Hoops: OSU Gets Visit From Top-20 Prospect

Travis Ford has been able to attract some of the nation's top players to visit Oklahoma State in recent years. The Cowboys head coach has recently entertained a number of the top players in the Class of 2011, including one of the nation's best shooting guards who made a visit last week to Stillwater. GoPokes.com is the first to report who visited, and has the inside story on the unofficial visit.

Dai-Jon Parker, ranked as the 19th-best overall prospect and the seventh-best shooting guard in the Class of 2011 by Scout.com national recruiting analyst Dave Telep, made the trip to Oklahoma State from his home in Alpharetta, Ga. The five-star recruit was joined by AAU coach Kenny Loyd and the coach's son Jordan Loyd, a teammate of Parker's.

Parker is participating in the Paul Pierce camp in Chicago this week and was not available for comment (see note at end of the story), but Loyd was more than happy to visit about the first trip to Stillwater for each of the three visitors.

"The visit went fine. He enjoyed meeting with Butch Pierre and Travis Ford. He got a chance to run a little bit with the players there, and see the campus, and got a chance to meet all the interested parties – the strength coach, the AD, and the academic coordinator," Loyd said.

"He thought it was a great visit, a great place, liked the players, and likes what Oklahoma State has to offer."

Parker and the Loyds have made summer trips to Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Georgia , and still have plans to visit Ohio State and Florida State, but nothing they have seen thus far can compare what they saw at Oklahoma State, said Kenny Loyd.

"The facilities are second to none, the people that we met were very warm and very hospitable. It's a growing program so I couldn't say anything but good things about what we saw there," he said.

"I would say in my opinion the thing that surprised us most was the facilities. I think that was the shocker. I think the other thing was the academic setting was also very positive. What we found there to help the student-athletes in school, that was very encouraging as well. But the number one thing was I don't think you could find any better facilities in the country," Loyd continued.

Loyd said that Oklahoma State is one of seven schools still in the running to sign Parker, who helped lead Milton High School to this first boys basketball state championship in school history last year as a junior. The other schools that Loyd listed as finalists are Oregon State, Virginia Tech, Northwestern, Georgia, Florida State, and Ohio State.

The 6-4, 185-pound Parker does not plan to make a decision until after taking his official visits in the fall. Loyd said the only official visit that has been set up is to Oregon State in October.

"With respect to a time frame, we're going to wait until the second half at this point, unless his gut tells him to make a decision. But at this point we plan to wait until the spring before making a decision," said Loyd. "Right now, the timetable says that unless something just hits him and says this is it, he'll wait until the spring. We've been pretty open with that with everyone."

The two people at Oklahoma State who impressed both Parker and Loyd were Cowboy assistant coach Butch Pierre (who has been recruiting the five-star standout) and associate athletic director/academics Marilyn Middlebrook.

Loyd said Parker was impressed that former Cowboy running back Dantrell Savage is back on campus this summer working toward his degree after spending two years with the Kansas City Chiefs. "They said he needed like 10 hours to get his degree, and they were going to help him get it done because it's important for his future," Loyd said.

He also said that the trio probably wouldn't have traveled to Oklahoma State if not for Pierre, who both Parker and Jordan Loyd have known since they began attending basketball camps at LSU (where Pierre was a former assistant coach) when they were in the fourth grade. Butch Pierre being there at the school means a lot as well. I don't know if we would have visited the campus if it had not been for Butch being there," Loyd said.

Will playing time as a freshman be one of the top factors in Parker's decision? Or will it be the ability of the coaching staff to help prepare him for the NBA? What role will the distance from his hometown of Alpharetta play in the decision?

"It won't be location. It will be the appeal of the players and the staff. We want a program that not necessarily centers around him but where he has an opportunity to come in and have an immediate impact with the team. That will be huge," Loyd said. "We don't expect anybody to give him anything, he has to earn it, but he wants that opportunity.

"The other piece that will be huge will be the ability for him to get an education and network and get himself prepared for the next 40 years of his life. That's going to be huge as well."

Loyd said that getting an education is foremost on the 17-year-old Parker's mind right now, and not trying to figure out how long he'll play in college before moving on to the NBA.

"It's really way to early to even have those kind of discussions. There's a lot of things that the young man needs to work on, and to talk about the NBA or leaving college is way too early," said Loyd.

"His goal right now is to go to school and ascertain a degree. If things work out, and he's blessed enough to have the opportunity to be in the league early then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it but right now it's about picking the right school and getting him to college and earning a degree."

The trip to Oklahoma State was the first time for Parker or Loyd to meet Travis Ford, and the third-year head coach made a good impression.

"Meeting Travis Ford and him being a guard and leading a team as well as he did during his (college) playing career is impressive, and also what he's done as a coach is very important. But even more important than James Anderson getting to the pros is (Dai-Jon) feeling comfortable with the team. You've got to make sure that you're really comfortable with the people you'll be waking up with and playing with the next four years of your life," said Loyd.

"I don't think Travis did anything, nor did Butch, while we were there that did not put him at ease with that, and myself as well. They both left the impression hat they would be able to do the right things for Dai-Jon, both in basketball and academically.

"If you look at what Travis has done and you look at the number of kids that Butch has recruited who are in the pros as well, their records speak for themselves."

Parker is "a leader. He's a determined guy. He will work hard at whatever it is that he needs to do to win," said Loyd. "Off the court, he enjoys spending time with his teammates. It's interesting that all the kids that play with him now, his whole team, he seems to be the one that everyone seems to gravitate to

"He's shown that he can be with a variety of people from different walks of life. He's a kid who is not just a ballplayer but he's also a fan of the game. He's a kid who does a lot of things at church, and is also interested in helping young people as well. But he's also a tough kid. He's a kid who needs to be around people who are strong, and has a strong will just like he does to win."

Parker averaged 13 to 14 points as a junior (one of four players to score in double figures) in helping Milton to a 29-4 record and the Georgia Class AAAAA state championship a year after losing in the title game.

"One thing I'll tell you about Dai-Jon, he's the type of young man that will do whatever it takes to win. If that means he's got to knock down threes, he'll do it. If he's got to take the toughest guy on the floor (and guard him), he'll do that. He just wants to win, and he can do it in a variety of styles. We want to see him improve in all of those categories as he heads to his senior year in high school," said Loyd.

Parker took part in the NBA camp in Charlottesville, Va., and has been invited to participate in the LeBron James Academy (July 5-9).

(EDITOR'S NOTE: You'll notice there have not been many interviews with Parker in recent months, and Loyd says that is by design. "Because there have been so many people trying to reach out we've tried to keep the circle real tight. He's not talking to a lot of folks. We want him to be a 17-year-old senior and enjoy it. He's a very intelligent kid but we have limited his dialogue with the media. I didn't realize it was going to be totally like this. I knew there would be times that I would have to spend (giving interviews) but my goodness, if we gave everyone his phone number that was calling us, it would be nuts. I thank you for respecting that, I really do.")

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