UCLA’s decision to hire a longtime Atlanta AAU coach has paid huge and immediate dividends with recruiting.
Tony Parker, the basketball star from Miller Grove High School who is ranked as one of the nation’s top 25 overall prospects, picked UCLA over UGA and Ohio State among his finalists, which also included Duke, Kansas and Memphis. Last summer, UCLA hired one of Parker’s former AAU coaches as an assistant.
At the end of Monday’s 57-minute commitment ceremony, Parker briefly toyed around with baseball caps from Georgia and Ohio State before revealing a t-shirt with the UCLA logo on it.
“I just wanted to go to a place with a winning tradition,” Parker said.
At UCLA, Parker will also be going to place with a familiar face. Last June, the Bruins hired Korey McCray, the former CEO of the Atlantic Celtics AAU team. While Parker has played primarily for the Georgia Stars AAU team over the years, he appeared in several tournaments with the Celtics. He has a tight friendship with McCray, who has trained Parker since he was 12 years old.
“Yes sir, I did want to play for Korey,” Parker said. “We’re extremely close. He’s like an older brother to me, and he has been looking out for me for a long time … I really thought if I went to UCLA, Korey could really develop me. He pushes me hard.”
At UCLA, Parker will also be reunited with his AAU teammate, small forward Jordan Adams, the former Central Gwinnett standout who transferred to Virginia’s Oak Hill prep school this season. Adams signed with UCLA last November.
Parker waited nearly two weeks after the opening day of the early signing period because he wrestled between signing with UCLA, Georgia or Ohio State. At one point or another during the recruiting process, Parker revealed on Monday that he had each of the three schools as his leader.
His mother went public with her support for Georgia earlier this month.
“Yes, I was in favor of Tony picking Georgia initially because Coach [Mark] Fox is one of my favorite coaches … I love that program,” said Hazel Parker.
“But I was fine when Tony decided on UCLA, or with whatever choice he made. And if I wasn’t pleased, I would’ve let Tony know … I’m going to miss him, of course. There will be lonesome days and all that good stuff. But if he was an hour away at Georgia, I would miss him, also.”
It was a heartbreaking decision for Georgia, which seemingly came out of nowhere to become a serious contender for Parker within the last couple of months. Two of Parker’s former Miller Grove teammates will be playing for Georgia next season, but it wasn’t enough to sway Parker.
“Georgia has nothing to hold their heads down about,” Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “They were oblivious [among Parker’s favorite colleges] six months ago, even three months ago. They closed the gap in a hurry.
“Coach Fox and his staff should not hold their heads down. If I know Coach Fox, this will motivate him to not let another top player like Tony leave the state … Georgia did well, they made some big strides against some bigger schools that are more well-known for their basketball. I think Georgia should be proud of its effort.”
In the end, relationships played a big factor in Parker’s decision. He grew close with two other ULCA recruits, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, after playing with them in a couple of national all-star games recently. There was always the strong connection with McCray.
“Tony training with Korey all these years probably started the process of them bonding,” White said. “When it came time to make a big decision like this … for Tony to leave home and go across the country, there had be people and things that Tony really believed in and was really confident in.”
Parker, the AJC’s Mr. Basketball, led Miller Grove to four straight Class AAAA state championships.
HOT OFF THE PRESSES …
AJC’S INSTANT RECRUITING CLASSICS
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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