Basketball culture is changing, and when players are averaging close to 30 points per game, it’s easy to imagine a player with extreme athleticism or a guy who chucks up more shots than he’s worth.
Zach Parker, however is much more “old-school” in how he scores his points. He is much less Russell Westbrook and more like his idol, Paul Pierce.
“Some say he’s slow, but he’s so fundamentally sound,” Mid-Carolina coach Emmanuel DeWalt said.
Parker, a senior small forward for Mid-Carolina, knows his strengths and weaknesses and learns to adapt to them. “I’m not flashy or anything to try to get around people, I just want to get the easy score. Pierce has always just shown the fundamentals and I try to do the same.”
Parker – who is averaging 25.6 points, 12 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 steals – garnered multiple preseason awards including Region Player of the Year as well as being named one of the top five players in the state for Class 2A by the S.C. Coaches Association. Parker has remained a hidden gem in the Midlands, but he stays humble and has led Mid-Carolina to one of its best starts (9-3) in recent years.
“It’s weird,” Parker said. “I’ve been having the best statistics of my career, but I tell the coaches all the time that my team is making me look better than I might be.”
Parker has worked hard to get to the level he has achieved, starting with his freshman year, the same year that DeWalt took over as coach.
“He has come a really long way, and it’s a testament of his work ethic,” DeWalt said. “I came in and did some workouts with him over the summer. That whole first year, he was one of the guys that was willing to get up and work out at six in the morning three or four times a week and just work on fundamentals.”
DeWalt said he knew Parker, a 6-foot freshman, was going to keep growing throughout high school, so he got him working in the post early.
“I wasn’t going to wait for him to get tall to play in the post,” DeWalt said. “Now as he’s gotten taller, he has an advantage on the big guys because he has more experience down there.”
The early workouts haven’t changed much for Parker, who trains before and after school during the basketball offseason. One thing that has changed for him is the role he’s played on the team.
Parker was one of the quiet players who liked to lead by example until the coaches sat him down and told him to be more vocal.
“I used to be nervous about stepping up,” Parker said. “Now, I feel good about it. Last year, we got off to a tough start, and I thought it was partly because of leadership. It made me regret not stepping up and leading earlier to start off like we are this year.”
Outside of his eat, sleep, breathe basketball life, Zach turns to his family for relief.
“I love to just spend time with my family going to movies or football and basketball games,” Parker said. “I know that if it weren’t for them or for God, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Parker has been receiving interest from mostly Division II colleges, but his dream has been to play at Clemson.
“I’m just trying to play ball and focus on myself,” he said. “I’ve always thought that if I work as hard as I can to get to Clemson, that even if I don’t make it there, my skills will make it easier for me to get into other schools at the next level.”