Tony Parker picks UCLA over UGA, which needed him more

This isn't football. Georgia doesn't get everybody it wants. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This isn't football. Georgia doesn't get everybody it wants. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The most accomplished player in the history of Georgia high school basketball announced Monday that he would play collegiately three time zones away. He’d been recruited hard by the flagship university of the state he’d dominated, but Tony Parker declined to remain, to use his phrase, “a hometown hero.”

Then Parker said this: “That would have been the easy way out.”

If you’re Mark Fox, who coaches the Georgia Bulldogs, you’re surely wondering if there will be an easy way. Fox has signed two of Parker’s Miller Grove teammates, and through force of will he elbowed his way onto a short list that was essentially a Mount Rushmore of college hoops. And still: No sale.

“They got in there,” said Norman Parker (no relation), who’s president of the AAU Georgia Stars, for whom Tony Parker played summer ball. “Just to be in that lineup sends the message that Georgia is getting there.”

Trouble is, recruiting comes with no consolation prizes. When Parker is teaming with fellow freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams to restore the UCLA Bruins to national eminence, who lifts Georgia? And if the Bulldogs can’t convince a gifted and determined young man who grew up 60 miles away that the road to glory can run through Stegeman Coliseum, what hope is there?

We’re constantly reminded that this state produces top-shelf basketball talent. On Monday we were reminded why coaching basketball at this state’s flagship university is among the more difficult jobs in the land. To have signed Tony Parker would have put UGA on the map. In the end, Parker chose a school where his chosen sport isn’t considered a nerdy little brother.

The caps on display on the stage at Miller Grove told the tale: UCLA( 11 national titles); Duke (four titles); Ohio State (one title, plus two Final Four runs in the past six season) … and Georgia, which has won seven NCAA tournament games in its history, one this century. (Kansas, with three NCAA titles, was apparently eliminated before the caps were arrayed.)

And the world of college basketball is changing in a way that doesn’t augur well for a program trying to establish its bona fides. The big-name recruits are bonding around big-name schools. Said Norman Parker, whose Georgia Stars have sent 11 players to the NBA: “These young men gravitate to each other and are going with each other – maybe not to become the next Fab Five, but [in UCLA’s case] a Fab Four.”

Georgia’s hope was that Tony Parker would want play near home, but for an athlete who steeped in the AAU system distance has become less of a determinant. “He’s so oriented to travel,” Norman Parker said. “If he had to get on a plane and fly to Germany tonight it wouldn’t bother him.”

Don’t think that friendships forged along the AAU circuit can’t override physical mileage. All the best players know one another, and they’ve taken to clustering in search of an NCAA title. (Kentucky’s recent championship is already the new model.) Nor did it hurt that UCLA hired Korey McCray, who was CEO of the AAU Atlanta Celtics, last summer as an assistant coach.

Said Norman Parker: “I’m sure that connection helped. [McCray] was a pipeline directly to the [Tony Parker] family – that’s my guess … They didn’t hire [McCray] for his looks.”

But here’s the cruel part: UCLA would have had a splendid recruiting class without Tony Parker. Georgia needed him badly. To have paired one McDonald’s All-American (guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who just completed his freshman season) with another in the massive Parker would have suggested that Fox is becoming a major player in a majorly bountiful state. Moot point now.

Said Tony Parker: “I’ve done a lot for [the state of] Georgia, and Georgia has done a lot for me. It’s time for me to broaden my horizons.”

As for the flagship university of the state Parker will leave: How should it feel? Proud to have come so close in a field of heavy hitters? Or frustrated to see a big-timer walk away?

“It’s a little bit of both,” said Sharman White, who coached Parker to four state championships at Miller Grove. “You hate to see talent leave the state, but Georgia came a long way. It was not in this conversation six months ago, even three months ago.”

Someone suggested that Parker bore the look of a player who could have had a transforming effect on the Bulldogs. “Coach Fox is a great coach, and he’s going to get that guy [eventually]’” White said. “It’ll come real soon.”

