Thursday that he’s leaving the Blue Devils after one outstanding season to enter this summer’s NBA Draft.

Late Thursday night, Duke redshirt sophomore forward Rodney Hood confirmed to The Herald-Sun that he too will declare for this year’s NBA Draft. He said he had yet to hire an agent.

Hood played one season for the Blue Devils after transferring from Mississippi State and sitting out a year per NCAA transfer rules. He was a second-team All-ACC honoree this season Parker, a 6-8 forward from Chicago ,came to Duke after being named the nation’s top high school player. He played so well at Duke, leading the team in scoring (19.1 points) and rebounding (8.7), that he was named the Wayman Tisdale Award winner as the nation’s top freshman.

“Jabari could not have been better,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is the epitome of what you would want a basketball player to be — outstanding everyday on the practice court and in the classroom and a very humble young man. He had a fantastic freshman year and is so deserving of the opportunity to play in the NBA and follow his dream.

Parker is the first Duke freshman to lead the team in scoring and rebounding. He joins Corey Maggette, Luol Deng, Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers as players to leave Duke for the NBA after just one season.

When the Blue Devils (26-9) lost 78-71 to Mercer on March 21, it marked the second time in three seasons that Duke failed to win an NCAA Tournament game. Parker said following the game that the loss made his Duke career “incomplete.”

Despite that, NBA draft analysts have projected Parker to be selected among the first three picks of the June 26 draft. That guarantees him nearly $10 million in salary from his NBA team in addition to opportunities to make millions in endorsements.

“Coming out of high school, I knew that Duke was going to be a great fit for me and it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life,” Parker said. “I cannot thank Coach K enough for all his love and guidance. I had the opportunity to pick his brain throughout the year and it really paid off. I have learned how to be a man on and off the court and to be strong mentally going into practices and games. I appreciate him for challenging me to be better each and every day.”

Parker was named Duke’s most valuable player at Wednesday night’s team banquet. He made no public comments during the event, which was held at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“It was an honor for us to have him in our program and he will always be a part of our family here at Duke,” Krzyzewski said. “We will be on the Jabari Parker team the rest of our lives and we know Jabari and his family will be on the Duke team for the rest of their lives.”

The Blue Devils are still awaiting official word on Rodney Hood’s future. The redshirt sophomore is strongly considering entering the NBA Draft, where he is projected to be selected in the middle of the first round. Hood, a 6-8 forward from Meridian, Miss., averaged 16.1 points per game to finish second behind Parker for the team lead.

The departures of Hood and Parker won’t leave Duke’s roster devoid of talent. The Blue Devils have secured one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, featuring 6-11 center Jahlil Okafor, 6-6 forward Justise Winslow, 6-4 shooting guard Grayson Allen and 6-1 point guard Tyus Jones.

Duke also returns experienced guards in senior Quinn Cook and junior Rasheed Sulaimon and junior post starter Amile Jefferson.

Duke is also in the running for Sean Obi, a 6-9, 265-pound forward from Rice who is transferring. Obi led Conference USA in rebounding as a freshman this season. He visited Vanderbilt last weekend and is scheduled to be on campus at Duke today.