The Education of Bobby Ray Parks Jr.

The Education of Bobby Ray Parks Jr.
Bobby Ray Parks Jr. is as determined as ever to win an ABL championship

Bobby Ray Parks Jr. stayed in the Philippines for his father.

The 6-foot-4 swingman was already committed to Georgia Tech before deciding to go back to Manila to take care of the elder Bobby Ray Parks Sr.

Years later, it turns out that Parks Jr.’s entire stint with San Miguel Alab Pilipinas is also for his father. “I was thinking about that even before all of this,” he told reporters after he and his team made their way to the Finals of the 2017-2018 Asean Basketball League last Sunday.

He then continued, “Because to be honest, his (Parks Sr.) last (run) was in the ABL and because of that, I wanted to do the ABL first before I step into the PBA or whatever God has planned for me.”

The 25-year-old and the rest of the Filipinos are three wins away from reclaiming the regional crown last brought home to the Philippines by the San Miguel Beermen back in 2013.

That team was first coached by Parks Sr. before he was forced to step aside due to health issues.

In the same year the Beermen claimed the championship, the elder Parks passed away.

Now, the younger Parks is only looking forward to forging another bond with his father – that of shared success in the ABL. As he put it, “Of course, to win the championship is definitely the goal. Winning the championship for him (Parks Sr. would be) great.”

He then continued, “And to be able to do it by being part of the same family, it’s definitely a blessing.”

THIS FIRE BURNS

Being in the Finals – and having four playoff wins – is already an improvement for Alab who fell in the semifinals without any wins a year ago.

Looking at Parks Jr.’s number this season, though, it would seem as if he took a step back with per game counts of 15.5 points, five rebounds, and 3.4 assists.

This, coming off a year when he averaged 19 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists en route to becoming the hands-down Local MVP.

Taking time to look at the bigger picture, however, it’s evident that Parks Jr. now knows how to pick his spots and go to work when his team needs him the most.

“His mental approach, yun ang big improvement. Ang laki ng ni-mature niya,” last year’s head coach and now assistant coach Mac Cuan shared. “He understands the game more. Now, tine-take advantage niya kung anong tools niya. Lahat, gamit na gamit niya.”

Indeed, he is only getting better and better heading into a Finals showdown with either top-seed Chong Son of China or resurgent Mono of Thailand.

In their most recent win, in fact, Parks Jr. was all over the stat sheet with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists, all while helping limit the likes of Marcus Elliott and Tyler Lamb.

Compare this to last year when he no longer had any gas left in the tank to drag a talent-lacking – and frankly, reinforcement-needing – Filipino team to the playoffs.

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?

That wasn’t the first time Parks Jr. led an upstart team to contention.

In the UAAP, he was the shining star for a National University outfit that had only begun scratching and clawing its way out of the cellar when he arrived.

Young as he was then, however, and with the Bulldogs still jostling for a place in a land dominated by Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and University of Sto. Tomas, Parks Jr. fell short in bringing his team to the promised land.

In the end of his time in blue and gold, he had two playoff appearances with no wins, two MVPs, and three Mythical selections under his belt.

Clearly, falling short then has still galvanized Parks Jr. into the battle-hardened player he is today.

As Pao Javelona, his former NU teammate and now-Alab teammate, tells it, “Ray matured so much. As a leader sa team, sobrang layo nang ginaling ni Ray.”

He then continued, “He talks to me always. Kaya rin ako nagkakumpiyansa ngayon is because ang laki ng tulong niya sa akin.”

THE LEAGUES

After his collegiate career, Parks Jr. found himself as a star among stars in the PBA D-League with the Hapee Fresh Fighters.

There, alongside Ola Adeogun, Baser Amer, Garvo Lanete, Chris Newsome, and Scottie Thompson, he won his first, and thus far only, major championship.

That was an important title for Parks Jr. as not only was that his biggest team achievement to date, but that’s also what’s keeping him determined to get another one. “D-League is the only place I won a championship so I definitely want to win a championship (in the ABL),” he said.

After that, he tried his luck in the NBA D-League, but unfortunately, never found his footing there.

I’M COMING HOME

As it turns out, Parks Jr. never found his footing with the Texas Legends in the NBA D-League because there were still steps he had to take – steps leading back home.

Now, he stands at the forefront of a title run for an Alab side which has won seven games in a row and has rolled its way to the best-of-five Finals scheduled to start a week from now.

“Every basketball player wants to win a championship. It’s tough to win a championship and it takes a great team to do that,” he shared.

He then continued, “But I believe in our team. I believe we’re special. I believe we can make something happen.”

Of course, Renaldo Balkman and Justin Brownlee provided the big-time boost that pushed the Filipinos over the hump.

In the two-year existence of the Philippines’ latest representatives in the ABL, however, Parks Jr. has been the constant.

And this year, he is better than ever – thanks to all the lessons he has learned from everywhere he went. “This is just a testament to the people around me. I am where I am because of them,” he said.

GOTTA GO MY OWN WAY

Bobby Ray Parks Jr. is special – not just for his basketball talent, but where that has taken him.

From being a prospect in the US NCAA to being a star in the UAAP. From the PBA D-League to the NBA D-League. From Gilas Pilipinas to San Miguel Alab Pilipinas.

Without a doubt, he took the road less traveled, or not even traveled at all, but all throughout, Parks Jr. was doing nothing but getting better and better as a basketball player and as a person. “I always want to be the best basketball player I could be. Even though I was struggling, I gained knowledge, I gained wisdom,” he said.

He then continued, “I became a better basketball player each and every year because I learned from all these difficult situations. And in the end, everything will be sweeter because I took the rougher path.”

Bobby Ray Parks Jr. is special – and nobody can take that away from him. “I already know I’m a lost boy. For sure, my story is different from everybody else,” he expressed.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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