Since so many promising UCLA players have abruptly left the program the past few years, Bruins fans are understandably wary at even the slightest sign of discontentment from a member of the team.
As a result, several cryptic tweets from freshman center Tony Parker the past few days ignited speculation the Atlanta native could be the third UCLA player to transfer since the season began.
Between not being able to celebrate Christmas with his family in Georgia and receiving only scant playing time so far this season, it wouldn't be too surprising if Parker was having a hard time these days. The 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American has averaged 3.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in only 8.8 minutes per game even though UCLA has just eight scholarship players on its roster.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Miller Grove High School coach Sherman White acknowledged Parker is "not happy about not playing" but described that as a healthy response and insisted the freshman doesn't intend to transfer. Ben Howland said on a teleconference with reporters Wednesday afternoon that Parker has asked for more playing time, but the UCLA coach told him only to "keep working hard" and "keep competing."
"He’s just behind the guys that are playing ahead of him right now, which are the two Wear twins and Kyle Anderson who’s playing more and more minutes at the four," Howland said. "But he’s going to play in every game, and he’s actually had two good practices in a row."
Parker's lack of playing time is a bit of a surprise considering he became the lone true center on UCLA's roster once Joshua Smith left the program a few weeks ago. Howland has opted to go with a smaller lineup, either playing Travis and David Wear together or sliding Anderson to power forward with one of the Wears at center.
The likelihood of Parker's playing time increasing dramatically anytime soon seems slim barring injury since UCLA is entering a particularly tough stretch of the schedule. Up next for UCLA is a home game against No. 7 Missouri on Friday with games against Pac-12 contenders, Cal, Stanford, Colorado, Oregon and Arizona still to come in January.
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