Jan. 9, 2003
By John Sudsbury, Associate Director of Media Relations
There are not many players in college basketball who stand less than six feet tall and average just three points per game, yet make a positive impact on every game. Tulane's Byron Parker is an exception to that rule. The senior from Marietta, Ga. is an irreplaceable, defense-first, burst of energy off the bench for Coach Shawn Finney's squad.
"He is energy," Finney says of the diminutive Georgia native. "He is our spark. When he gets in the game, you know he will give 100 percent effort, every time."
"He is energy. He is our spark. When he gets in the game, you know he will give 100 percent effort, every time."
Tulane coach Shawn Finney
"My mom is the one who taught me the game, and the one that instilled in me the desire to play hard every game," Parker said. "That is why I do it every game. I know she did the same thing, and I wouldn't want to do anything to let my parents down."
Family comes first for the Parkers, and not just blood relatives. The Parkers have been quick to adopt any and all of the Green Wave players as their own. For Thanksgiving earlier this year, Mr. and Mrs. Parker spent their holiday preparing dinner for most of the team.
"My parents come down (to New Orleans) all the time," Parker said. "They like to cook for the guys; they like to see the team play. This being my last year and maybe my last opportunity to play; they want to see as many games as they can."
While his parents and other fans watch Brandon Brown, or Brandon Spann, or other players fill the scoring column for the Wave, there is no player on the team who gives the crowd more of a feeling of... anticipation, than Byron.
Listed at 6-2, but actually topping out at less than six feet, Parker is one of the greatest leapers in the college game, and therefore, one of its most exciting players. Though he may not get a highlight reel slam dunk in every game, Parker uses his leaping ability to bring crowds to their feet in every game.
In the Rice game, two Owl players had breakaway opportunities. All they needed to do was lay the ball in the hoop. Oh, and avoid Parker. Out-hustling everyone from both teams, Parker reached the lane and launched, swatting the ball away both times. He did collect a foul on one of the plays; maybe because of disbelief by the official. How could that little guy go up there and block that shot without doing something illegal? His opponent, listed at 6-6, turned to look for the big man who had snuffed his layup attempt, and had to look down in amazement at Parker, his jaw literally dropping in confusion as he searched for another defender.
Not to discount his athletic ability, but the main reason for Parker's success as a player has been his hard work and desire to do the little things on the court.
"Those are the easy things, the stuff you can control," Parker said. "You can't control the ball going in every time, but you can control your hustle and how hard you play on every play. That is the way I have been taught to play basketball."
His teammates feed off his energy. A Parker steal, or dive on the floor, or leaping rebound, is guaranteed to bring everyone up off the Tulane bench. And a Parker dunk nearly brings the house down.
"Every time I see Byron look like he has an opening, I stand up," Spann said. "Because I know he is going to do something exciting."
He first discovered the power one of his dunks could have on his teammates and the crowd as a 5-7 eighth grader when he threw down his first dunk.
"It was on a break," Parker remembered. "Everybody knew I could jump, but they were just waiting for it in a game, and when it happened, it was lovely. My first dunk was one of my best experiences in basketball."
A media arts major with a business minor, Parker's work-ethic crosses over into other pursuits as well. He is on track to graduate next summer, after the completion of an internship. Following in his father's footsteps, he is also a talented artist.
"Byron has drawn some amazing pictures of the guys," said basketball administrative assistant coach Mark Dannhoff. "He has them on his wall in his room and they are incredible."
"I do drawings of the human figure, basketball players like Jordan and Kobe," Parker explained. "I have drawn my sister Brandy and myself, people that I care about. I enjoy drawing in my free time. I see drawing as a way to relax.
"I think you need a relaxed state of mind in basketball," he continued. "Right now basketball is mental. Drawing helps me by relaxing me."
After seeing limited action last season, Parker may have experienced frustration, but it never affected his drive and desire.
"Byron worked very hard this summer," Finney said. "He always works hard, so we were not surprised, but we have been surprised and pleased with his impact on our team this year."
"I wanted to come in and get better," Parker said. "I worked hard over the summer on my game. I wanted to give the team a spark and play the way I knew I could, just making hustle plays and stuff like that. I want to have a good year as a team. This being my last year, I want us to go out on top."
Parker will do anything to help the Green Wave reach the top, mainly by being a team player and providing hustle and defense at all times.
"It is important to be a team player; basketball is a team sport," Parker said. "Michael Jordan didn't win championships until he became a team player. My parents are very unselfish and they taught me that. Having great family ties has helped me understand the importance of being a team player."
Regardless of his success or the team's success, Parker knows he will always have his family.
"Anything I am going through, my parents understand," Parker said. "We are very close, like best friends. Friends first, family second. We tell each other everything, no secrets or things like that. That is just how I was raised and how we are. Having a tight close-knit family has made me a better person."
Influencing his team on the basketball court with his energy and effort, and sharing himself and his family off the court, Byron Parker is an impact player for the Tulane basketball program, showing that the little things often mean more than any statistic.