The Parks factor
Back in the Philippines, Bobby Ray Parks hopes to bring his old on-court self back—the do-it-all Parks who stuffs the stat sheets, the hero-mode Parks who finds ways to bail his team out.
Parks had been kept dormant as he chased his NBA dream. After a celebrated collegiate career here as a two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player, Parks flew to the United States, cracked the Texas Legends roster in the NBA
D-League, but wound up riding the bench most of the season. He then got released by the Legends, picked up by the Westchester Knicks, only to be waived before opening day.
His heart fell, but there were no regrets. The left-handed swingman thinks the two-year experience turned him into a more mature player. Right now, though, Parks just wants a stage to show his old but polished self.
That’s why Alab Pilipinas’ offer can’t be any more timely. Just as he’s shelving his NBA dream—temporarily, he insists—Parks finds the stage he had hoped for in the Asean Basketball League (ABL), the region’s first home-and-away tournament.
“The NBA dream is still alive, but right now, it’s on the back burner because my priority is Alab and representing my country,” says the son of the late Bobby Parks, the seven-time PBA Best Import. “Me, just being able to be a factor in the team, it feels good to show what I can do because I worked hard in the past year and a half.”
Coach Mac Cuan knows he needs all the help he can get from an athletic and versatile player like Parks as Alab Pilipinas debuts in the league’s seventh season against teams from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.
“The teams in the ABL have really improved a lot,” says Cuan. “I think their local players have improved leaps and bounds, especially the players from Singapore.”
“[So when] you have Bobby Ray on your team, you can’t help but smile,” adds Cuan. “But seriously, Bobby Ray will be a great help for us because I feel I need a lot of shooters. ABL is a different ball game from the PBA, which is more isolation, one-on-one. ABL is international, so it’s more on ball movement, player movement. Bobby Ray will be our creator.”
And the 6-foot-4 Parks, who played for Gilas Pilipinas alongside PBA aces in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying in Manila in July, can’t wait to do just that.
“[What] happened in the D-League, it didn’t do my hard work any justice, that’s the way I feel about it,” he admits. “So me, being able to play in the ABL and my teammates trusting me, it allows me to show what I’ve been working on, to show that I’ve improved, to show that I’m a totally different player.”
It is the attitude Cuan wants from his players—all hungry, all wanting to prove their worth. Cuan also tapped players like Rob Celiz, a hardworking forward who only had a two-season stint in the PBA.
Also hoping to get his confidence back is former University of Santo Tomas ace Jeric Fortuna. Although Fortuna suited up for the San Miguel team that captured the 2013 ABL championship, he ended up hopping around four PBA teams in three years.
“Jeric is a very intelligent point guard, very cerebral,” says Cuan. “I like the way he controls the game, how he handles the team.”
Alab, though, is no haven for the unwanted. All the players fought hard for their spots against many other young talents who have fallen by the PBA wayside—the reality of tough competition in the country’s most popular sport.
For Lawrence Domingo, though, it’s a chance to get acquainted with local hoops. A 23-year-old Filipino-American just like Parks, Domingo is keen on finding out how he would fare against local and regional players.
“Being half-Filipino, my family told me that you should go and play in the Philippines,” says the 6-foot-5 forward. “I watched videos online of the PBA and saw how much of a basketball-loving country this is. I’m pretty excited coming out here.”
Domingo played for four years at Eastern New Mexico University in the Lone Star Conference, an NCAA Division II league, where he averaged 12 points and eight rebounds.
Parks knows that their ABL campaign will be all about winning. More so now after a ragtag campaign last year by another Philippine representative, which wound up in the cellars with a 2-18 record.
“I just promise to give my best and rack up some wins,” he says. “I’m just trying to win back the championship. People appreciate the hard work you put in just by winning games. At the end of the day, it’s about the wins.”
With reports from Randolph Leongson, Bong Lozada, Inquirer.net
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