The baby fat and about 15 pounds are gone. So is the annoying nickname.
Tony Parker isn’t the same person or basketball player he was four months ago as a member of the Miller Grove Class AAAA state championship basketball team.
Instead, the rising junior is more focused, more mature, stronger and healthier. That combination recently helped Parker earn a spot on the USA Basketball Under-17 national team that will be participating in the World Championships in Germany July 2-11. He is the only Georgian on the team, which earlier this week was in Lithuania playing a pair of exhibition games.
“It’s really exciting,” Hazel Parker said of her son’s accomplishments. “It’s been a busy time to say the least. It’s been fun to watch his dreams come true and watch him grow. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it has paid off. It’s been awesome to see.”
The transformation was a collective effort, but Parker’s commitment to following the advice of trainer Kevin Peeples was crucial.
“The whole thing was he needed to get in shape and get his mind right,” Peeples said. “He’s a lot more focused. He’s matured a heck of a lot from last year to this year. I always tell him you don’t prove anything until you show it on the court.”
During last high school season, Parker was second for the Wolverines behind University of Georgia-signee Donte Williams averaging 9.4 rebounds per game with 51 blocks in 27 games. He had a season-high of 27 points but didn’t break double figures in either of the final two playoff games.
Peeples is certain Parker will have the stamina to finish strongly next season. Peeples has worked Parker into shape this summer with a rigorous workout routine that includes a three-mile run in 18 minutes or less.
The 6-foot-9 Parker went from 275 pounds during the high school season to a more muscular 260 pounds that he will carry into the World Championships.
“When they stopped calling him Fat Boy I think that had an impact on him,” Peeples said. “When he saw the other kids couldn’t handle him in the paint, that was a defining moment for him. I told him the paint is yours. He realized how soft he was and I had to get that out of him. When you play on the blocks, you can’t be soft.”
Peeples’ main goal with Parker was to build muscle, improve footwork and change his pupil’s state of mind.
“It was training of the mind as well,” said Peeples, who is a fitness trainer at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia. We worked on discipline on and off the court. Off the court consists of in the classroom, weight room, eating well and being right with God. We work on keeping him grounded at New Birth. As long as God comes first and you stay humble, everything will be OK.”
Being a national basketball recruit when you’re only a sophomore has added to the challenge for Parker, but those around him notice he has handled it well. He already has several scholarship offers, including Georgia Tech, Clemson, Tennessee, Florida, Connecticut and Georgia.
“I’m probably more proud of how he has remained humble than anything else,” Hazel Parker said. “So many children at his age have a hard time handling success. It’s amazing how well he handles it, and he does not take it for granted at all.”
His father, Virgil Parker, also sees a difference in his son’s physical ability. His maturation as a player over the past year has made him more versatile.
“In the past, he played a lot with his back to the basket,” said Virgil Parker, who was a point guard a Missouri Southern University. “This summer, they’ve pulled him away and worked on facing up, his jump shot and ball handling. It’s one of the biggest jumps that he’s made. The Team USA coaches have called and said how well he is shooting the ball. He’s incorporated the changes without disrupting the other parts of his game.”
The national coaches also have noticed Parker’s physical improvements, his father said.
“[Peeples] has been a very hard worker as far as getting Tony into the condition and shape he’s in now,” Virgil Parker said. “Kevin has done an amazing job. The coaches at Team USA have told us how good Tony looks.”
That’s a good start, but Peeples knows that the transformation will be complete when Parker’s new look translates to dominance on the basketball court.