Duke's Jabari Parker declares for NBA draft

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Jabari Parker has declared for the 2014 NBA draft. (Lance King/Getty Images)

(Lance King/Getty Images)

Duke freshman forward Jabari Parker declared for the NBA draft in a Sports Illustrated essay on Thursday.

"Ultimately, I boiled my decision down to two simple questions," Parker wrote. "Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player? Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court? The answer to both questions is undeniably the NBA."

A member of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-Day Saints, Parker said that he will not go on a two-year mission, instead pursuing his dream of following in the footsteps of his father, former NBA player Sonny Parker.

"After talking with my family, my local church leaders and a couple close friends I'm at peace with my decision to forego a mission for now and join the NBA," he wrote. "I don't consider myself an exception to the rule. At this point in my life I know this is the right decision."

Dubbed "The best high school basketball player since LeBron James" by Sports Illustrated in May 2012, Parker is a candidate to be the first player selected in June's draft.

Parker, 19, averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in 30.7 minutes per game for the Blue Devils this season, earning First Team All-American, All-ACC and ACC Freshman of the Year honors. He tallied 14 points (on 4-for-14 shooting) and 7 rebounds in Duke's NCAA tournament loss to Mercer.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix placed Parker at No. 3 on his latest big board.

Parker has proved to be a prolific college scorer (19.1 points per game), a strong rebounder (8.7) and a developing three-point shooter (35.8 percent). His defensive problems against Mercer were a high-profile reminder of Parker's biggest question marks. Teams still aren't sure which forward position Parker will play in the NBA -- or if he can defend either one. Still, a strong-scoring/weak-defending forward can thrive in the NBA. Right, Carmelo?

A native of Chicago, Parker is listed at 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds and currently ranks No. 3 on

DraftExpress.com’s Top 100

 and No. 2 on 

Chad Ford’s Top 100