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Western Branch guard Viktor Parson plays in memory of his mother, his biggest fan

CHESAPEAKE — Tony Parson can smile despite all that he and his family have endured recently.

In October, his mother, Cynthia, died. And on Dec. 15, his wife, Priscila, died. Both from cancer.

But on this day, as Parson looks down on the hardwood floor, he can smile as he sees his son, Viktor, in action.

The 18-year-old is giving it everything he’s got for Western Branch High.

His father beams with pride and joy because he sees his wife in his son.

The determination, the motivation and the passion for the game.

Viktor, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, averages nearly 12 points a game this season. But what he brings most to his team is his resiliency and love for the game.

“Basketball, every time I play, I just forget about everything else,” said Viktor, who didn’t start playing competitively until he was a freshman. “It’s like a distraction kind of, like an escape. It’s all I know. It’s all I do.”

Basketball is definitely in his blood.

At the age of 11, his mother, like her son, used basketball as an outlet. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, basketball helped her earn a scholarship to Campbellsville University, an NAIA school in Kentucky.

She earned All-Mid-South Conference honors and academic all-conference honors. On Dec. 3, 2007, she was named the Mid-South Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week. A 5-9 guard, she averaged 17.7 points with a game-high 21 against Union, where she made 50% of her shots from the field.

She still ranks fifth in school history in career free-throw percentage (82%) and eighth in single-season free-throw percentage (84%) in 2007-08.

She was so good, says Parson, that she had a chance to play professionally.

“About three years into the WNBA, a friend of hers, who became a scout in the WNBA, came to her and said, ‘We’re in there,’ ” Parson said, referring to his wife getting a chance to play in the league. “And she was like, ‘Look, I’m pregnant.’ That kind of changed her plans.”

Viktor remembers his mother telling him the story.

“She told me the story last year. I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “She told me she almost went to the WNBA, but then she had me. She chose me over basketball.”

Viktor has never seen her highlights, but he’s heard stories from others about how good she was.

Basketball has proven to be one of the things that strengthened their relationship.

“I never thought about it until after she passed,” he said. “But I guess it always brought us together. We would talk about basketball a lot. She would come to all of my games and would sit in middle right of the stands. She recorded everything.”

When she got sick and couldn’t attend anymore, she still motivated him.

“It just made me go even harder when she was in the hospital,” he said. “Afterward, I kind of felt out of it. My mind was real blank.”

He remembers receiving a text from her on Dec. 8, a week before she passed and two weeks before his birthday.

“It was before the Manor game, and she texted me, ‘Destroy,’ like destroy the competition,” he said. “That was the last text message that she sent me. And I wrote it on my shoes, and that’s what I tell myself before every game.”

That game, Parson went out and scored 29 points in a win over the Mustangs.

On the day she passed away, Western Branch had a game.

“He wanted to play that day,” his father said. “It didn’t surprise me, though. But me and coach (Charles) Thomas decided that was not the best move. We chose to keep him off the court.”

As Parson looks back on it, he realized Viktor was intent on not wanting to change his routine. He also knew basketball was his release.

“I know in my life, I have a strong desire to get back to a routine,” Parson said. “So it makes sense to me now why he wanted to get back to it, back to a routine, back to life as usual, even though life will never be the same. What I told him is he will grieve and have to deal with all of this, but the thing is we want him to grieve properly and not develop any bad habits.”

Following the funeral, Viktor’s family all traveled to Charlottesville for a holiday tournament. Many were still in town because it was the holidays, including his grandmother, Vera Lucia de Jesus Alves, from Brazil.

“I don’t get to see them that much, so them being there was good,” Viktor said.

This is Thomas’ first season as the boys basketball head coach. But he’s has been an assistant coach on the football team for many years. He said Viktor isn’t like most high school athletes he’s coached.

“This kid is different. I’ve never seen a kid this mature at this age,” he said. “He’s very family-oriented. He’s a hard, devout Christian.”

Thomas remembers when Viktor’s mother passed and Thomas told him to take his time coming back.

“I told him that he didn’t have to feel like he needed to return, but he did and never missed a beat,” Thomas said. “He said, ‘I need to be around this. This is family. I need this.”

Thomas wasn’t expecting much from Viktor when he returned.

“We were anticipating that his play would suffer. But he came out and he’s been steady,” he said. “He brings stability. He never gets too high or too low. I don’t know if it’s because of everything he’s gone through, but his demeanor is amazing.”

The Bruins are a young team made up of many inexperienced guards. Heading into Friday’s game, they were 11-7 and riding a two-game winning streak.

“I want us to go as far as we can, game by game,” he said. “The main goal is just to win.”

The family is now dealing with their new normal.

Tony Parson said one of the things that has helped is his wife was a grief counselor.

“So she always dealt with families who lost loved ones, and she would bring that home,” he said. “She kind of taught me, and our children as well, a lot about grieving and how to release and self-care. But it’s still been a tough time.”

He said what’s helped the family has been their strong support system that includes family, friends, the Western Branch community and their church, Relevant Church in Virginia Beach.

“Everyone has been more than supportive,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”

And he’s so proud of the way his son has handled everything.

“He’s always been extremely responsible and has always helped take care of his sister,” Parson said. “But I have to remind him to be a kid. I am extremely proud of him.”

Asked how he’s been doing, Viktor paused and reflected about his mother.

“I guess it comforts me because I know she’s in a better place, and I’m going to see her again,” he said. “But’s it’s like I don’t really stress or think negative about it. It’s just tough not to see her.”

Larry Rubama, 757-575-6449, larry.rubama@pilotonline.com