HS hoops star makes his college decision

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HS hoops star makes his college decision

From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Jabari Parker still had just about everyone guessing. Then, he pulled out that blue T-shirt with a white "D," and, finally, it became clear.The prized prospect from Chicago's Simeon Career Academy, one of the most highly touted recruits in years, is headed to Duke to play for Mike Krzyzewski. Parker made the announcement in front of a national TV audience Thursday, in his high school gym, surely delighting Blue Devils fans.A 6-foot-8 forward with the ability to nail jumpers from just about any spot when he's not throwing down vicious dunks, Parker can't sign his letter of intent until April 17. But he made his intentions clear with one highly anticipated oral commitment.Michigan State, Florida, Stanford and Brigham Young also made his top five and caps from each school lined a table next to the podium. But he said it really came down to three schools, with the Gators and Spartans right there with the Blue Devils.In the end, he chose to play for Krzyzewski for at least a year before making what many believe will ultimately be a jump to the NBA."Duke is always going to be a team in the tournament," he said. "You can't go wrong at the program and most importantly, the long-term investment. I feel like if I go there, I can get a good degree. I can also stay close to home where it's easily accessible to my parents, my family. It's not too far away. Coach K, that's one of the best coaches ever, and I wanted to be able to experience the things that he has next year."Parker said he might play two or three seasons in college. Either way, he vowed to get a degree. He also said he didn't decide on a school until about 1 p.m. Central, and he apparently kept his parents in the dark until just before he made his announcement.His mom Lola said Jabari whispered his decision to her and her husband, Sonny, as they were walking into the gym. A few minutes later, he pulled out that Duke T-shirt, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd packing the bleachers behind the podium.Parker committed to join a program next season will lose two key frontcourt players -- seniors Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly -- from a team that earlier this week rose to No. 1 for the first time since February 2011.Parker figures to fit right in on a talented group of players that will include Quinn Cook, who's expected to be in his second year as the starting point guard, and returns pure shooter Andre Dawkins, who's expected back after redshirting this season.Turning down the other programs, particularly Michigan State, wasn't easy, particularly after coach Tom Izzo's final pitch Wednesday.Simeon coach Robert Smith was so impressed he said, "If he was recruiting me yesterday, I would have committed."Parker didn't. He saw a potential for controversy with him and the Spartans' Branden Dawson playing the same position. Instead, he's headed to Duke even though he said that was his "worst" on-campus visit."I didn't do what I wanted to do -- that's be a kid," he said. "But I know being at college, it's all business. That's what they wanted to do, to show me. I know I didn't have a good time, but they just wanted to tell me, prepare for me and give me a little bit of a taste of how it's going to be in college."Lola Parker said she was more interested in Krzyzewski the person than the Krzyzewski the coaching icon. She mentioned his character, his discipline and his final home visit on Tuesday."The first time Coach K came in, he stood up and showed Jabari where his foot should be on an offensive or a defensive play," she said. "He showed Jabari where his arms should be. This guy doesn't sit down. We kind of laughed about it, and it was the same thing Tuesday. I moved my coffee table to the side to make sure he had room right there to get up."Given Jabari Parker's skills, it's easy to see why just about every major program was interested in him.Parker just might be the greatest prospect to come out of Simeon, and that's saying something considering Derrick Rose played there. All he did was go on to become the MVP with the hometown Bulls.As for Parker, his credentials to this point sure are impressive.He received the Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year award after leading Simeon to its third straight state championship while averaging 19.5 points and 8.9 rebounds as a junior.His father played six seasons with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA after starring at Chicago's Farragut Career Academy."He has a gift and he has what's called It'," Sonny Parker said.Religion also plays a big role in Jabari's life. He is a devout Mormon, just like his mom, and he has talked about going on a mission. He's not sure if he will do that, but he did make one thing clear:He plans to get his degree.Now that he's made his college choice and assuming he doesn't have a change of heart, Jabari can focus on leading Simeon to another state title and getting his conditioning back after being slowed by a broken right foot.The injury over the summer caused him to push back some recruiting trips and delay his decision rather than commit during the early signing period last month. He's also missed a game this week because he's trying to work his way back from the injury, an obstacle for a player rarely stopped on the court, but this moment was years in the making.Lola Parker recalled in an interview at the family's house earlier this year that she could see it when Jabari, the youngest of seven children, was in the second grade going against the fourth and fifth-graders in a league run by Sonny, who established a foundation to help inner-city youth in Chicago after he retired.Scholarship offers started rolling in when Jabari was in the sixth grade, and now, it's not uncommon for him to get mobbed by fans at games, even though they're often not from Simeon.Usually, he'll accommodate them, but sometimes, he needs an escape.He finds one in religion. That means rising several days a week at 5 a.m. for Bible study and heading from the family's brick bungalow on the city's South Side to worship a few miles away, near the University of Chicago.The day of the interview at the house earlier this year, there was a reminder on Jabari's door to "put the Lord first" along with several sheets of 8-by-10 white paper. One listed the Ten Commandments, the other personal rules such as "don't be quick to judge" and "Think positive things."For now, big things are happening for Parker. He's headed to a storied program. And then?"His potential, the sky's the limit," Sonny Parker said.

Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

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Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.

Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?

Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.

The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.

Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.

Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

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Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

The Patriots have eight picks remaining on the final day of the draft. While they may not use all of those selections -- they currently have 80 players on the roster, leaving them with only two slots for undrafted free agents if they use all of their picks -- they still have plenty of opportunities to take chances on talented athletes Saturday. 

Here's a quick look at some of the best players available after they spent their first four selections on a corner (Cyrus Jones, Alabama, pick No. 60), an offensive lineman (Joe Thuney, North Carolina State, No. 78), a quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, No. 91) and a defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, No. 96). 

The Patriots have one fourth-round pick, five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders remaining.

RUNNING BACK: KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

Listed as one of our top players available after Day 1, Dixon is still hanging around after nearly 100 picks have gone off the board. Perhaps his level of competition at Louisiana Tech has worked against him. Perhaps his fumbling issues have come back to bite him. Perhaps this is simply an indication of how the rest of the league considers this position. Only four backs have been drafted through the first three rounds. 

Other top running backs available: Jordan Howard, Indiana; Devontae Booker, Utah; Paul Perkins, UCLA; Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; Alex Collins, Arkansas. 

RECEIVER: DANIEL BRAVERMAN, WESTERN MICHIGAN

If ever there was a player who stood out as a potential Patriots pick, it would be Braverman. At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, he is a prototypical slot receiver whose skill set resembles that of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Troy Brown. He's very shifty in and out of his breaks, he does a great deal of his work while risking big hits over the middle of the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way, and he churns out yards after the catch with speed and good vision. 

Other top receivers available: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State; Devon Cajuste, Stanford; Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa; Keenan Reynolds, Navy.

LINEBACKER: JOSH PERRY, OHIO STATE

This Buckeye seems to fit the size profile the Patriots typically like in their receivers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He runs well enough to be able to track ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, and he has a ton of experience coming downhill to make big hits in the running game. Perry will need some work before he's a reliable defender in coverage, but on first and second downs he could be a force. 

Other top linebackers available: Scooby Wright III, Arizona; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt; Blake Martinez, Stanford; De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: HASSAN RIDGEWAY, TEXAS

A college teammate of Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Ridgeway is considered by many to be more physically talented than Brown was when he declared for the draft. Injuries hurt Ridgeway's productivity last season, and there are some who question his conditioning, but he understands how to be a disruptive force on the interior, both in the running game and in the passing game. If he's in shape and can maintain the level of fitness that will be expected of him as a pro, he could turn into an immediate contributor.

Other top defensive tackles available: Andrew Billings, Baylor; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DJ Reader, Clemson; Dean Lowry, Northwestern; Justin Zimmer, Ferris State.