Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - While all of the hype surrounding the Kansas-bound Andrew Wiggins is understandable, it will not take Duke's Jabari Parker very long to claim some of the spotlight.
Wiggins is already expected to be the No. 1 selection in the next NBA Draft thanks to his stellar senior season at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. The 6-foot-8 Canadian phenom has incredible athleticism, pro-level ball-handling skills and a jumper accurate enough to keep defenders honest. The Jayhawk fans that pour into Allen Fieldhouse will be even more excited than they were last season when the team returned three starters from the 2011-12 squad that lost in the NCAA Championship game and Wiggins is the reason why.
There is no doubt that coach Bill Self has an unbelievably talented freshman to lead his team on the court this season, but it might be too early to deem Wiggins the best of his class.
Wiggins is considered the best prospect since LeBron James. But what does that make the 6-8, 235-pound Jabari Parker? Mike Krzyzewski went back to his hometown of Chicago to recruit the latest elite talent out of Simeon Career Academy to the dismay of the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Parker was the first freshman to start on the varsity team at the same school attended by stars such as Derrick Rose, Nick Anderson, Bobby Simmons and the late Ben Wilson. His vertical leaping ability may not measure up to that of Wiggins, but his jump shot is more reliable and he still has no problem finishing at the rim. Parker led Simeon to the Illinois Class 4A Championship in every season of his high school career, which tied the record for the longest championship run in the state's history.
By the end of his freshman season, Parker had already received scholarship offers from a handful of elite programs, including Illinois, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Florida and Washington. Nike made sure to renew its contract with Simeon after the campaign to insure Parker would be sporting their brand for the remainder of his high school career. At the end of his sophomore campaign he was the youngest player named to the All-Public League team which included former Kentucky star Anthony Davis and Kansas' Wayne Blackshear.
Before the start of his junior year, he was considered the best high school player in the country regardless of class. Over 40 different Division I schools sent scouts and coaches to his individual workout prior to the season, including Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Roy Williams, Self and Coach K. Parker did not disappoint once the season began and broke the Simeon single-game scoring record in just 21 minutes with 40 points to go along with 16 rebounds and six blocks. The team finished with a 33-1 overall record and added another title to the display case. He became the fourth junior in history to win the national boy's basketball Gatorade Player of the Year Award, joining LeBron James, Greg Oden and Brandon Knight.
Parker became the No. 2 prospect in his class when Wiggins reclassified in the summer of 2012. He was never quite 100 percent during his senior season due to a foot injury, but that did not stop him from leading Simeon to a 30-3 record to arrive at a 118-15 prep career finish. He became just the second player in Illinois High School Association to start in four state title games.
There was speculation that Parker, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would undertake a mission before or instead of an NCAA basketball career.
Durham was thrilled when Parker verbally committed to Duke. Since Jay Williams had his No. 22 retired in 2003, Parker will be the second player ever to wear No. 1 in school history. The first player to do so was Kyrie Irving, the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Duke's top three scorers -- Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry -- were all seniors last season. Still, the Blue Devils are ranked in the top 10 on every current preseason rankings list in existence thanks to Parker. In addition to receiving arguably the best coaching in the nation, Parker will have plenty of help around him with Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon manning the backcourt and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood becoming eligible after sitting out last year and helping in the frontcourt.
Parker comes from an excellent pedigree as his father Sonny Parker played for Texas A&M before being selected 17th overall in the 1976 NBA Draft. He was often trained and mentored by his older brothers, one of which started for the Oregon Ducks 1995 NCAA Tournament team.
If Wiggins is the next LeBron, Parker could be considered the next Carmelo Anthony, who proved he was a winner by leading Syracuse to a national title in his only season of NCAA play. Wiggins is also frequently compared to his local hero Vince Carter, who played the prime of his career for the Toronto Raptors. That would make Parker the Paul Pierce of his class, comparing him to a player that found a way to win an NBA title.
Coach K has done an impressive job with elite small forwards in the past. Grant Hill may have been the best small forward in basketball history had his career not been hindered by injuries. Luol Deng, who was ranked No. 2 in his high school class behind James, posted 15 points per game en route to the 2004 Final Four before going on to the professional ranks where he has been selected to the NBA All-Star Team twice.
The fact of the matter is both players have a very high ceiling, although stardom is not guaranteed for either. Plenty of great high school players have fallen by the wayside. Although neither has officially come out and declared their intent to make the jump to the NBA after this season, Wiggins and Parker are expected to be the first two names called in the next draft.
College basketball fans will not have to wait very long before Wiggins and Parker collide as Kansas and Duke are set to square off on Nov. 12 at the United Center in the Windy City. That may be the first of many future head-to- head matchups and could be the inaugural bout of a long rivalry. If Parker's dominance in his hometown continues, the question of "Which team will win the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes?" will transform into a "Wiggins or Parker?" themed debate.