Then White said: “If he’d have gotten Tony, it would have been monumental.”

By Mark Bradley

162 comments Add your comment

old gold

April 23rd, 2012
6:50 pm

Mr C

April 23rd, 2012
6:54 pm

Bobby

April 23rd, 2012
6:59 pm

Trust me, Tony Parker will not do well.

Bobby

April 23rd, 2012
7:00 pm

I’ve seen him play live. He had 0 points, 4 fouls, and a terrible attitude.

Beast from the East

April 23rd, 2012
7:01 pm

I feel bad for Coach Fox. Not sure if he’ll ever be able to get the elite recruits that it takes to win championships. Coach Donovan is STILL fighting the “football school” stigma down in Gainesville with many recruits across the country.

Double Secret Probation

April 23rd, 2012
7:02 pm

Parker took the easy way out. Going to UCLA with a group of highly touted freshmen is way easier than going to UGA and establishing a winning program under Fox. What a shame!

Destin Dawg

April 23rd, 2012
7:02 pm

he’ll need alot of will power… way away from friends and family…. drugs are crazy out on the left coast.. not a good choice IMO..

beanster

April 23rd, 2012
7:04 pm

Maybe someday a tornado will come along and demolish the Stegosaurus. Perhaps then UGA would be attractive to in-state bball mega-talent. Until then, I can’t blame the kid for heading to UCLA.

Bryan G.

April 23rd, 2012
7:05 pm

That signing ceremony today was the most ridiculous thing since Lebron’s TV circus

john GT

April 23rd, 2012
7:06 pm

This kid thinks he’s already a NBA legend! He’s going to Hollywood where he belongs. What a clown! UGA should be glad they didnt get him. Go Jackets

Chuck UGA

April 23rd, 2012
7:07 pm

This is purely a decision based on the recent coaching moves at UCLA, coaches familiar to Tony Parker. It’s is also a continued reflection on how far UGA has to go to have a better relationships with AAU coaches. Of course, if the NCAA would do their job, the AAU coaches would NOT be so influential in recruiting (which is keeping Georgia from being a competitive force in the SEC).

Wow, wonder what Coach K thinks? UCLA over Duke? Shocking. On another note Mark, you DO NOT always have to get the top prize. If Greg McGarity would invest more money in the UGA basketball for something other than facilities (like staff and recruiting budgets), Georgia could and would be a lot more of a force. Doesn’t take a team full of 5-star players (ask BUTLER AND GONZAGA for examples). Fox needs to broaden HIS horizons and minimize these kinds of player losses. But alas, he’ll nver get the investment he needs because of the mint-julip sipping athletic board and old-school boosters.

Err what??

April 23rd, 2012
7:08 pm

Pray tell Tony, when have you ever done a lot for Georgia and what was it that you did?

Chuck UGA

April 23rd, 2012
7:08 pm

P.S. My comment is not directed at Norman Parker specifically.

TheTruth

April 23rd, 2012
7:14 pm

Just another 18 year old kid whose head is way bigger than his talent….

FD

April 23rd, 2012
7:14 pm

Damn it! Allow individuals to have their choice and call it a day…move on!!!!

Bill Stanfill

April 23rd, 2012
7:17 pm

OK, Chuck,
Since you’re in the know, why you don’t you give us the scoop on what UGA spends on basketball? You can start by telling us what they spend on staff and recruiting.

wil-dog

April 23rd, 2012
7:17 pm

To coach fox if you read this….nothing worth while comes easy(sure you know this), but there will be another Parker and you will get him….ur a good coach….STAY WITH US

Dawg Bounty Hunter

April 23rd, 2012
7:18 pm

he’s WAY over rated .. No Loss !!

Beast from the East

April 23rd, 2012
7:19 pm

I still don’t understand the folks who think a player should have to stay in-state. If that’s the case, then demand your coaches cease recruiting anyone from out of state. Can’t have it both ways, boys.

There is nothing wrong with the Stegasaurus...

