S1MEON All Access | Kane's blog: College first for Parker, who doesn't rule out mission
Jabari Parker, right, said he will go to college first before deciding whether to go on a Mormon mission. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune / December 1, 2012)
"This entire day I've been with the media," Parker said with a smile and a shake of his head. "It's been really crazy.
Among the news to come out of his interviews Friday is Parker will attend college next year instead of going on a mission as part of his Mormon faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the age young men may begin going on missions to 18. Parker, who is considering attending BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford, didn't rule out a mission after one year of college.
"I'm going to college my first year, but there's still an opportunity to leave at 19, if you want to," Parker said.
That Parker is talking with me and making radio and TV appearances is relatively new at Simeon. Coach Robert Smith, and the late Bob Hambric before him, had long shielded players from the media.
Smith chuckled earlier this week when Mike Helfgot, who's teaming with me on this project, asked what Hambric would think of the Tribune's season with Simeon.
"Coach Hambric wouldn't be doing this," Smith said. "But the times are changing, so we have to change with the times."
Though it wasn't beneficial for reporters, I somewhat understood Smith's previous policy of keeping players from talking to the media. In the age of high school games on ESPN and Parker's 27,000 Twitter followers, it's easy to forget these are still kids.
I was reminded of that Thursday when I was helping photographer Phil Velasquez with his Simeon photo shoot. I was taking down name spellings and ages, and D.J. Williams, expected to be a key piece of this Simeon team, towers over me and says, "15." (OK, everyone towers over me.)
I dare say the majority of 15-year-olds aren't media savvy, but that is one of Smith's reasons for changing his policy. A few years down the line, as they move on to college and, some of them, to the NBA, the media barrage is going to increase, and he said he knows they need to be prepared.
So I'm trying to keep both sides in mind as I start this project.
After just a short interview, I let Parker go to his teammates, who were staying at the hotel for the night, and just be a teenager. One who makes appearances on radio shows and gets mentioned by name during Isiah Thomas' banquet speech, but a teenager all the same.