By Rowan Shiell
Jabari Parker has yet to officially bounce a basketball in a Duke game, yet he is a marked man. He is the face of the 2013-14 Blue Devils because as the No.2 ranked recruit, earmarked for a lofty NBA draft selection, great things are expected in a projected lone season in college basketball.
Before these expectations get out of hand, consider last season. Kentucky and its highly ranked freshmen, who were meant to be playing in their second Final Four in as many seasons, wound up losing in the first round of the NIT instead. At this point it does not matter how such a highly rated team got derailed. What truly matters here is the lesson we take away from this – not all highly ranked freshmen will deliver the goods.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they are overrated. It just means they are basically freshmen and new to the college game. There have been several first year players that have been major contributors in a championship season but they didn’t do it alone.
Anthony Davis led Kentucky to a championship in 2012 and was named the Final Four Most Valuable Player, but that was almost ten years after another first year player; Carmelo Anthony earned the same title leading Syracuse to a championship in 2003.
One thing to remember is that those were two outstanding freshmen who played on two exceptional teams. The NBA may be about the Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, but college basketball is a team sport. One player may win a few games but not a season.
There have been a few teams with one man scoring machines, but they don’t normally get very far. Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley had great individual numbers, but couldn’t get past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Stephen Curry was an exception, however, he was the last NCAA leading scorer to lead his team deep into the NCAA tournament. Even though he scored a lot of points, Davidson wouldn’t have won if the team had not played very well together.
Remember that legendary 2009 Elite Eight game against Georgetown where Curry was held to 5 points in the first half with Davidson down by 17 points? Then Curry scored 25 points in the second half to push the Wildcats to a 74-70 win. If the team had not played great defense, Curry would have scored all those points in vain.
That’s why it is important that we recognise that Parker is just one player and his teammates are just as important in the coming season. He cannot be hailed as Duke’s lone saviour.
The last No.2 ranked recruit Duke had was Austin Rivers and he won’t be remembered for leading a 27-7, ACC runner up team in scoring as a freshman, or that big shot he made to pull Duke back from the brink of defeat at North Carolina. He is mostly blamed for the second round exit of the NCAA tournament, and that will forever tarnish Austin River’s stay at Duke, which is unfair. Players get hyped up to such a level that even when they do find some success it is belittled because they didn’t live up to a certain perception.
With Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry graduating, the backbone of the last few Duke teams is gone, and a new identity is in order. That’s why it is crucial that expectations be lowered and the team be given some space to grow.
With many shooters on hand, the three point shot will likely be as big a factor as usual. After all, this is Duke. Parker, tabbed as an elite scorer, is expected to be at the forefront of that team. Also with Duke’s perceived lack of height, the 6’8”freshman may be asked to play out of position at power forward, like Kyle Singler did back in 2007.
Just like the current team, the 2007 team was short on big burly post players. Kyle Singler and Lance Thomas were the tallest at 6’8” with an unfortunately often-injured seven footer, Brian Zoubek, on the sidelines. That team made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 28-6 record.
Unlike the 2007 team, Duke is tall by college standards with six players 6’7” or taller, but most of the players are perimeter oriented.
- Strangely just like the 2007 team Duke currently has a freshman that is as tall as Zoubek, and has a history of being injured but we’ve covered the unfortunate career thus far of Marshall Plumlee as few days ago.
In the mean time, Parker seems to be enjoying his time at Duke and his outlook is rather refreshing for someone as highly ranked as he is, especially when he had this to say to Duke Blue Planet about his anticipations for his time at Duke.
“Most importantly, the goal for me is to win a national championship. In my time in college, I want to take advantage of everything here. Whether it is two years or three years, my goal here is to be remembered. I want to be one of the greats to ever come out of the program. Guys like Grant, Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner — they impacted the program so much. I want to be one of those guys to look up to. I want to be remembered by my teammates, the coaching staff, and the managers. We are a fraternity and we are a family, so we want to be remembered by our brothers.”
Stay tuned to Duke Sports Blog for more Duke Basketball player profiles.