In middle school, Tony Parker wasn’t the person people expected to start on four high school state championship basketball teams. Some even wondered if he’d make his high school team.
Parker was 6-foot-3 and nearly 300 pounds — in the seventh grade.
“I wasn’t always as slim as I am now,’’ Parker said. “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.’’
If there were ever a time to gloat, it’s now. Parker is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s state Player of the Year.
Parker is 6-9, 270 pounds, or maybe a little heavier when wearing four Class AAAA championship rings. No other Georgia player has been a starter on four state champions since Dontonio Wingfield of Albany’s Westover High in 1990-93.
“There were a lot of naysayers,’’ Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “Everybody thought he was going to be one of those oversized post kids. He ate those words for motivation. His determination to be the best was what stood out about him. His work ethic was unbeatable.’’
As a senior, Parker averaged 16.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots against perhaps the nation’s toughest schedule. Miller Grove (24-9) played Oak Hill of Virginia, St. Anthony’s of New Jersey and Simeon of Illinois, teams that finished in the top 10 of every national poll.
Parker led Miller Grove to four tight victories against Class AAAA runner-up Southwest DeKalb, which featured his McDonald’s All-America teammate Shaq Goodwin and Auburn-signee Jordan Price. In the championship game, Parker was at his best, scoring 21 points with 13 rebounds.
“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.’’
Parker has become fitter, leaner and stronger each season. He gives credit to a personal trainer, Kevin Peeples.
As perhaps Georgia’s top senior prospect, Parker is close to a college decision. His finalists are Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, UCLA, Georgetown, Memphis and Georgia. He might make an announcement at the McDonald’s All-Star Game in Chicago on Wednesday. If not, he’ll wait to do it at Miller Grove.
He has a story to tell. It might inspire somebody, he said.
“I want people at my school to be able to come see what it looks like to realize that dream,’’ Parker said, “and how hard you have to work to get there.’’