McDonald's pick thrills Jabari Parker

CHICAGO -- Simeon senior forward Jabari Parker has always dreamed of being a McDonald's All American, partly because of its prestigious status, but also because it was something Bulls star Derrick Rose did during his Simeon career.

Parker has weighed his career accomplishments with Rose's ever since he enrolled at Simeon as a freshman. Piece by piece, Parker has matched and even surpassed his basketball icon throughout his career.

With Thursday's announcement that Parker was selected to play in this year's McDonald's All American Game in Chicago, it was one more feat Parker can now share with Rose.

"It's really special for me being another one of the top players in the ranks of how many McDonald's All Americans we've had at Simeon," Parker said on Thursday. "It's been a real good blessing for me.

"I know I always put this on my list of goals to accomplish in high school. It ended up happening to me. I can't be more happy than how it is right now playing in front of my home crowd, getting this opportunity. It's been real nice."

Parker's career could be summed up in that same way. He was the first freshman to start at Simeon, won multiple gold medals with Team USA basketball and was named its Male Athlete of the Year in 2011, was the Gatorade national player of the year and Illinois' Mr. Basketball as a junior, he's ranked No. 2 in the country and he's committed to Duke.

But of it all, what Parker values most and has over Rose is his three state championships. Rose won two at Simeon; Parker and Simeon will begin their quest for a fourth consecutive title when the IHSA playoffs begin later this month.

"He's already one-upped Derrick, if you want to call it that," Simeon coach Robert Smith said on Thursday. "He has three state championships. That's a great person to push yourself in front of and try to be better than if you're trying to be."

One person who helped motivate Parker earlier in his career was his former grade-school teammate Linnae Harper. Both attended Robert A. Black Elementary School in Chicago, and Harper played with Parker and the boys' team because the school didn't have a girls' team.

Harper, now a senior point guard at Whitney Young High School, was named to the Girls' McDonald's All American Game on Thursday.

"It's probably one of the first to happen," Parker said of joining Harper. "I don't know too many people from the same grade school who are doing this. It's been real fun.

"She always had a lot of heart. She was real scrappy. She was playing with the boys, but she was holding her own. She was just as good as a lot of guys and just as good as me."

Harper recalled the competitive spirit she and Parker both possessed and how it would sometimes even lead to arguments in practice.

"We were always tough," said Harper, who will play at Kentucky next season. "In practice, we would always get on each other. It was for the best of both of us. Always when we stepped on the court, he had my back and I had his. I was the only girl at the time, so he was always protecting me from the other guys that would be so physical. To this day, we're very good friends."