Tony Parker is currently one of the more highly sought after uncommitted basketball recruits in the Class of 2012. The Miller Grove (Ga.) High senior center is on the verge of the nation's top-30 overall prospects, and is considered one of its five best centers. He's considering scholarship offers from the likes of national champion Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Georgetown and in-state Georgia, to name a few.
Those opportunities should come as no surprise given Parker's statistically dominant senior season, in which he averaged nearly 17 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots per game en route to earning the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Player of the Year honor.
What would be a surprise is getting anyone who saw Parker play basketball in middle school to believe he's reached his current heights. That's because at age 12, Parker already stood 6-foot-3 … and weighed an offensive lineman-like 300 pounds. With dimensions more likely to grow into a future Gilbert Brown than DeJuan Blair, most assumed that Parker's future lay on the gridiron, blocking for a quarterback.
"I wasn't always as slim as I am now," Parker told the Journal-Constitution. "I averaged around four points a game. When I scored, the crowd went crazy. That's how horrible I was. Me and my dad [Virgil Parker] used to be in the gym, and people would come by and say, 'Oh, you got you a lineman out there.' But I kept playing and I kept playing. It gave me lot of ambition to prove to people that I really was a basketball player."
It goes without saying at this point that Parker has proven that, time and again. The senior was a McDonald's All-American and won four consecutive state titles at Miller Grove. Incredibly, he was a starter on all four of those teams.
According to his coach, Miller Grove headman Sharman White, the biggest part of Parker's success was his work ethic, which was fueled by skepticism that he would eventually grow into a basketball frame or be worthy of the honors that have now been bestowed upon him. White simply called his work ethic "unbeatable."
Now standing 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Parker will need similar effort to stand out at the next level, particularly considering the elite programs that he is still considering. When that time does come, all Parker will have to do is reflect on where he came from and what he learned at Miller Grove, and he'll probably do just fine.
"I just know I wanted to win," Parker said. "Winning was most important thing for me coming in as a freshman. I was coming into a program with eight seniors [including Georgia Tech basketball player Mfon Udofia and former Tech football player Stephen Hill] that had just lost in the Final Four. They were hungry, and that was huge to me. That's the hungriest guys I've ever played with. That just stayed with me through workouts, practice and in the classroom.'"