Mar 21, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1), guard Rasheed Sulaimon (14) and Duke Blue Devils forward Josh Hairston (15) react on the bench against the Mercer Bears in the first half of a men

Breaking Down Jabari Parker's Freshman Season


Yesterday marked the day when the Mercer Bears took down the Duke Blue Devils. A 14 seed taking down a three seed. Atlantic Sun versus ACC. Bob Hoffman versus Coach K. The white boy who hit that Nae-Nae versus Jabari Parker and company.

Duke lost to Mercer. Duke LOST to Mercer. They lost. To. Mercer.

Jabari Parker did not lose to Mercer. He did not play Mercer one on five. There were other guys out on the floor with him when they lost.

Jabari has been spectacular all season long. Now that he is out of the tournament (in the second round) people will start saying that he’s overrated, not a winner or wasn’t clutch and any other lazy narrative that one can think of.

Jabari is still a winner. He is still one of the top prospects in the 2014 NBA draft. He is one of the most polished freshman players in college basketball that I have ever seen. He will be fine.

“Why are you writing about him?” some might be asking. To calm the nerves of those that might overreact, is the answer A lot of people have been highly critical of Parker all season long, myself included, but that was not trying to say he was a terrible player. It was stating why there are worries about him at the next level. So let’s take a look at the season the mighty freshman had.

To start of the season, Duke went 11-2, losing to Kansas and Arizona. Jabari Parker averaged a cool 21 PPG game on 52.8 percent shooting (45 percent from three) and grabbing eight rebounds per game. Granted, many of these teams were smaller, mid-major, type schools, but still incredible numbers.

Parker’s “woes” came against his first couple games in ACC play. In his first ACC game against Notre Dame, he shot 2-of-10, grabbed four rebounds and scored seven points. People might remember this game, because this is where Coach K pulled Parker out during the final stretch. This was the first “freakout” people had when it came to Parker. He struggled over his next three games — coming against Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia. He shot 33 percent from the field, grabbed a total of 16 rebounds and “only” netted 35 points –so just a little over 11 points per game. People started to question if he was hitting that “freshman wall” or if he was the same player everyone saw against those smaller schools.

Something clicked after those four down games. Duke ended the season on a 13-4 run. Parker scored 20 or more points seven times and scored in double figures all 17 games. The most impressive thing was how Jabari changed his game to less outside and more inside. He went from shooting about four three-pointers per game to just two per game. Coach K told him to start using that big, strong body of his and abuse teams in the paint.  He also grabbed double-figure rebounds in 10 of his last 17 games after no double-figure rebounds in his first 17 games.

The fact of the matter is that Jabari Parker is a terrific player. He’s a collegiate stud whose offensive game will translate to the NBA. His deficiencies are his overall defensive ability, along with the question of who will he guard at the next level, plus his play-making ability. Even though I’m not sure I would consider that a deficiency, more of a “didn’t see much because of the offense that he was in” trait.

The biggest question about Parker is if he will stay at Duke for one more year or declare for the draft. I wouldn’t be surprised either way; I would be disappointed however if he stayed. He has the motivation to stay in school because Duke’s team will be absolutely loaded next year with his buddy Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen coming in. With that team, they should be pre-season favorites to win it all next year. This article makes me a little skeptical that he enters the NBA draft but most of it is just paranoia.

All in all, Jabari will be fine whether he stays in college or goes to the NBA. He is 18 years old. Parker is way too gifted and way too smart for this being the “final product” He will continue to get better and will continue to win, whether in the NBA or at Duke for another season. If it’s in the NBA, hopefully it will be in a Sixers uniform.

Tags: Coach K Duke Duke Blue Devils Jabari Parker