Jabari Parker and Tyler Ennis met as opponents at the Jordan Brand Classic in April 2013. They were 18. Parker was a Chicago prodigy. Ennis was a Canadian import at New Jersey powerhouse St. Benedict's Prep. Parker played for the West and Ennis for the East.
"We talk about it all the time," Parker says. "Especially me, because I won."
Parker was a co-MVP with 16 points in a 102-98 West victory. Ennis was not too shabby himself, dropping 14.
"He was pretty much a floor general in an All-Star Game," Parker says of Ennis "That really stood out to me."
Parker went off to Duke and Ennis to Syracuse, and they split two collegiate meetings. In the 2014 NBA Draft, Parker went No. 2 to Milwaukee, and Ennis No. 18 to Phoenix. Then in February 2015, they became teammates when Ennis was shipped to the Bucks.
The 21-year-olds are part of one of the NBA's great youth projects. Parker, Ennis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greg Monroe, John Henson, Khris Middleton and Michael Carter-Williams were all born in 1990 or later, and all are under contract for at least next season. After a playoff appearance in 2014-15, the Bucks failed to reach expectations this season, missing the postseason by 11 games at 33-49.
"We're super young and we have a lot of guys, but we had some injuries," Ennis says. "We're trying to stay confident and with everybody working on their game this summer, we'll definitely get better."
Parker, who keeps a reserved expression most of the interview, grins. "We can get better for now on," he says. "We've only scratched the surface."
Milwaukee handed Golden State its first loss of the season, 108-95, on Dec. 12. The Bucks also beat the Cavs in double-overtime on Nov. 14. But this season was about other young teams taking the spotlight as the Celtics, Hornets, Blazers and Pistons surprised NBA by making the playoffs.
"You could see how together all those teams were," Ennis says. "They seemed like they enjoyed playing with each other. If that's something we can put together, that would definitely help us going forward."
(Side note: Two nights after the Bucks upset the Warriors, four players were seen at an Los Angeles strip club. Parker and Ennis weren't among them. The Bucks lost to the Lakers by 18 the next night, coach Jason Kidd to say his players were still "learning to be professional.")
The Pistons, who lost Monroe to the Bucks but added Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris within the past year and a half, earned the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"They were a different team with a whole different dynamic of guys and we were pretty much out of our control to be prepared for that," Parker says of Detroit's upgrades. "They did really well on the management side."
Although disappointed to end their season early, Parker and Ennis got the chance for some nostalgia by attending this year's Jordan Brand Classic at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
— Jeffrey Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) April 16, 2016
"It's good to be on the outside and remember everything that happened when we were playing," Parker says. "To be on the other side and be part of the Jordan fam, it's just a great feeling. Back then, I was thinking about how I hope I'm sitting courtside as an NBA player watching this game, and now, we are."
"It's crazy to think they have some of the stuff me and Jabari did the last [three] years to go," Ennis says. "They have no idea what they're stepping into, but I think they should just enjoy it as much as possible. This is kind of the last straw for them to just have fun and be kids, and the next step is college, and that's when the business starts."
Parker and Ennis would have been ACC juniors this season if they'd stayed in college. Back at Duke and Syracuse, their freshman-year classmates are trying to land summer internships while Parker and Ennis are trying to figure out how to tame LeBron James four times a season.
"It would have been a lot easier, a lot simpler," Parker says, asked about what life would be like as a junior in Durham. "I think we get a lot of responsibility once we get in the NBA."
Parker missed out on a national championship run last season. Ennis' alma mater came close this year.
"With Cuse going to the Final Four, you kind of think, 'Damn, I could have been a part of that,'" Ennis says. "But last season, we had the postseason ban, so that factors in (Syracuse self-imposed a one-year postseason ban in 2014-15 for an athletics scandal). A whole lot of things could have happened. I definitely think about it. I could have been in college playing in front of the fans."
Both players say they do not regret their decision to leave school after just one season even if the BMO Harris Bradley Center crowd lacks the collegiate energy of Cameron Indoor Stadium or the Carrier Dome. They have gained NBA experience, and their young, raw lineup continues to mature.
Both are asked what their goal is for next season. Parker does not hesitate.
"Playoffs," he says.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.