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Jabari Parker: Mormon Athlete
Jabari Parker is a basketball phenomenon, who, at the time of this writing in 2012, was still in high school, yet featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and on major television new shows. he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the "Mormon Church."
Jabari Parker was born on March 15, 1995, in Chicago, Illinois. His family lived on the South Side of Chicago even before he was born (Wikipedia). His father has been a youth foundation leader there since 1990. Jabari discovered his basketball talent in one of his father's leagues, but not one his father coached. He became a basketball prodigy at an early age, and by the time he was in 5th grade, was playing against junior high school players. He was prodded on to achieve by his cousin, Jay Parker. Before he was twelve years old, Jabari was six feet tall and had garnered five Division I scholarship offers.
- "Parker attended Black Magnet Elementary and made headlines when he made Simeon Career Academy high school choice, just like Rose, Nick Anderson, Ben Wilson, Bobby Simmons and Deon Thomas before him. During the summer after finishing middle school, he received an National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp invitation, which he accepted. By this time, he stood at 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m)." 
For the first time ever at Simon Academy, a freshman player was invited to play on the varsity basketball team. Jabari volunteered as a water boy for the Junior Varsity games, even as he excelled on the floor with the Varsity team, supported by other excellent players. By the end of his freshman season, he had received numerous scholarship offers, including those from Illinois, Kansas, DePaul, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Florida, Washington, BYU and Oregon State as well as significant interest from Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.  He earned the ESPN HS 2010 Freshman of the Year Award. He was a MaxPreps.com second team 2009-10 Boys Basketball Freshman All-American Team selection.
By his sophomore year in high school, Jabari had reached the height of 6'8" and a weight of 225 lbs. (At the time of this writing, he had reached 6'9" tall and trimmed to 220 lbs.) His team was nationally ranked in the top 5, but still battled the greatness of opposing team, Whitney Young. In addition to other awards and national recognitions, at the end of his sophomore year, Jabari was awarded the ESPN HS 2011 Sophomore of the year. He was a MaxPreps.com first team 2010-11 Boys Basketball Sophomore All-American Team selection.
By the end of his sophomore year, some basketball scouts were starting to pencil him in as the 2014 NBA Draft first overall selection. Chicago Sun-Times writer Michael O'Brien wrote that junior Parker is the best high school basketball player in the country at any position in any class.  He was invited to the August 5–7, 2011, 5th annual Nike Global Challenge, where he earned tournament MVP honors. By his junior season, 42 schools sent scouts and coaches to see his September 13, 2011 workout.
Following his junior year high school season, Jabari was featured in a May cover story in Sports Illustrated Magazine. The story presented his humility and his consideration of the possibility of serving a Mormon Mission. Parker maintains a 3.7 grade point average in high school, and places his faith in a position of more importance than his career. To the Sports Illustrated interviewer, he said, "Basketball is what I do. It's not who I am."
- Sports Illustrated devoted six pages to Parker's story, which describes him as "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James, but there's something more important to him than instant NBA stardom: his faith." 
Jabari was interviewed by LDS journalist and frequent SI contributor Jeff Benedict. Said B.J. Schecter, executive editor at Sports Illustrated:
- "We are attracted to this particular story because of how unique of a kid Jabari is. A lot of people preach that they're into their faith and that it's a huge part of their lives. Jabari actually practices that. We found in looking into this story that his faith and his Mormon religion is more important to him than basketball in a lot of ways. How he carries himself in the fact that he can excel in two distinct areas where few people can balance is really extraordinary. The fact that he is so good, yet so humble, only makes you want to know more about the kid. With Jabari, his actions are what do the talking, not him. In today's modern athlete, that makes him really unique." 
Jeff Benedict and Deanne Fitzmaurice, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, spent days with Jabari's family, and followed him through all his routines. Fitzmaurice went to church with him, but Benedict didn't need to, since he is also Mormon. "The last time a high school athlete was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, it was another member of the LDS Church, prep baseball superstar Bryce Harper, in 2009. Harper, who ended up being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010, made his Major League Baseball debut late last month. Before Harper, the most recent high school athlete to land on the cover was Sebastian Telfair in 2004." 
At the October 2012 Mormon General Conference Prophet Thomas S. Monson announced a change in the minimum age for Mormon missionaries. While young men wishing to serve missions would leave at age 19 (at the earliest), interrupting college and sports, now they may depart on missions right after high school graduation, as long as they are worthy and are 18 years old. This has opened up new opportunities and decisions for Jabari.
As reported on ESPN Chicago online,  "Parker, who is Mormon and will turn 18 in March, had planned on attending college for at least one year, then deciding whether to go on a mission or enter the NBA draft. Parker told Sports Illustrated he was torn between heading on a mission and his dream of playing in the NBA. Parker cut his list of schools he was considering to five on Friday -- BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford."
Parker could now go on a mission and then to the NBA or to college. Parker, who was recovering from a fractured right foot at the time the announcement was made by the LDS Church, is the #1 high school basketball recruit in the nation. "As a junior, Parker was named the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, Illinois' Mr. Basketball and the national Gatorade Player of the Year. He averaged 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals a game" (ESPN Chicago website).