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Chicago Tribune | Chicago Sports | Section 3 | Sunday, June 24, 2012




Nourishing roots


After years cultivating environment, parents watch next superstar flourish By Mike Helfgot |


Special to the Tribune

he hall monitors knew him. So did the lunchroom workers and those in the main office. All of the adults did. Long before Sports Illustrated told his story, Jabari Parker was a well-known figure — in kindergarten. Basketball had nothing to do with it. Nor did his Mormon faith. “Very early I kind of scared my kids,” Lola Parker said. “They will tell you, starting at kindergarten I would introduce myself to their teacher, the hall monitor, the lunch lady, the front office. Everybody would know me. “I would tell them all the same thing: ‘This is my child’s name and if you have any issues or if something comes up, call me or tell me right away.’ I was visible on an everyday basis. My (four) kids were too scared (to misbehave). They didn’t want to deal with me.” Now it’s college coaches who are falling in line. National analysts began calling Jabari Parker the best high school player in the country before his junior year, before he won a gold medal in international competition and his third state championship at Simeon, before he was named Illinois Mr. Basketball, USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year and Gatorade National Player of the Year. The Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 Preps Plus Athlete of the Year’s father is a former NBA player who is heavily involved in the game through his Sonny Parker Youth Foundation. There’s only one way to get to Jabari, and it’s not through Sonny. “No coaches have Jabari Parker’s phone number, period,” Lola Parker said. “When Jabari was in sixth grade I told my husband how I felt about basketball business, as I

used to call it. I said, ‘Let’s reverse roles. You have lots of friends. I don’t. You don’t have to deal with your friends. They have to deal with me.’ “His interests are what’s most important to me. I don’t care about basketball, but I’m going to make sure everything is in place.” Jabari Parker likes to say that basketball is what he does, not who he is. It’s pretty clear where the basketball gene came from. Lola Parker, a Mormon who met Sonny in Utah during his NBA days, realized how much Jabari takes after her too. “He was seven and playing on a team with kids two years older than him,” she said. “Sonny and I dropped him off and the coach pulls up with a 15-passenger bus. “As they were getting ready to go, the coach asked if someone

wanted to offer a prayer to hit the road, and Jabari said ‘I’ll do it.’ “It was very simple and basic, asking to bless them and have a safe trip and help the kids have good sportsmanship. Kids that age don’t do something like that unless they’re very spiritual. At a very early age he understood there is a higher being.” It was around that time Lola began foretelling Jabari’s basketball greatness. Sonny thought he tempered her enthusiasm in those days; he didn’t realize the size of the I-told-you-so for which he was setting himself up. “A mother’s intuition is different than everything in this world,” she said. “Sonny will tell you, I would tell him things and he would say, ‘He still has to do this and that.’ I just laugh and say, ‘Look at him now.’ “It wasn’t because I wanted my kid to be a superstar. No, I saw that he could dominate kids three years older than him. He could do whatever he wanted on the floor.” Sonny marvels at his boy’s development, as a person and player. Following the Sports Illustrated cover story, Sonny said the social media buzz was getting to Jabari a bit, “but he has it under control now.” Jabari suffered a scare at Team USA practice in Colorado this week. Diagnosed with a hairline fracture Wednesday, Sonny declared Jabari “completely healed” Friday afternoon. Like all basketball fans, Sonny’s friends are curious about Jabari’s college choice. His wife’s rule comes in handy.

“His interests are what’s most important to me. I don’t care about basketball, but I’m going to make sure everything is in place.” — Lola Parker on son Jabari “I have relationships with a lot of people,” Sonny said. “Coaches, shoe companies, NBA people, scouting services. I try to keep my relationships separate. “She does a good job and she means well. We are fortunate that we can have a situation like this. Everybody has a job to do. We try to raise our family right. We’ve been blessed to have a little more control.”


Veterans chase former glory

Federer, Williams hungry for first major title in 30s By Diane Pucin

Tribune Newspapers

Never accuse Roger Federer of being shy. He hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon (or any grass-court tournament) in two years and he’s 30 years old. The last 30-year-old to win a major title was Andre Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open, and Agassi sort of took a break from tennis, an offshoot of which was giving his body rest. Federer never has gone away and arrives at Wimbledon with the serious goal of winning his recordtying seventh title, which only Pete Sampras has done in the Open era. The tournament begins Monday. And when Federer came to his first news conference Saturday morning, streamed on video, he was wearing a long-sleeved sweater with a popped collar, purple trim and a green “RF” insignia on the right arm. Both are Wimbledon colors.

