Growing up in California, senior men’s basketball player Jeffrey Parker looked up to Los Angeles Laker legend, Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s sweet shot and high-intensity work ethic set an example for kids across the nation. But if you ask Parker, he’ll tell you Bryant’s influence on his game was second to one person: Princess Parker, his mother.
Princess Parker passed away from a heart attack at the age of 44 on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Getting back onto the court for his final season was difficult for Jeffrey Parker, but he said he knew his mother would’ve wanted him to keep playing basketball.
“At first my body didn’t feel like doing anything because I was in agony,” Parker said. “I knew that I had to come back [to Bellingham] and keep working hard and believing in my faith so I could do [my mother] right. I’m doing it for her.”
“His hard work is unparalleled and everyone tries to emulate that as much as they can. It’s inspirational to see how hard he works.”
After practice, 6-foot-6 Parker stays four hours longer to work on his shooting in the Wade King Student Recreation Center. Parker said he aims to take 1,000 shots every day. Parker credits his mother for teaching him the importance of working hard.
“She was a very hard worker,” Parker said. “I saw that and I thought ‘I have to take that work ethic and bring it to basketball,’ and that is what I did.”
Sophomore guard Trey Drechsel said no one on the team trains more than Parker.
“His hard work is unparalleled and everyone tries to emulate that as much as they can,” Drechsel said. “It’s inspirational to see how hard he works.”
Western’s first two games of the season were played at the Veterans Day Pioneer Challenge in Hayward, California. Hayward is 26 miles south of Parker’s hometown of Richmond, California. Parker said it was special to return to California and be able to play in front of family.
“Just seeing [family members] out there when I was on the court meant so much after what happened to my mom,” Parker said. “Seeing them out there showing me support meant the world to me. I just wanted to put on a great performance.”
Parker was held to 13 points in the opening game of the Veterans Day Pioneer Challenge on Friday, Nov. 11, a 72-64 Western victory over Sonoma State University. Parker said he didn’t play as well as he could have because he was trying to do well in front of his family.
Parker scored a game-high 32 points in Western’s next game, a 107-81 victory against California State University, East Bay on Saturday, Nov. 12, in Hayward, California.
“I put what had happened aside and just went out there and played like I usually do,” Parker said. “Everything came to me, my shots were just falling.”
Drechsel said Parker plays the game with a quiet confidence and a belief he can make any shot.
“He is not necessarily a vocal leader,” Drechsel said. “He is that quiet guy who leads by example.”
Parker said the confidence he plays with is something he learned from his mother. Before every game, Parker tells himself every shot he takes will go in.
“She taught me that you have to be confident at all times,” Parker said. “You have to know that you are the best at what you do.”
Western improved its record to 3-0 with a 94-68 victory over Holy Names University on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Whatcom Pavilion. Parker led the team with a game-high 24 points, moving him to 10th on the all-time Western career scoring leader list with 1,444 points. He is 400 points away from tying the record set by forward Grant Dykstra who scored 1,844 points from 2002-2006.
Parker redshirted his first season at Western in 2012-13, a season in which the Vikings made an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In addition to starting every game of his sophomore and junior campaigns, Parker has averaged at least 11.9 points per game each year of his Western career. The Vikings have advanced to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament each season that he has played, and recorded an overall record of 59-34 with him on the floor. As Parker begins his final year on the team, he said he hasn’t thought about the legacy that he will be leaving behind.
“I’m just taking everything day by day,” Parker said. “I’m just out there playing the sport I love. I don’t really think about it [being his final season] too much. I haven’t left yet so I have more to do.”
Through the first three games of the season, Parker leads the Vikings in scoring, averaging 23 points per game. Parker is also No. 4 all-time in 3-pointers made at Western, with 223.
Western will take on Fresno Pacific University in the Chuck Randall Classic at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, at Whatcom Pavilion.