CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Jabari Parker did his best to play it cool, but every once in a while he peeked over at LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade sitting courtside.
Yes, three of the NBA's biggest stars had come to the BankUnited Center on Wednesday night to watch Parker play.
Duke's freshman forward didn't disappoint, totaling 17 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks as the Blue Devils routed Miami 67-46. Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, several NBA scouts and others members of the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers also were part of the sellout crowd.
"It was blessing to see that they look out for the little guys in this basketball fraternity," Parker said of James, Bryant and Wade. "To tell you the truth, I'm focused on our guys. But you're a kid and you're going to look up at them every once in a while."
Parker is expected to be among the short list of candidates considered for the top pick in June's NBA draft. DraftExpress.com has him ranked as the third-best prospect. Parker is averaging 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds this season. He also was the first freshman since Texas' Kevin Durant (2006-07 season) to score at least 20 points in his first seven games.
One NBA scout in attendance, however, expressed concerns about Parker's ability to run the floor and questioned how much more his game could grow. Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid and Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart drew more praise from this scout.
"I think Jabari Parker is about as good as he is going to get," the scout said.
Wade and Parker, both Chicago natives who have known each other for years, exchanged pleasantries on the court after the game. Parker, Wade and the Heat's Shane Battier, a former Duke star, were part of a big crowd outside Duke's locker room after the game. Bryant told Parker that he was impressed with his rebounding.
Parker was too shy to allow a Duke photographer to take a picture of him and Bryant, but he did take one with Wade's young sons. James departed before the game ended, but said on his Twitter account that he had come to see Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Parker.
Parker isn't expected to return for his sophomore season, but said he has not made a decision on whether he will enter this year's draft.
"I'm going to sit down with my parents at the end of the season and decide if I want to return or do other things with my life, or if I want to take my talents to the next level," Parker said.
James, Bryant and Wade played for Krzyzewski with USA Basketball. Bryant is in town because the Los Angeles Lakers play the Heat on Thursday.
"They've really set a great example of how you should play the game and love the game," Krzyzewski said of the NBA stars. "I think it's filtered there through all aspects of U.S. basketball."
- Sports & Recreation
- Jabari Parker
- Dwyane Wade
- Kobe Bryant
- Los Angeles Lakers
- LeBron James