Jabari Parker, the top player in the NCAA recruiting class of 2013, is the biggest star of 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship where defending champion USA is trying to retain the title. Parker will be a senior on Simeon Career Academy this fall.
After four games played, USA Team remains unbeaten while the 17-year-old Parker averages 13.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
RealGM recently spoke with Parker, who shared his thoughts about 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, international experience and his young career.
RealGM: How would you evaluate the beginning of the championship so far?
Parker: It’s been good; it’s been a pretty good competition. They’re giving us a little bit of a preview of what we can expect in the championship and just preparing us for the playoffs. That’s where we want to be, where we want to get to. And hopefully we’ll pick up things from there.
RealGM: That's no surprise, as USA is full of superstars. How do you manage to share the ball among all of you?
Parker: We just put our egos aside. We just go out there and play amongst each other and try to involve all of our teammates, just always being positive.
RealGM: You are already ranked No. 1 in the class of 2013. Do you think that playing in international competitions can make you a better player?
Parker: Oh yes. Every opportunity I get to play against the best competition, that just betters my game. I think that one day, if I don’t get a chance to play in the NBA, maybe I can get some looks at playing overseas.
RealGM: What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned playing international ball?
Parker: It just prepares me for future things. Maybe one day I would get to play for the USA in the Olympics. It just gets me familiar with playing under different rules and different styles of play. It just makes my game better.
RealGM: We have seen many examples of young American talents refusing to play for the national team. Did you ever catch yourself second-guessing ‘maybe I shouldn’t do this’?
Parker: I did at first, but this summer I had to take advantage of it. I don’t get to go to school; therefore I just have to get better. I have to play basketball and keep on going. Get more experience. I’m from the USA and a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to go to Europe. I’m just taking every advantage and every opportunity I get. I’m using it on my behalf.
RealGM: Has anything surprised you culturally when you go out of your home country?
Parker: It didn’t surprise me. I knew it’s going to be different, but you just have to humble yourself and be adjusted to what they have to offer. Lithuania is a very beautiful place, very clean. It’s different from anywhere in the States.
RealGM: As I said previously, you are ranked No. 1 in the class of 2013. How do you manage to stay so humble?
Parker: I don’t let it get to my head. I play basketball for the fun of it. I don’t do it for any hype, any acknowledgement or accolades. I just do it because I love it and because I’m a competitor. I just love winning.
RealGM: You have a lot pressure and expectations, how are you dealing with that?
Parker: At first it got to me. But now I’m just learning how to let it go through my ears and not pay attention to it. I just need to keep going out there and get better and never find myself getting complacent. And just have fun. I’m not going to be able to play basketball for as long as it counts. So I just have to take the years when I’m young and just have fun with it.
RealGM: Is anything but winning gold a failure for Team USA?
Parker: Yes, it’s a failure. We come out here as the best team. We can’t comeback home without winning gold or they will ask us a lot of questions. So to prevent all that from happening we just have to go out and win.
RealGM: Being from the Mormon religion, you have the option of completing a mission or going to university and play basketball. Have you made a decision on that yet?
Parker: No, I haven’t made a decision yet. As the years go by I just want to set my example as a person. But at the end of the day, I just want to do what’s better for me.
RealGM: When people ask you about your religion, what responses do you get?
Parker: I just get the same responses. I’m here on this Earth not too long and I’m just here to leave my mark. I’m very religious and I’m here to spread the gospel and get people to know God better because that’s what helps me. It would be selfish if I didn’t give them the good word and that helps me out.
RealGM: Your father was an NBA player, how did he help you to develop your game?
Parker: Not a lot of people have the opportunity to have a two-parent home. And I think I’m fortunate. I think my dad has helped me in different ways that I don’t even appreciate yet. But now as I start getting older, I’m just starting to be more thankful. He has so much knowledge of the game. Just his example and his activeness in the community is what I look up to.
RealGM: Where do you see your game right now, what do you need to improve?
Parker: My problem has been getting healthy. I’ve been getting a lot of bumps and bruises. I just need to prevent that and be better mentally.