SAN DIEGO — Jabari Parker looked to the floor as he if was searching for answers for Duke’s stunning loss to Mercer to open the NCAA tournament. Tears filled his eyes, disappointment cast a pall over his face, his words mumbled, almost inaudible.
This was not the way the talented freshman expected his first — and possibly last — college season to end.
“No matter what they say about me, all I wanted was to win,” Parker said after scoring 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting against Mercer. “That’s all I cared about. I don’t really care where they ranked me at the beginning of the season, through the midseason, through the final season. I don’t care about that. It’s just about my team.”
Parker will be playing again, just not this season.
Whether it will be in the NBA or back at Cameron Indoor Stadium is uncertain.
And he isn’t the only freshman facing a decision about his future.
The 2013-14 was touted of the year of one-and-done, the talent pool loaded with freshmen expected to bolt to the NBA after playing one season to reach the league’s minimum age requirement.
Like Parker, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins had his first college season come to an unexpectedly-early end with a loss to Stanford in his second tournament game Sunday. His teammate Joel Embiid, projected as an NBA lottery pick, could only watch because of a back injury and point guard Wayne Selden might have played his last college game, too.
Kentucky’s cast of future NBA players — led by Julius Randle, James Young and the Harrison brothers, Aaron and Andrew — get a chance to play on after the Wildcats knocked off No. 1 Wichita State 78-76 to set a sweet Sweet 16 matchup with rival Louisville.
Aaron Gordon will go to the Sweet 16 in his first season with Arizona after the Wildcats scraped past Weber State then blew out Gonzaga to reach the Sweet 16.
Syracuse freshmen point guard Tyler Ennis is also projected as a top pick if he decides to leave school early. The Orange lost to Dayton Saturday as Ennis missed a game-winner at the buzzer.
Though Wiggins has not been shy about his intentions after this season — he wants to go to the NBA — he was a bit more diplomatic about it on Sunday, saying he didn’t want to think about it after the 60-57 loss to the Cardinal.
“I let a lot of people down; if I would have played better, we wouldn’t be in this situation, you know?” he said. “I blame myself for this.”
Wiggins has been projected as a lottery pick, possibly No. 1 overall by some.
Parker has been given the lottery-pick tag as well. The 6-foot-8 forward had a similar reaction Wiggins’ after the Blue Devils’ loss to the 14th-seeded Bears, shouldering the blame while being noncommittal about his future other than to say his career felt “incomplete.”
“Jabari’s had a great, great year,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the third-seeded Blue Devils’ 78-71 loss to Mercer on Friday. “It’s a frustrating way for him to end it today.”