Knowing the Newcomers 2012: Jay Parker
June 28, 2012
CHICAGO- The second season of "Knowing the Newcomers" is back on UICFlames.com. Throughout the summer, we will profile each of the Flames' men's basketball newcomers, all of which are on campus for the summer, taking classes and working out. The first featured newcomer for 2012 is sophomore point guard Jay Parker.
UICFlames.com: Coach Moore describes you as a true point guard, and you were recruited to be just that. What does the distinction of a true point guard mean? What characteristics do a true point guard have, both on and off the floor?
Jay Parker: To me, a true point guard is a leader, on and off the court. He's basically the second coach on the floor; he follows the directions of the coach and makes sure everyone is in the right spots. A good point guard also makes sure that the team is calm, composed and ready to counter whatever the defense gives you. The main thing is always being alert on the court.
UICFlames.com: Your family ties within basketball have been well-documented, with your brother having a successful career at Dayton, and your cousin, Jabari being one of the best high school players in the state of Illinois. What was it like growing up in a "basketball family," and how has that made you a better player?
Jay Parker: It was really good. It helped me out a lot, not only as a basketball player, but also as a person. It helped me specifically with the fundamentals of the game, which I believe is the most important component of the game of basketball, getting the fundamentals down. The experience that my brother (Josh) went through at Dayton really helped prepare me for this opportunity -- he really got me started playing the game back in 3rd grade. My two oldest brothers were also influences, even though they didn't play basketball growing up; they taught Josh and me a lot of things off the court that have helped us become better players on the court. Josh had the most influence on my game as it stands today though. He taught me how to shoot the ball, and some of the things that go into being a good point guard.
UICFlames.com: When you transferred to UIC, Coach Moore also talked about your aggressive mentality on the defensive end. In your mind, what characteristics make-up a solid defender? Is it mostly effort, or are there other elements that add to having that type of mentality?
Jay Parker: The key is definitely effort. You have to want to defend, and you have to take pride in not allowing your man to get past you. Specifically for a point guard, you have to defend with smarts. You can't foul a lot, because your team needs you out there on the floor.
UICFlames.com: You were a four-year starter at Thornton High School, and also served as the starting point guard at Highland Community College in Freeport last season. In what ways do you feel your one season at the junior college level helped prepare you to play Division I college basketball?
Jay Parker: Starting all four years at Thornton helped me out a lot, especially when adjusting to the speed of the game last year (at Highland C.C.). My high school coach just put me out there, and allowed me to learn the game as a starter. I was able to develop my point guard skills at an early age, and that carried on during my experience in junior college. At Highland, I really realized how valuable my high school experience was. It was a humbling year, and prepared me to get to this point. We were only together for one year as a team, but it's going to better me as a player coming into this program.
UICFlames.com: Tell us a little bit about your experience with head coach Howard Mooreduring his days at Wisconsin. Did the fact that he recruited you as an assistant make it an easy choice to attend UIC during the recruiting process?
Jay Parker: That was a huge part, because we had already built that relationship. He knew about my game, because he started recruiting me at an early age. I had some injuries in high school that limited the amount of time I was on the court, but he still remembered the type of player that I was (during the recruiting process last spring). I really respected him for that, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach.
UICFlames.com: Who were some of your basketball idols growing up? If anyone, who did you model your game after?
Jay Parker: When I was younger, before I realized that I wasn't going to be as tall as I originally wanted to be, I really idolized Kobe Bryant. He's still one of my favorite players now, but over the years, I've changed who I try to model my game after. Allen Iverson is a guy that I really looked up to during his career, along with guys like Tony Parker, Chris Paul and of course, Derrick Rose.
UICFlames.com: From playing in a handful of pick-up games with all of your teammates and working out with the guys, what do you feel will be one of the main strengths of this team when the season tips off in November?
Jay Parker: We have some guys that can really shoot the basketball, and our new post players are all very agile - they can score in the post, and all of them can step out and shoot as well. Beyond that, I think we have some very smart players on this roster. Our challenge is going to be to put that all together, and making sure that everybody knows their role. That's what this summer is for, getting prepared on a daily basis, so we're ready to go when practice starts up.
UICFlames.com: In what areas do you feel you need to improve upon the most before the season begins?
Jay Parker: I want to be more of a leader; I think that is important for my role on this team. I've always been a leader on the court, but I want to enhance that; I want to take my leadership to the next level. It's also going to be important for me to get a full understanding of the offense, so I can keep my team composed, and run the show when I'm out there.
UICFlames.com: Do you think you can learn some of those qualities, and also some on-the-floor elements from Gary Talton, who was in a similar situation as you last year at this time?
Jay Parker: Most definitely. Gary is a very good point guard. I've been watching him a lot during pick-up games, and in the couple practices we've had. He has a very good understanding of the offense, and our returning guys really feed off his energy. I want to bring a lot of the same qualities that Gary brings to the team when I'm out on the court.
UICFlames.com: What do you plan on majoring in at UIC?
Jay Parker: I want to major in Kinesiology, and eventually become an athletic trainer.
UICFlames.com: How has it been getting to know your new teammates over the past few weeks? How valuable will it be to the team to have everyone here for the entire summer?
Jay Parker: It's really valuable. We've been spending a lot of time together, and are becoming a close team. Everybody is forming that brotherhood, and our focus is trying to keep everything together. Everything we do is together. We're focused on building our team chemistry right now, and trying to get things rolling before the season begins. I know all of the new guys are really looking forward to the season, because we see that potential already.