April 23rd, 2012
7:24 pm

…as a basketball facility, so that is a non-issue (though they still need to move the court to the center of the oval). And, Bobby and Dawg Bounty are correct – he is really nothing special at this time, though he does have potential that can be developed – but, best of luck to him out west…

timboy6

April 23rd, 2012
7:26 pm

Maybe the Miller Grove teammates that are going to UGA will show that Parker wasn’t the one that made them go.

Coach Hewitt...

April 23rd, 2012
7:32 pm

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say UCLA paid his handlers and we wouldn’t… This kid doesn’t give a chit about their tradition. They were middle of the road in a chitty Pac-12 conference, and are losing their top 2 guards. They’ve got 2 one-and-done players signed with this class already which is nice, but Parker is going to have to work hard to get minutes behind the Wear twins.

I don’t think their program is so much better that its worth moving to LA to play for them over us.

Steverino

April 23rd, 2012
7:32 pm

“Most decorated” only means they are troweling out a lot more “decorations” than they used to.

[...] Basketball: Parker Picks Westwood. How Good Will UCLA Be Next Year?A Sea of BlueAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -USA TODAY (blog) -CBSSports.comall 69 news [...]

bali

April 23rd, 2012
7:34 pm

if he is the real deal, then he will probably be 1 and done at ucla…hate it that uga cannot keep the best players in state but georgia is still developing as a basketball school…wish it was a different story but it is not..wish aau coaches would get on board and try to recruit for in state schools but looks like they are going where the money and jobs are and i do not blame them..good luck coach fox

Joe

April 23rd, 2012
7:40 pm

Dawgs should have written a bigger check.

DMAN

April 23rd, 2012
7:41 pm

All about the family,what a joke!!

Just wondering

April 23rd, 2012
7:42 pm

I’m just wondering…is the PAC12 conference better than the SEC in basketball? Let’s recall that the regular season champs Washington didn’t make the NCAA tournament and a first year team, Colorado, won the PAC12 tourney. I don’t know if UCLA will have the impact that these signings signify but i wish them the best of luck.

Ken

April 23rd, 2012
7:44 pm

I admit I have only seen Tony Parker in a couple of High School all star games, and in my observations there has been way too much hoopla about a guy who shows no hustle or heart. I think back to Elton Brand in the same type games, you could see a guy who worked hard on every play. I just don’t see this in Parker. Is it something he can turn on and turn off? Heck he couldn’t hardley get to one end of the court before everyone was headed the next direction. I hope UCLA has a slow down offense so he can effectively participate. I guess even Kentucky recognized this and didn’t pursue him. We will all be saying a couple of years from now, Tony who…

ATis SAV

April 23rd, 2012
7:44 pm

@Beast-
The thing that separates College ball from the NFL and NBA is that the majority of the kids are from the state that their University represents. I would not be a Georgia fan, or a college football fan for that matter, if the vast majority of the kids were not from in-state. Sure, it is nice to get blue chippers from out of state to round out a class, but I would much rather have a kid of similar quality stay in state. Surely as a Gator fan you can understand this, as like Georgia, the majority of kids that play for your team are from Florida. This is how I feel and why I love College sports, but I do understand that not everyone holds this view.

Dawg

April 23rd, 2012
7:53 pm

Why is this front page material when a GThug is arrested for boating under the influence and NOTHING is made of it here? EVERY TIME something in Athens, it’s on the front page. Liberal media at it again

Coach Hewitt...

April 23rd, 2012
7:55 pm

Good move hiring Korey McCray UCLA…That’s the only way this choice makes sense considering Smith, Wear, Wear, distance, and Howland’s lack of success in recent years…. The underbelly of NCAA BB reeks… The AAU culture prevalent in NCAA basketball makes NCAAFB cheating tame in comparison…

option smoption

April 23rd, 2012
7:55 pm

We’re constantly reminded that this state produces top-shelf football talent, as well. And it bothers me a whole lot more when we lose those kids to schools out west (aka bama). Sorry, Coach Fox. Try the “dream team” approach next year. It worked for CMR! Go Dawgs!

