UCLA’s Parker takes advantage of opportunity

LOS ANGELES — Not only are UCLA’s freshmen – Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, and Shabazz Muhammad – key contributors on the basketball floor, apparently they can see into the future.

“Last week, we said ‘watch you’re going to play about 20 minutes next week’,” Muhammad recalled a conversation they had with fellow freshman Tony Parker. “He was like ‘wow!’

“He’s been in the gym working, so he deserves it.”
 
Telling him he would play 20 minutes was quite a stretch considering he hadn’t done so all season.

Parker’s opportunity for extended minutes came on Sunday as a result of
an injury to starter Travis Wear. It appears Wear will have to miss more
than just the previous game against USC, leaving the door open for
Parker to continue on the recent growth he’s made.

However, they weren’t far off. Parker saw 17 minutes of action in the Bruins win at USC on Sunday. It’s his season high for a conference game.

Parker finished with eight points and three rebounds. He tied his season high with seven field goal attempts.

To a man, his fellow freshmen were all happy for him. Parker hasn’t enjoyed nearly the amount of success as the other three.

Still, the group has remained tight and helped Parker keep his spirits up through his early trials.

The four of them frequent the new Pauley Pavilion for late night shooting sessions. Despite his lack of playing time, Parker tagged along.

“It was cool, I had the most legs so I shot the best,” Parker joked.  “I’ve been playing basketball all my life. Basketball is me. I have to be in the gym. It’s fun.”

Parker’s work ethic combined with his great attitude kept him engaged as opposed to being a malcontent in the Bruins locker room. He could’ve grown sour and fell out of favor but he didn’t allow himself to get to that point.

“He’s not one to get down on himself and I think that’s what it takes to handle the situation as well as he did – just keep a level head, continue to keep working hard, don’t let anything bother you,” Anderson said. “He’s done a great job.

Said Howland: “I have never coached a better kid than Tony Parker in 32 years. He’s as good a young man as you’re going to find and he’s got a great work ethic.

“Tony’s going to be important,” Howland said. “I have a lot of confidence in Tony. I know he’s excited about his opportunity right now and it’s going to continue.”