Jabari Parker talks to himself, and other scenes from the Duke-Davidson blowout

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Jabari Parker's home page. - JABARIPARKER22.COM
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  • Jabari Parker's home page.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM, DURHAM—Roughly 10 minutes into the Duke season opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Blue Devils trampled Davidson, 111-77, Jabari Parker, the ballyhooed freshman who many expect will be a top five NBA draft pick in 2014, said to himself, “That’s all day.”

He was referring to the shot he’d just made from the top of the key, which had started with an exploratory jab step, pump fake, and then a second jab step at his defender, as if poking a pork roast to test for doneness, before draining the 3-pointer, one of three he would make en route to a 22-point performance in 23 minutes on 8 for 10 shooting.

He was right. It was all day, or at least all game, and not only for Parker but the entire Duke team, which shot a lavish 70% from the floor. Parker was calm throughout. “Bang bang,” he muttered quietly, just before halftime, as he hit another three.

Duke’s previous one-and-done freshman sensation, Austin Rivers of the 2011–12 season, also used to talk to himself on the court, but not calmly, instead expounding on grave injustices wrought by referees, opposing players, and occasionally his own teammates.

Parker, by contrast, talks to himself—and plays basketball—like a dispassionate hit man observing the effects of violence. There’s an economy to his movement that is unusual for a young player. He stopped jumping on defense for a while after he’d picked up a few fouls, and found places in the middle of the court where his massive wingspan limited his need to move too much on defense. He seemed relaxed and comfortable in his large body. He’s fluid and he’s fast. One of his signature moves is going to be the quick spin off an entry pass; he was whistled for a travel the one time he tried it, but it wasn’t clear if the call was correct or if no one is used to seeing that in the college game. Another signature: the alley-oop, a thunderous dunk in the second half, when a perfect pass was lofted his way over the top of Davidson’s hapless zone.

He was not the only Duke player on the court. Quinn Cook was there, lofting that pass, one of his eight assists on the night. Quinn is stronger and has cooler hair on his head and additional hair on his face, all of which makes him look more manly and in charge. He scored 21 points in 34 minutes, but the play that said it all came four minutes into the second half, when he tucked the ball in football style, like Kyrie Irving, Duke’s other recent one-and-done phenom, whacked joyfully through contact, scored the basket, and added the free throw. If that’s the Quinn Cook who shows up each night, Duke’s opponents are in trouble.

In terms of Rodney Hood, Duke’s other leading scorer—22 points on 9 for 10 shooting with nine rebounds, of the authoritative kind—he looked like he was in a layup line that only he could see. The latest came towards the end of the game The only bad decisions he made was when he passed the ball, because he could take every Davidson player one-on-one at will from now until the end of time. Hood is a scorer, which means he finds strange angles all the way to the basket and uses the backboard, ball spin and his telescoping arms in very bewitching ways. Watching Hood, it’s hard not to wonder: Why would anyone shoot from far away?

Nine others saw playing time for Duke on Friday night. Amile Jefferson drove to the basket more in this first game than he did perhaps all of last season, and all of his ten points were interesting. Rasheed Sulaimon attacked the paint and hit threes for 20. Freshman Matt Jones earned three steals and the season’s first emotional hug from coach Mike Krzyzewski, after fighting for a loose ball. Together, they all destroyed Davidson, but Davidson is not their future. The future is Kansas, this Tuesday, in Chicago; the future is Alabama and Arizona; the future is Michigan, Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia; the future is March.

“Jabari has a lot to learn,” said Coach K after the game. Next week’s big game in Jabari’s home town of Chicago, the coach explained, would be good preparation for the post-season, although not in the way one might expect.

“Tickets, friends calling, stuff like that.”  

Box score here.

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