September 26, 2012

Irvin comments on Izzo's visit with Parker

Jabari Parker is in the midst of having college coaches visit him in Chicago, which Michigan State coach Tom Izzo did last Thursday night.

According Mike Irvin, the coach of Parker's AAU team, the Mac Irvin Fire, the visit went about as well as could be expected for Michigan State and Izzo.

"Jabari's going to take his time with this because this is one of the biggest decisions of his life," said Irvin, whom Spartanmag.com reached by phone. "After the home visits, then he's going to go off to visit schools. The Coach Izzo visit went great. Jabari has always liked Coach Izzo from Day One. He said it went great and MSU is a school that he's really, really, really
considering."

Parker and his father, former NBA player Sonny Parker, were unable to be reached for this report. Sonny Parker and his son are taking the lead in this recruitment and most information is divulged through them, and information is expected to be scarce. Irvin, however, is in the loop as the coach of Parker's summer team.

Parker, a 6-foot-7 small forward/shooting guard, is the No. 2 overall player for the 2013 class in the Rivals 150. According to multiple reports, he hadn't set up any official visits as of last weekend, but has hosted coaches from BYU, DePaul, Florida and Kansas along with Michigan State.

Following Michigan State's in-home visit, Parker played host to Duke last Friday night. New Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie is expected to visit this week. Last week's planned visit from North Carolina's Roy Williams had not been rescheduled as of this past weekend.

Parker's father also told ESPNChicago.com earlier this week that Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins will visit the Parkers this week.

In that same report, which came out prior to the Izzo in-home visit, Sonny Parker said the home visits by BYU, Kansas, DePaul and Florida were all quite similar.

"They're all good," Sonny Parker was quoted as saying in the report."They're selling their program in terms of him fitting in their system, fitting in their program. We haven't sat down and talked about which one he likes over the other."

In July, Parker whittled his list of candidates to BYU, DePaul, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Stanford. Recently, Connecticut was added for the in-home visit.

Illinois didn't make the initial cut, but Illini coach John Groce is reported to be continuing efforts to get an in-home visit before Parker sets up his official visits.

Parker is now indicating that he may wait until December or January to make a decision.

As for an injured foot that cut Parker's summer season short, Irvin said the star forward still has a "little ways to go," to get back to 100 percent.

Izzo and the MSU assistants, meanwhile, spent some last week canvassing the Chicago scene. Irvin said the Spartans also are interested in other players in the Mac Irvin Fire AAU program.

"(Izzo's) a great recruiter," Irvin said. "They want to get (into Chicago) and he's been doing a great job. At the end of the day, I think some (Chicago) kids are going to go his way."

Irvin wasn't tipping off anything about Parker's ultimate choice with that comment, but Parker could still become one of those kids he was talking about. Others in the Mac Irvin program the Spartans are either actively recruiting or tracking include highly-touted 6-10 junior center Jahlil Okafor, senior small forward Sterling Brown and 6-7 junior swingman Josh Cunningham.

Okafor, of Chicago's Young High School, is ranked the No. 2 player for 2014 in the Rivals 150, while Irvin said Brown holds more than 15 scholarship offers after playing well this summer and filling in for the injured Parker. MSU has been following and evaluating Brown closely in the past two months. MSU has not yet offered Brown, who is the younger brother of former Spartan Shannon Brown.

"I think (Michigan State) only has a few scholarship openings, so they've got to make sure that once they offer, Sterling is who they want," Irvin said. "They've always followed Sterling and liked his game, but it's a numbers game right now. Michigan state is definitely
still in the race for Jabari Parker and they probably play the same position, small forward or two guard."

Brown is listed in the Rivals database as 6-4, but Irvin said he was closer to 6-5-1/2 or 6-6. He currently holds offers from the likes of Illinois, Depaul, Memphis, Missouri, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern.

If the Spartans do extend an offer, would Irvin be surprised if Izzo is again wondering what Brown can do for him?

"Sterling likes Michigan State," Irvin said of the younger Brown, who plays for Proviso East in Maywood, Ill. "His brother went there, so it wouldn't surprise me at all."

As for Brown's talent, Irvin spoke highly of the Rivals three-star prospect -- especially after watching him elevate his game this summer.

"I think Sterling is a guy that everybody needs on their team to win," Irvin said. "He plays multiple positions. He's one of the best defenders in the country and he's a very good rebounder from his spot. He brings lot to the table for any school he (chooses)."

Brown has October official visits set up with Memphis, Miami and Missouri.

As for Okafor, Izzo was in the gym last week watching the 6-10 junior go through his first open gym workout of the fall. That was the same day Kentucky coach John Calipari showed up and offered a scholarship to Okafor, who's also being chased by in-state schools Illinois and DePaul along with a host of nationally-recognized programs.

The Blue Demons and Illini also had coaches at the open gym session watching the 16-year old Okafor.

"He looked very good," Young High School coach Tyrone Slaughter said of Okafor. "He's a guy who doesn't take any time off and he's in great physical condition. He's been working out and strength training."

In other words, the junior star is working on the few areas of his development that might need some improvement.

"Jahlil competes at a very high level, and one thing he's very focused on doing is becoming a better shot blocker and outstanding rebounder," Slaughter said. "He's getting stronger and toning down some of his baby weight and replacing that with raw muscle. Those are his biggest areas of concern for development, but you can't really say they're a concern. They're just areas he wants to work on."

One of the teams that couldn't make it to the open gym this past Wednesday was Duke, but Slaughter said the Blue Devils are planning to see Okafor at one of next week's open gyms at Young High School.

As for Izzo and Michigan State, Slaughter said the Spartans have "intensified" the recruiting effort and are one of the schools that's been involved from close to the start of the process.

Like Irvin, Slaughter had nothing but praise for Izzo when asked about the Michigan State coach's efforts to secure talent in the Windy City.

"They've been actively engaged in this process (with Okafor) and have done a good job with him," Slaughter said. "Tom Izzo is a phenomenal coach and outstanding man and a fierce recruiter, and I think a lot of people really take what he does for granted. I have a profound level of respect for him and he's welcome in my gym anytime he wants to come."

Kick It Off

  • Cliff Alexander, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound power forward from Chicago Curie, took an unofficial visit to MSU this past weekend. Alexander is ranked the No. 6 junior in the country by Rivals.com.

    Alexander made the trip to MSU and continues to be impressed with the Spartan coaches and players. He was able to spend time with current MSU players such as Gary Harris and Travis Trice during the visit. He also watched MSU practice.

    * Cunningham's name is one to keep in mind over the next year or so, according to Irvin.

    The 6-7 junior swingman is starting to get college coaches buzzing and Irvin said the Spartans are among those who may start tracking his progress. Cunningham plays for Morgan Park High in Chicago on a talented, young team and had college coaches from several programs watch him play at an open gym session earlier this week -- including Michigan State coaches, who also checked out open gyms featuring
    Parker and Okafor this week.

    Irvin couldn't recall which coaches were there for the Spartans, but MSU was represented.

    "They're showing a little interest in him," Irvin said Cunningham. "That's somebody they're going to follow this year and evaluate."

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