Coaches United Against Violence, a group of Public League coaches dedicated to helping curtail Chicago’s epidemic violence problems, met last week and discussed ways to get former star basketball players back to Chicago to help. On Monday one of the city’s biggest stars, Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, stepped up as if he had been at the meeting.
Parker, who played at Simeon and Duke, published a nearly 3,000-word article on the Players’ Tribune that detailed his desire to make an impact in Chicago.
“It’s hard to be optimistic and hopeful that things will change in Chicago,” Parker wrote. “But I am. I have to be. Because if I don’t have that attitude, then the kids there won’t believe that things can get better. But things are going to get better. It is going to change if we step up and help our city. And I’m here to help.”
Von Steuben coach Vince Carter, a member of CUAV, was impressed with Parker’s article.
“The problem in Chicago is so complex that every little bit helps,” Carter said. “Jabari saying something, the police commander saying something, Rahm Emanuel, whoever it is. No matter what you think of these people, it makes a difference. Jabari hit the nail on the head.”
Morgan Park guard Ayo Dosunmu, one of the top basketball players in the city, was inspired by Parker’s words.
“It was really honest,” Dosunmu said. “I identified with a lot of what he said about what it’s like to live in Chicago. I thought it was very true to life. It’s cool for him to tell other people what it’s like. I want to make it out too, hopefully play in the NBA and then come back and help this city. I was born and raised here so I would definitely want to come back and impact things.”
Parker’s high-school coach, Robert Smith, believes the violent death of former Farragut star DJ Tolliver earlier this summer has affected Parker.
“I’ve been talking to [Parker] lately and when DJ Tolliver got killed, that shook him a bit. He thought DJ was a really good player. DJ grew up in [the -Sonny Parker Foundation, run by Jabari’s father] so he spent a lot of time with him.”
It’s been an especially violent summer for former high-school basketball players. Tolliver, Jonathan Mills and Cory Hughes were shot and killed locally. Parker’s former teammate, Saieed Ivey, was shot and killed in Los Angeles.
“It’s made me want to work harder to get out,” Dosunmu said. “Chicago is a big city, but everybody who plays basketball knows one another. Jon Mills dying, that was something that hit a lot of people hard. A lot of us looked up to him.”
Getting out of the city has been a common theme. Simeon had two quality players move away this summer, including Devonire Glass. Smith said Glass’ mother wanted him out of Englewood.
“Jabari’s a really good kid and a lot of stuff is starting to weigh on him, that the city is starting to get a bad reputation,” Smith said. “It used to be known for basketball, just a couple years ago. And now when you see people from other states all they ask about is the violence.”
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