SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – It almost looked a little comical at times.
As soon as Tony Parker touched the basketball Thursday night, there were as many as four Chicago St. Rita of Cascia defenders would swarm him. Such is life for the 6-foot-8, 255-pound power forward from Lithonia (GA) Miller Grove High School, who is one of the elite big men prospects in the country and carries with him a titanic reputation.
Parker didn't let the constant pressure get to him, however. By now, one assumes he's used to defenders doing everything they can to keep him from taking over a game. So against St. Rita, he found other ways to impact the game than scoring - grabbing eight rebounds, blocking three shots and dishing out three assists, in addition to scoring nine points, all in just 20 minutes.
Miller Grove won the opening round contest of the 2012 Tournament of Champions in blowout fashion, which meant the tired big got the chance to rest his road-weary legs.
"Games like this can really save my legs," Parker said. "We really have a tough schedule. We fly a lot, so that really helped my legs. My teammates really picked it up for me, and I really appreciated it."
Known for his soft hands, strength and ability to score on the low block, Parker's deft passing touch came as something of a surprise. He just missed on several addition assist opportunities, and looked entirely comfortable making tricky touch passes to slashing guards, or from the high post in a hi-low offensive set.
He feels it's a part of his game that has perhaps gone a little unrecognized.
"Lesser-known is a great (way to say it), but my players are finishing, they're cutting well, you've gotta reward them," Parker said. "They're playing so hard, playing good defense. Reward them."
On the recruiting front, the five-star prospect is the subject of intense speculation among recruitniks and a large handful of fan bases. Having already taken official visits to UCLA, Ohio State, Duke and Memphis, there are a number of schools vying for the right to earn that fifth official visit - which it appears he is dedicated to taking.
One school which has made a strong push as of late is Kansas. Parker's parents are both from Missouri - his father is from the Kansas City area - so he said he can see himself making the trip at some point. Parker said Kentucky has entered the mix as well, having recently extended a scholarship offer.
For some, the recruiting process can become a grind, but Parker is enjoying himself. All of the coaches are saying much the same thing at this point, so he keeps close tabs on the schools recruiting him during the season; a true student of the game.
The way he sees it, a coach isn't going to change his ways for one player. So it's more about what they do, and no what they say.
"All the schools recruiting me have great coaches, and what they do is what they do," Parker said. "They're gonna do it no matter what, and they're going to get guys who they think are the best fit for what they do. So you just have to really see what school fits you best, where you can go in and do what the coach wants you to do."
He did mention two schools in particular as ones who have earned a reputation for producing quality bigs year in and year out – Kansas and Ohio State. With the Jayhawks, he pointed to the work assistant coach Danny Manning has done with players such as the Morris Twins, and now Thomas Robinson. Similarly, he touched upon the work Chris Jent has done with players such as current star Jared Sullinger.
"Those are certain schools that you know when they have bigs, everything is going to go through them no matter what they've got, what players are on the court," Parker said. "And they always work with it."