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.
BRIGHTON, Mass – With the start of Providence Bruins camp bearing down on Monday, the Boston Bruins know their NHL training camp numbers will be thinning out very shortly. That won’t change some pretty established forward combinations that head coach Bruce Cassidy has been working with throughout camp thus far.
Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have skated together consistently as they obviously should as one of the league’s most lethal duos, and they’ve been teamed with rookie Anders Bjork at right wing pretty consistently through camp. David Krejci and David Pastrnak have also been linked together for every practice, game and drill since the 21-year-old Pastrnak signed his new six-year contract, and it’s been rookie Jake DeBrusk with them for most of camp.
Matt Beleskey finished the night in Detroit with Krejci and Pastrnak, and one begins to wonder if that’s where the established, 28-year-old Beleskey finds himself when the regular season begins.
That may or may not change after the young left winger was taken off their line in Saturday night’s preseason debacle in Detroit, but the point stands that Krejci and Pastrnak are expected to be on the same line to start the season. The same would seem to be the case with Riley Nash and Noel Acciari as fourth liners that really established themselves toward the end of last season, and have had Tim Schaller and Jesse Gabrielle cycle through as candidates.
That leaves the Bruins third line where the choices aren’t quite as easy for Cassidy, and where there are several different options for the Bruins coaching staff. Ryan Spooner and David Backes played together an ample amount of time last season, and would seem to be a good combo where their very different strengths can complement each other. Sean Kuraly and Backes would certainly give the Bruins a big, bruising, North/South third line dimension, and showed how effective they could be in the first round of the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson got some early looks with Backes as well, but it seems a foregone conclusion he'll start in the AHL after getting dinged up earlier this week in preseason action. Backes hasn’t been shy about his preference to see where this combo could take them given his preference for a bit of old school smash-mouth hockey.
“It depends on usage, and that conversation has yet to be had. Are we going to be a checking line that’s going to get the matchup against the other team’s top line, or if we’re going to roll three lines that can responsibly play against any line then the makeup of [the line] changes a little bit,” said Backes. “I think another big body to get pucks in and have that grind really wearing things down, and kind of setting things up for the line after us, is first and foremost on my mind.
“I think there are certainly plays to be made on entrances, but there’s a lot of times when there’s not. But starting up that grind game that’s there at times, the more often it’s there the better we are. It can be overwhelming for teams to have to be in their end for minutes on end, and get a fresh line change, while you’re still in the offensive zone. That’s how goals are created that aren’t made on the rush. In the second half of the game [against the Red Wings] with JFK not feeling so hot, Sean Kuraly and myself felt pretty good with his speed, his ability and just the unselfish type of “let’s go in here and grind” to make space for the other guys. I don’t know how it all sorts out or if they’ve A, B, C and D type of choices, but there’s still a great deal of camp. So hopefully that all gets sorted out, so we’re able to build chemistry with whoever it is.”
There are other pieces to be worked in like Frank Vatrano or possibly Beleskey if both of Boston’s rookie wingers stick on the NHL roster, but it would seem that the Bruins are facing a major philosophical decision with their third line after bringing Spooner back into the fold. Do they go big, strong and “crash and bang” with Kuraly and Backes, or do the Bruins try to amp up Backes’ offensive production as trigger man with Ryan Spooner setting him as a speedy, skilled playmaker?
“[Kuraly and Backes] enjoy playing together, and in the playoffs they had some level of success,” said Cassidy of Backes, who finished with an underwhelming 17 goals and 38 points in his first season with the Bruins. “At some point we have to get a look at that. Noel was in that mix. Do we want to add skill on the left side if Kuraly is in to complement them, or do we want kind of three North/South guys? Those are the things that training camp is going to answer. It’s difficult because if you’re building a heavier line, and you’ve also got a Ryan Spooner who is more of a skill guy with Vatrano speed. Now the questions will come what’s your third line? We’re going to do whatever is best to suit the team, and we’ll number the lines as we see fit afterward.
“But I think it’s important that Backes has the right type of chemistry player [on his line]. We’ve addressed the top two with Krejci and [Pastrnak] and Bergie and Marchand, so now we’ve got to find the proper fit for Backes for him to be an effective player for us. He’s a very good hockey player and we’ve got to make sure he plays with people that complement his game too.”
So what would this humble hockey writer do if he were making the hockey decisions?
Probably start Spooner with Backes and Vatrano on the third line to start the season given Spooner’s considerable talent on the power play, and what’s been a bit more determined effort to battle for one-on-one pucks in the preseason. There’s no harm in potentially keeping Kuraly as the 13th forward on the NHL roster, and then going to him if A) Spooner falls back into previous bad habits or B) the B’s coaching staff determines they need more of a punishing fore-check presence as they did mid-streak against the Sens in the playoffs.
It may not be perfect and the surplus of third line bodies may result in an early season trade given the need around the NHL for talented bottom-six centers, but the Bruins need to do whatever is necessary to consistently squeeze more production and quality shifts out of that group, and particularly out of Backes, this season.