Parker’s big decision ends close to home

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

“It’s the best fit for me,” said King’s Fork’s Jaquon Parker a couple days after making a verbal commitment to accept a basketball scholarship from Old Dominion University.

Parker had interest and offers from the likes of Connecticut, Marquette, Cincinnati and Virginia, schools which play in bigger leagues, in bigger arenas and, in the case of UCONN, the Huskies were two wins away from a national title two weeks ago.

The reigning Player of the Year in the state from the just-completed high school season, in which Parker led King’s Fork to the state title and a 31-1 final record, decided to join the Monarchs for a collection of good reasons.

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Parker’s success on and off the court at King’s Fork, led him to the decision to continue going to school close to home. Parker plans on transferring to a prep school, then starting at ODU during the fall and start playing for the Monarchs in the 2010-11 season.

ODU has a number of local players on its hoops team, guys Parker has talked with during the recruiting process.

Nick Wright, a forward from Nansemond River, so a former city rival against Parker, was redshirted this season as a true freshman. Darius James, a sophomore guard from Tallwood High in Virginia Beach, started every game this season for ODU, averaging 6.9 points and 4.5 assists per game.

Frank Hassell, a sophomore forward from Indian River, started most of the time this season and averaged 7.2 points per game. Ben Finney, a sophomore swingman, started at small forward or shooting guard and averaged 10.0 points per game.

Parker said he’s talked a lot with Hassell and Finney in particular.

“I already get along really well with the coaches and players,” said Parker, “and that’s a real big part of it.”

“(Hassell and Finney) have really made me feel welcome. They been giving me a lot of the ups and downs of the program. They definitely kind of sold it to me.”

Through the stretch run of this past season, it was mostly “ups” for the Monarchs. Old Dominion won 14 of its last 16 games, including four straight wins to win the postseason tournament and finish with a 25-10 record. The 2008-09 season was the fifth straight year ODU reached a postseason tournament. In 2005 and 2007, the Monarchs made the NCAA Tournament.

Blaine Taylor is entering his eighth season coaching ODU. Parker said the Monarchs’ boss emphasized how hard he gets his players to work, and how players improve on their skills, during their chances to talk.

“ODU has been interested in Jaquon and been coming to our games since his freshman season,” said King’s Fork head coach Joshua Worrell.

“It’s not like some schools which came on the scene all of the sudden. I think Old Dominion’s going to be a very good fit for him,” said Worrell. Parker is the first boys basketball player in King’s Fork’s five-year history to earn a scholarship from a NCAA Division I school.

“Plus ODU plays in a good conference. I can go there and definitely get better,” said Parker. ODU was 12-6 last season in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Remaining close to supportive family and friends is also important to the academic part of Parker’s decision. Old Dominion won Parker over there as well.

“There are mandatory hours players have to be in study hall each week,” said Parker, who also said the tutoring program at ODU is impressive.

“When you go on the road, tutors go with the team on the trips. They help you make sure you aren’t missing work.”

“I feel comfortable at home, and at a place where my friends, family and coaches can come to most of the games. I can have that support on and off the court,” said Parker.

“All those people have been really important for me at King’s Fork, so why not keep it going like that?”