Parker brings toughness to Bearcats

CINCINNATI – Less than two weeks ago, the Cincinnati men's basketball team was struggling to find its way offensive and something drastic was coming down the pipeline. Unfortunately, the potential season-changing moment happened in front of a national audience.

However, the Bearcats refused to allow that one incident define them. It also enabled junior Jaquon Parker to step into the starting line-up. Parker has turned himself into the missing piece for a team that was missing an identity and cohesion.

For the second straight game, Cincinnati racked up 100 points in beating Arkansas Pine-Bluff, 101-53. The junior guard was in the middle of the offensive resurgence, scoring a career-high 17 points. It was the second time in three starts, and the fifth time in his career, that he reached double figures. He was 5-of-7 from the floor, including a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc.

"He allows us to run the four-guard offense," said Cashmere Wright. "He gives us a four man that can step back and make shots."

Head coach Mick Cronin took it one step further.

"He brings us toughness," said Cronin. "In his mind he is 6-7. That is what attracted us to him in high school. He was just a physically dominant player."

The start of the second half gave fans a glimpse into Parker's offensive potential. He scored 14 points, including a rare four-point play. The move away from the point guard is one of the reasons Parker is feeling better about himself offensively.

"In high school, I played a little bit of it (point guard), but it really wasn't a big thing to me," said Parker. "Being off the ball is definitely good because I can do all (kinds of) different stuff. I'm not used to playing point guard, so I'm glad I am off the ball now."

At the end of the last season, Cronin admitted that he had hoped to use Parker more last season. But, he knew the former AAA Virginia Player of the Year would have to be more in tune this season. Unfortunately, he suffered a groin injury in the first preseason game and didn't come back until the Xavier game.

Now, he is healthy and contributing in a big way. Even once the suspended players return, Parker will need to be a significant part of the rotation.

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