Besides Sampras, only Willie Renshaw, a player from the 1880s who often advanced directly to the final as defending champion, has won seven times at the All England Club. Federer very much would like to become the third. “Over a two-, three-week period, a lot of things can go wrong for you or go right for you, and if you come through, it’s a beautiful feeling,” he said. “I am dreaming of the title. There is no denying that.” And there is no denying that the last nine major trophies have been won by either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, who have played each other in the last four Grand Slam finals. Federer has 16 major titles, more than anyone, but it has been nearly 21⁄2 years since he won one. “I don’t feel like I have to work on anything specific because I feel everything is working in my game,” Federer said. “Physically I have no lingering injuries. I’m in a good spot.” It was a much more subdued Serena Williams on Saturday. Like Federer, Williams is 30 and hasn’t


After two consecutive quarterfinal exits at Wimbledon, Roger Federer still seeks his record-tying seventh title.

won a major in two years, since Wimbledon in 2010. What followed was a series of injuries and illnesses and two stunning losses — to Sam Stosur in the final of the 2011 U.S. Open and last month in the first round of the French Open to Virginie Razzano. Despite the latest setback, Williams said she hasn’t considered retiring, nor has her older sister, Venus. “I have no intention of stopping, and I don’t think she does either,” the 13time Grand Slam winner said. “I enjoy being on the court so much and I’ve been having so much fun. ... “I think losing makes me

■ Singles seeds’ firstround matches, Page 15

even more motivated.” Maria Sharapova, who upset Williams to win her first major in 2004, brought her career full circle last month by winning her first French Open to earn a career Grand Slam. She’s the No. 1 seed. But, as Sharapova pointed out: “I think it’s the toughest back-to-back. It’s the toughest turnaround. I’m certainly happy with what I achieved but that doesn’t make me less eager to want to achieve more.”

2012: Jabari Parker, Simeon 2011: Lukas Verzbicas, Sandburg 2010: Olivia Scott, Rosary 2009: Dan Block, Lake Park 2008: Garrett Goebel, Montini 2007: Nick Nasti, Plano 2006: John Dergo, Morris 2005: Alexandria Anderson, Morgan Park 2004: Candace Parker, Naperville Central 2003: Steve Walker, Lockport 2002: Mary DeScenza, Rosary 2001: Matt Roth, Willowbrook 2000: Matt Lottich, New Trier 1999: Jon Schweighardt, Wheaton Warrenville South 1998: MaryAnne Kelley, Fremd 1997: Shakedia Jones, Waukegan 1996: T.J. Williams, Mount Carmel 1995: Tai Streets, Thornton 1994: Terri Zemaitis, Downers Grove South 1993: Joe Williams, Mount Carmel 1992: Jennie Driscoll, St. Francis 1991: Cliff Floyd, Thornwood 1990: T.J. Dortch, Mundelein 1989: Joey Gilbert, Andrew 1988: Dana Miroballi, Wheeling 1987: Kent Graham, Wheaton North 1986: Mike Morrison, Deerfield 1985: Katie Meier, Wheaton Central 1984: Nancy Reno, Glenbard West 1983: Eric Kumerow, Oak Park

BEST OF THE REST Morolake Akinosun, Waubonsie Valley, Sr.: Set indoor state records in the 50 and 200 meters and tied the outdoor girls state-meet record in the 100. Robert Bain, Bolingbrook, Sr.: First-team All-State offensive lineman for Class 8A state championship team; second place in Class 3A wrestling state tournament at 285 pounds. James Buss, De La Salle, Sr.: Second-team All-State defensive lineman; Class 3A wrestling state champion at 285 pounds. Ajani Cargle, Lincoln-Way East, Sr.: Became the first gymnast to sweep the six individual single-event titles at the boys gymnastics state meet. Jordan Getzelman, Prairie Ridge, Jr.: Second-team All-State running back; second-team All-State outfielder. Max Grodecki, New Trier, Sr.: Anchored the national recordsetting 400-yard freestyle relay, won the 50 and 100 free and swam on the winning 200 free relay at the boys swimming state meet. Shamier Little, Lindblom, Jr.: Won three Class 2A state titles and set three 2A state-meet records to win third-place team trophy by herself at the girls track and field state meet. Olivia Smoliga, Glenbrook South, Sr.: Won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle at the girls swimming state meet, setting state records in both events. Danny Thomson, Hinsdale Central, Sr.: Won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle at the boys swimming state meet and set the state record in the 500 free. Morgan Tuck, Bolingbrook, Sr.: Connecticut recruit won her second Ms. Basketball of Illinois award.

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