Jabari Parker to Duke Devastates Michigan State, Izzo’s Plan Backfires

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While college coaches everywhere were racing to plug holes in their 2013 recruiting classes, Tom Izzo had been working overtime to clear space for one in particular. The objective: staying as flexible as possible on the recruiting trail to guarantee an open roster spot for high school hotshot Jabari Parker, a Michigan State target since Parker’s freshman year.

Except Parker is off the shelves now and headed to a different retailer, bound for Duke after choosing the Blue Devils on Thursday during his nationally televised announcement. So after tossing all his eggs into the Parker basket, Izzo’s recruiting cupboard remains bare for longer than the spirited head coach intended.

Dec 8, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Branden Dawson (22) shoots against the Loyola Ramblers during the second half at Jack Breslin Students Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

“Branden Dawson and I play the same position,” Parker explained to a reporter who asked why the Simeon Academy star turned down Sparty. “And it would be kind of a controversy if me and him were on the same floor and we run into each other. I just wanted to go to a school that was fitting for me.”

Parker continued: “I don’t want to mess up his thing. [That] would be kind of disrespectful.”

At a glance, the explanation rings hollow. While Dawson and Parker could conceivably clash taking on similar roles, the roster forecast looks little different at Duke, where Mississippi State transfer forward Rodney Hood (a similar player to Parker) is set to play next season.

Wherever he chose to go—be it Michigan State, Duke or Florida, which will unfurl Virginia Tech transfer forward Dorian Finney-Smith next season—Parker would have to face a similar situation. He would’ve thrived in all three. Georgetown, as a related example, isn’t complaining about its logjam at forward. The Hoyas solved that conflict easily by playing Otto Porter and Greg Whittington, its two best players who happen to play the same position, together.

The all-in approach on Parker was a gamble worth taking, truth be told, even if Parker’s conciliatory explanation seems contradictory. Barring an outbound transfer or an early departure to the NBA—Dawson, ironically, is the likeliest candidate of anyone on the roster to jump—the Spartans will return their entire team from this season minus senior center Derrick Nix.

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