Jabari Parker's youth basketball camp is a family affair

Aug 02, 2018 | by K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

The two-day event is called the “Jabari Parker Family Summer Basketball Camp” for a reason.

There’s Jabari, the new Bull and former Simeon star, jumping in to lead a drill. There are his parents, Sonny and Lola, walking around the Quest Multisport facility, making sure each detail is handled and the summer remains magical for the 346 registered youths at the fourth annual free camp.

And then there’s some of Parker’s professional family making a surprise appearance to start forming that chemistry that possibly can translate to some winter magic at the United Center just a few blocks away.

Parker wore a wide smile as he introduced Bobby Portis, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and others and then listened to Bulls director of player development Shawn Respert address campers on the importance of being good teammates.

“My parents are the reason I’m the person I am,” Parker said. “Even though I play basketball, I want to be known for more. It just helps me inside knowing I did something for somebody. That brings me inner peace.”

Parker wore a camper T-shirt rather than a supervisor T-shirt on purpose as he jumped from drill to drill, offering hands-on instruction at each station. He said this year’s camp had a bit more significance now that he’s a Bull.

The finalist for last season’s NBA Cares Community Assist award said he wanted to continue his community service during the season with blocks of free tickets and transportation to games as well as holiday giveaways.

“The feeling we receive from serving kids is the most wonderful experience in the world,” Lola said. “And I want to always continue to feel that, to see kids smile and interact with Jabari. He was once (one of) them, going to celebrity camps and feeling that same ‘wow.’ ”

Jabari Parker offering that hands-on training at his free basketball camp. Has visited every station to offer instruction. Over 300 kids here.

Indeed, Parker spoke eloquently of the impact of seeing his father’s longstanding community service and also attending former Chicago Vocational and Michigan star Juwan Howard’s camp as a kid.

“I owe it to the things I’ve been through to help me be the person I am today,” Parker said. “That’s being a part of real charity at the Juwan Howard camp. He passed the torch to me. Now it’s (about) inspiring that next kid to come behind me.”

NBA community service has been in the headlines all week. LeBron James, whom Parker cited as an inspiration, opened a school for at-risk kids in his native Akron, Ohio. Fellow Simeon product Derrick Rose launched a college scholarship program called “The Rose Scholars.”

“We have a conscience,” Parker said. “We know where we come from. Whatever we have, we want to give back and try to help our community. We know those struggles need to not prevail and we can eliminate (the obstacle of) those kids not having the right opportunities.”

Parker also hopes to bring Chicago’s youth some joy with better Bulls basketball this winter. He has been working out at the Advocate Center with his new teammates since signing his two-year, $40 million deal. That Portis, Markkanen, Carter and others surprised him with their appearance touched him.

“It’s going to take time to build that chemistry and those relationships,” Parker said. “All of us being so young is something that’s special and something I’m looking forward to. We get a chance to play off each other.

“I’ve played with vets where it was like a one-sided relationship and I had to listen. It’s different because we can pick each other’s brains because we’re growing.

“You can’t go anywhere but up because we’re so young. A lot of us haven’t established an identity; we just have a lot of hype. It’s up to us to make that situation good.”

Parker’s ebullient mood even led to him toning down the anti-defense comments he made on WSCR-AM 670 on the day of his introductory news conference.

“People take it out of proportion and blow it out,” he said of his comments. “Basketball is a two-way street — you’ve got to play offense and defense. It just so happens that you need more baskets to win the game, but defense is important too.”

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