Hal

April 23rd, 2012
8:13 pm

You can’t build a program with One & Dones. If you’re gonna recruit them, then you need to recruit at least 5 of them — like Kentucky does.

Dawglasville

April 23rd, 2012
8:16 pm

“I’ve done a lot for the state of Georgia.” Wow, thanks kid. I had no idea. Good luck to you.

I think it is funny when people cry about how the NCAA exploits these kids they have nothing to bad to say about AAU and these 7 on 7 camps football camps. They never cry about how their high school coaches pimp them out. It is just too easy to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the NCAA..

Bigdawg

April 23rd, 2012
8:20 pm

Good grief! I’m as bummed as the next Bulldawg, but I am not going to disparage an 18-year-old kid for making the decision he made.
Why don’t you haters, usually folks who didn’t attend UGA, just dial it back about 200% and respect the kid’s choice!

Bigdawg

April 23rd, 2012
8:22 pm

Dawg: Pls take your meds!

Football Guy

April 23rd, 2012
8:27 pm

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todd grantham

April 23rd, 2012
8:37 pm

disappointing Mark. very disappointing for Dog fans.

kingster

April 23rd, 2012
8:39 pm

Tony Parker and Family I wish you well, I hope you have a wonderful career at UCLA, as for you turn coat Bulldog fans, you guy are very bad, always crying and bad mouthing kids when they don’t choose UGA, be real sports fans and wish the young man well, in all your sports how many kids do you get from out of state (plenty) look at your present football recruits, buckle up and try harder, and fellows please leave your sister alone.

lee

April 23rd, 2012
8:42 pm

EagleJacket

April 23rd, 2012
8:43 pm

UGA’s basketball program will improve when UGA begins to give a dam# about basketball. They play in a cow barn, No one including the AD couldn’t care less. I know i couldn’t care less.

TRUTH BE TOLD........

April 23rd, 2012
8:43 pm

THE dawgs ARE 2 FOR 2 THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS!!! CONGRATS HOUNDS!!!

Rick James

April 23rd, 2012
8:45 pm

I wish Georgia could have signed Tony but honestly after watching him play a few times I dont think he will be as dominant on the college level.But best of luck to him.

Rick James

April 23rd, 2012
8:46 pm

@kingster

Tony Parker and Family I wish you well, I hope you have a wonderful career at UCLA, as for you turn coat Bulldog fans, you guy are very bad, always crying and bad mouthing kids when they don’t choose UGA, be real sports fans and wish the young man well, in all your sports how many kids do you get from out of state (plenty) look at your present football recruits, buckle up and try harder, and fellows please leave your sister alone
———————————————–
Spoken like a true Tech fan.

kingster

April 23rd, 2012
8:48 pm

John GT (I’m a Tech fan also) you of all people shouldn’t be talking, look at us (Tech) 3 wins in the league,the kid picked a school, be happy for him, Tech wasn’t evening in the running, fans like you are bad for the sports (If Tony had choose UGA, he would be whipping Tech’s butt every year, use your head man, you must be one of thoose bad UGA fan cousins,got a thing for your sister too?)

Realism

April 23rd, 2012
8:48 pm

If Fox hired Korey McCray, Parker would be a Dawg and UCLA would have never made his list.

End of discussion. He goofed and has no assistants with connections to the Atlanta AAU circuit. You gotta play a little dirty Fox, or you won’t have a job.

B'dawg

April 23rd, 2012
8:49 pm

I wish the kid the best of luck. But he made his bed, let him sleep well in it. Ask Jarvis Jones about”HOLLYWOOD”. It aint all that.

ChopAttack

April 23rd, 2012
8:49 pm

Parker can go where ever he wants. No one should give him a hard time for that… but he hasn’t done a thing for the state of Georgia.

todd grantham

April 23rd, 2012
8:49 pm

Rick, where’s Superfreak ?