PARKER TO BUCKS
Commitment means something to Jabari Parker.
He appreciated how much Duke coveted his services for college basketball when he came out of Chicago’s Simeon High School last year as the nation’s top prep basketball player.
On Thursday night, when the time came to take his game to its highest level, he saw another team live up to its word by committing to him.
In the days leading up to the NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks told Parker they wanted him if Cleveland didn’t select him with the No.1 overall pick.
When the Cavaliers selected Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Milwaukee followed through, picked Parker and brought him back to his Midwestern roots.
“It’s just been real humbling to get anybody who just wants you,” Parker said. “I’ve been having the luxury of Duke and Simeon really embracing me and the Bucks have shown that by picking me up. Even if it was the No. 1 pick, the No. 3 pick, I’m just so, so glad and so grateful.”
The Cavaliers considered the 6-8 Parker for the top pick along with Australian teenager Dante Exum, a 6-5 shooting guard and son of former UNC player Cecil Exum, and Wiggins’ Kansas teammate Joel Embiid.
Parker, though, said leading into the draft that he never received a solid commitment from Cleveland.
So he had it in his mind that he’d be heading to Milwaukee, located just 81 miles north of his hometown of Chicago.
“I was just going off what I was given,” Parker said. “They told me they were all in.”
Bucks general manager John Hammond revealed that to reporters in Milwaukee after the pick was made: “We were fairly assured that this is exactly what we needed to do,” Hammond said. “I feel even more so after it’s done.”
In his lone season at Duke last season, Parker led the Blue Devils in scoring (19.1 points) and rebounding (8.7) for a 26-9 team. He was selected a first-team, All-American and won the Wayman Tisdale Award as the nation’s top freshman.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has said that he expects Parker to be a 20-point scorer immediately in the NBA, saying he’s the top scorer available this year.
Hammond agrees that Parker will be hard to handle, even in the NBA.
“He’s a matchup problem,” Hammond said. “He can create a shot for himself, can also go into the post and put his back to the basket.”
Parker doesn’t even mind if the Bucks use him at different positions. That, he said, would be following with what Krzyzewski trained him to do at Duke.
“Yeah I’m just trying to continue that role that I was given by Coach K, just being a complete basketball player. Whether they want me at the two, the one, the five ... I’m able to fit in all slots and able to contribute in the best ways.”
With Milwaukee committing itself to Parker, he has every intention of reciprocating.
“I’m going to bring everything that I’ve got,” Parker said. “You know, you ain’t got to ask for anything else. When I said I was committed to Duke, I gave them everything I had and even with my high school. So I’m going to try to do the same thing with Milwaukee.”
And Parker even took things further, stating that he wouldn’t mind spending his entire career with Milwaukee.
“They are a young team,” Parker said. “I feel like I can contribute right off the bat. I feel like I’m going to be able to grow with that organization and I’m trying to be a throwback player, only stick with one team. This might bite me in the butt years from now, but right now I just want to stick with whoever’s rolling with me.”
Duke has had at least one first-round pick in each of the last four NBA drafts, with Parker joining Kyrie Irving (Cleveland, 2011), Nolan Smith (Portland, 2011), Austin Rivers (New Orleans, 2012), Miles Plumlee (Indiana, 2012) and Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn, 2013) as Duke’s most-recent first-rounders.