Despite many ups and downs, Jabari Parker has remained grounded and focussed on being his best self

Feb 25, 2019 | by Carlan Gay, NBA.com

The Washington Wizards begin the unofficial second half of their season in Charlotte when they take on the Hornets Friday night.

For Jabari Parker, it's somewhat of a homecoming as he gets set to step on the floor in the state where he played his college basketball.

"Always love playing here, always love coming back to North Carolina," Parker told NBA.com.

"It's a place that I've lived in for a year and it's always special. I haven't lived in too many places outside of Chicago - you know even including Wisconsin, it's damn near like Chicago to me.

"But coming out here is always special because it was like my home away from home for a little bit."

For Parker home has changed recently, after signing a two-year 40 million-dollar contract to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls in the offseason, he was shipped to Washington alongside Bobby Portis.

Make that now three teams in five seasons for the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft - not the normal journey for such a highly touted prospect.

Injuries have kept Parker on the sideline more than he or anyone else would've wanted for him.

His rookie season was cut short when he tore his ACL in a game against Phoenix. The injury cost him to the beginning of his second year in the league, but he appeared in 76 games that season - a career-high.

As he began his third year with the Bucks it looked as though Parker was ready to take the next step and become the All-Star everyone had expected him to be, but another ACL tear ended his momentum.

Through all the injuries, setbacks and movement Parker has remained grounded, never getting too up or down and trying to keep perceptive as he tries to navigate life in one of the toughest businesses in the world.

"Expectations is one thing but the journey itself is another" Parker continued.

"I always remind myself - hey whatever you're dealt with just do the best that you can.

"That's what I've been doing. (My) play isn't a weakness for me, it's just staying on the court and I just try to learn just as much as I grow and the older I get, how to treat (recovery), how to get my body going."

The Chicago native is still only 23-year-old - there's plenty of basketball left for him to play. Staying mentally strong is one of the things that's kept him going through his career, and he credits that to his foundation - his father.

"I'm deep routed, my father - I'm fortunate he's there for me," Parker said.

"He always thought me about accountability and responsibility and those are the type of things that I try to remember in handling every situation.

"I've been in a bunch of funk, but it's a matter of how you deal with those - I just try to you know represent myself in the best way that I can."

His college coach at Duke is also someone Parker has had help from. The legendary Mike Krzyzewski may have one of the busiest schedules in all of sports. Between recruiting, making personal appearances and of course coaching one of college basketball's powerhouse programs, Coach K still finds time to check in with Parker - something the young forward appreciates.

"Me and Coach K have been talking for a long time after I've gotten drafted.

"He's been doing a great job communicating with me - that's a person I'll always admire and take consideration to his words and he's been great."

Washington now has 24 games left to try and squeak into the playoffs. They currently sit 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three games back of the 8th seed Detroit Pistons.

Having been to the playoffs before, Parker feels like the Wizards have enough talent to consider themselves amongst the top eight in the conference. Being one of the younger players on the team, he also knows the burden will solely fall on him, but he's ready for the challenge.

"I have that belief in the guys around because I'm playing with vets," Parker said of the team's playoff potential.

"Guys who've been in the playoffs before like myself - you have Jeff (Green), you have Trevor (Ariza), you have Brad (Beal) our leader, somebody that we follow. Even Ian (Mahinmi) he's been in the playoffs with Washington and Indiana, so they all know how it goes down.

"It just gives me comfort because I'm young again - you know I'm able to learn from vets.

"I'm one of the youngest players on the team and those are things that I try to remind myself that I got a long way to go."

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