Seen in a walking boot on Wednesday, reigning Illinois Mr. Basketball, 6’8 Simeon Career Academy senior Jabari Parker said all week he wouldn’t rush his return to the court.
On Saturday, before a crowd of 7,128 fans at the inaugural Chicago Elite Classic at UIC Pavilion, Parker made his surprise debut (playing 10 minutes). His broken foot had kept him from playing since July, so he was rusty and not playing in top shape. Wearing custom Nike’s for protection, Parker finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal. After the game, he graded his performance “D+” with a smile.
After the buzz surrounding Parker subsided, senior Illinois-commits PG Jaylon Tate (2 points, 9 assists, 4 steals) and SG Kendrick Nunn (11 points, 6 rebounds) led three-time defending state champion Simeon’s 56-35 season-opening victory over Milton (Ga.) as their future college coach John Groce sat courtside.
Simeon’s stifling defense led to countless turnovers and fast breaks all night long.
Best known for their defense, Simeon senior’s #15 Russell Woods (7 points) and Dayton-commit Kendall Pollard (7 points) also threw down monstrous dunks off Tate’s assists.
The starters moved to the bench for much of the second half allowing star sophomore #0 Dennis “DJ” Williams to score 12 points and star freshman #10 Zack Norvell to nail his first 3 for Simeon. The starters returned for a curtain call in the fourth with the final alley oop from Jay Tate to Kendrick Nunn.
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Thanks to everyone at Simeon Career Academy, Whitney Young HS, and the Chicago Elite Classic at UIC!