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Make no mistake, Jabari Parker is Duke’s calling card. He came into Saturday’s 82-59 win over Eastern Michigan averaging 22.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Saturday, Parker was nothing less than a standout performer as he was 9-of-20 from the floor with eight boards to lead the Blue Devils over the Eagles for their 10th win of the season.
Parker came into Durham out of the Simeon Career Academy in Chicago as arguably the top high school player in the nation last season. For coach Mike Krzyzewski, Parker’s unselfishness fits in well with a team that epitomizes “a really good group of guys” who care about each other on and off the court. Sometimes with a highly rated player such as Parker, any system can be defeating if he has to give very much of himself. The core value of the “team” was seen in Parker’s exuberance about the play of teammate Rasheed Sulaimon after the game.
Sulaimon had struggled immeasurably over his last two games in only making three-of-nine shots in a combined 23 minutes against Gardner-Webb and UCLA. Saturday, Sulaimon looked renewed and invigorated in his 22-minute stint as he score 13 points and easily made it to the line in canning nine of 11 foul shots.
“It was really great seeing somebody that was down go and be positive,” Parker noted, “Rasheed…we have always been together and positive with each other. Seeing the good results is always good with somebody down.”
Parker sees the intangible of efficiency as the key to his productivity.
“Trying to stay efficient is important going into the college game,” he noted, “You don’t want to be offbeat. Even if you don’t score, you just need to stay up that way. Usually, I just need to be there for my teammates. I think we can pull through if I just play my role.”
That’s what he did early in Saturday’s game. Realistically, he was head-and-shoulders above everyone else on the floor in scoring Duke’s first eight points in the game’s first 3:37. Parker knew he had the two slams, on off an alley-oop from Quinn Cook, but it was Cook who took home the accolades in Parker’s eyes.
“I wouldn’t have gotten off to the start if it wasn’t for Quinn on defense,” acknowledged the 6-8, 235-lb. freshman, “He got those two steals and got us in transition. We wanted to get up on them since we were playing at home and wanted the game to go our way. Those two plays really got us going.”
Duke did struggle some in the first half with the Eagles’ 2-3 zone, which coach Rob Murphy learned the nuances of as a Jim Boeheim assistant for seven years at Syracuse. Parker was able to adjust his game regardless of the zone and give Duke breathing room. He scored off the deep baseline, off a rebound, and then off another alley-oops as the Blue Devils opened up a 32-21 half-time advantage. Amazingly with the recognition that he passed around, Parker was still 6-of-11 at the break with 14 points from the floor while his teammates were 5-of-18.
The Blue Devils’ guard play kicked in and allowed Duke to pull away in the second half as the team seemed to solve the zone, getting Andre Dawkins involved on the wings. Dawkins hit a season high six triples.
“We weren’t hitting the corners and I was getting frustrated,” Krzyzewski noted about the first half, “When you have really wide players who are quick when you hit the wing, he feels pressure from that side and he doesn’t hit it even though they were open. At times we tried to put Jabari in the corner to get them open.”
The three game bourgeoned midway thru the second half as Duke made four in a 4:45 stretch that ended with two of Dawkins’ six triples. Parker was a big key there as the zone followed him and he gave himself up to allow the Blue Devils to take advantage of their perimeter game.
“It’s always good seeing every body play natural roles,” said Parker of the guard spots, “Wings create for their own and it opens things up inside for me and other bigs. As long as our guard play is there, we can open things up for each other.”
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