Jabari Parker donned his Simeon uniform for the final time this past weekend. And what a way it was for him to go out.
The senior small forward combined for 40 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in the state semis and finals, leading Simeon to its fourth consecutive state championship.
“Ever since my freshman year, it’s been a goal of mine to win a state championship all four years at Simeon,” said Parker. “I wanted to leave my mark behind at Simeon.”
While the title may have been the final exclamation point of his high school career on the court, the accolades keep rolling in for Parker off of it. On Monday, the Duke recruit was selected as the 2013 Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year, adding another honor to a high school career that will go down in the history books as a special one.
“This award is for someone who best represents the example of the student-athlete, player and person,” said McDonald’s All American Game chairman Morgan Wootten, the former high school coach for whom the award is named. “Jabari is a great basketball player and excels in the classroom. He has a passion to want to help other people by his words, actions and examples, which makes him special.”
The award is one of the highest honors for any prep player and adds to a long list of individual accomplishments that Parker has achieved. Last year, Parker became Illinois’ first junior to take home Mr. Basketball honors and also earned Gatorade National Player of the Year plaudits. The Wootten award helps validate him as among the best of the best in the 2013 class.
Parker is the No. 2 recruit in the ESPN 100. He vastly impacts the game with his scoring versatility and his ability to be comfortable and productive while playing different positions on the floor. Those talents combined with his high basketball IQ make him truly unique.
This season was a bit of a roller-coaster ride for Parker as he entered his final year on the heels of an injury that kept him out of action for five months. He returned too soon, however, and struggled mightily to regain his conditioning. But once he got back in shape, his level of play was strong and consistent, and his team started to show the cohesiveness it displayed in past championship campaigns.
Parker joins a list of previous Wootten award winners that includes Shabazz Muhammad (2012), Austin Rivers (2011), Kevin Love (2007), Dwight Howard (2004), LeBron James (2003) and Jay Williams (1999).
It’s fitting that McDonald’s established this award in Wootten’s honor to pay tribute to his unprecedented achievements as a teacher and coach. Wootten served as the head coach at DeMatha for 43 years, winning several titles and sending hundreds of players to the collegiate level, with many finding their way to the NBA. In addition to the success his players experienced on the court, Wootten helped shape their lives off of it.
While Parker didn't play for the legendary coach, this year's award winner embodies many of the principles Wootten valued in his own players, and that made Parker a no-brainer for this prestigious honor.