The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Michael Parker of the Shimane Susanoo Magic is the subject of this week’s profile.
Position: Small forward
Ht: 202 cm
Wt: 95 kg
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
College: Evergreen State, an NAIA school in Olympia, Washington.
Noteworthy: Parker has led the bj-league in scoring in each of the past three seasons, averaging 27.3 (2010-11), 26.5 and 26.8 points per game, respectively, for the Rizing Fukuoka. After four seasons in a Fukuoka uniform, Parker joined Shimane during the offseason, making the second-year franchise an immediate challenger for a spot in the Final Four. Parker has also led the league in steals for four consecutive seasons, and back-to-back selections to the league’s Best Five Team. . . .
From a Hoop Scoop column in May, this reporter ranked Parker as the third-greatest player in league history: “Three straight scoring titles and four straight steals crowns are reminders that the Rizing star is a special athlete and a dynamic performer game after game,” the column noted.
What’s similar and what’s different about the way your previous coach, Fukuoka’s Tadaharu Ogawa, and Shimane’s Zeljko Pavlicevic prepare you for practices and games?
Actually, it’s completely different. We take our cues from Coach P (Pavlicevic). With Coach Ogawa, he would more kind of get our input. Coach P, though, he takes input from us, but he leads the way for us.
With Shimane it’s a little different because our talent level’s a little different, as far as players around me. I mean, (Nile) Murry was great but he still was a point guard, but (Susanoo Magic standout) Reggie (Golson), he’s actually a scorer so I’ve got to be out there with another scorer.
That’s a little different but we kind of got over everything, but know we are molding just great, and everything is really good right now.
Pavlicevic is a well-respected coach, his success in Europe is well-documented and his teaching skills are on par with some of basketball’s brightest minds. So how would you describe his approach to the game?
He breaks down players very truthfully, by telling exactly what a player will do, and he also has a good eye for basketball, so he puts people in positions to just succeed so well.
Can you give an example?
If a certain play is working, if we’re in practice and something is working very good, he’ll come the next day and put it in, and show us what players (we need)for it to work exactly right, and then usually it always works.
Do you think bj-league players will keep close tabs on Jeremy Tyler, the former Tokyo Apache forward who was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats and traded to the Golden State Warrior in June?
Well, you definitely want to check it out because you played against the guy. It’s definitely cool to see him get drafted . . . because he did play in this league. . . . He went directly from this league to the (NBA). That’s definitely a good streamline, I think, especially for younger players.
Which defenders have presented the greatest challenges for you during your time in the bj-league?
Defensively, Okinawa (Ryukyu Golden Kings) as a team they put together a pretty good team defensive strategy against me. That’s one of the reasons why I felt like going to a different team with another scorer might be better because it will spread them out. They always play very good, (Anthony) McHenry and (Jeff) Newton, most of the time they just switch off on me and they never help off of me. . . . They just keep focused on me, which is good.
Osaka does a great job, too. I played against their coach, (Ryan) Blackwell, so he knows what I’m going to do also. They kind of do the same thing and don’t help. They also do well. A lot of times, the bigger, stronger defenders — someone like (Evessa forward Lynn) Washington, who, depending on how much the refs let them bump me around — give me problems. But if they are not that much stronger than me, then it doesn’t really give me problems.
As far as big men, (Chiba Jets center George) Leach has great timing, and he’s big, so he’s been able to block my shots more than most players have. . . . My teammate now, (216-cm Jeral) Davis, he definitely can block a lot of shots. He has great timing and it’s actually helping me playing against him every day, because now I have to kind of do different things. So it’s actually making me better.
In your opinion, is Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, more of a basketball town than Fukuoka?
There’s no comparison. As far as basketball-wise, Matsue is killing Fukuoka. The boosters in Shimane are about Shimane, and they are about the Magic and they are about everything that we are about. They are really into that. Fukuoka’s a big city; there’s football, baseball, six rugby teams, there’s a lot of things. There wasn’t a lot of advertising and (promotions) for us. Our play was the one (thing) that was keeping us our fans.
Here, in Shimane, they advertise, and we play hard and that gets us more fans. The whole culture of basketball there is so big. And Fukuoka is such a big city that it’s hard to get it (that way) unless you started it at the grass-roots level and build it all the way up.
(Reporter’s note: Parker mentioned a recent preseason game that was played in front of a sellout crowd, “and that’s pretty amazing for a preseason game. I’ve never played in front of a sold-out crowd at any time. . . . It was sold out well in advance.”)
Do you try to emulate any current or past NBA players, and incorporate their style of play into your game? Well, defensively and energetically, a guy like (Detroit Pistons forward) Tayshaun Prince is someone who I look at and where I kind of pick up things on defense, little helpful things.
Scottie Pippen is kind of the same thing . . . because he kind of controls the game as far as defense. Offensively, the Allen Iverson that scores a lot, helps his team a lot . . . and who can lead his team (Sixers) to the Finals, a really hard-nosed player offensively.
Nowadays, it’s kind of hard because the game has kind of changed a little bit. Obviously, the great players like LeBron James, who can do a little bit of everything, I guess that’s the closest comparison I would like to make, because he does everything even if he’s not scoring.
When you entered college, a relatively unknown one, did you think you’d become a pro player, and did you think you’d have the success you’ve had as far as longevity and the ability to do a lot of things well and win recognition for scoring, defense and steals?
When I started college, I knew my skill level was at the level of the big D-I guys and stuff like that, because I got recruited to go to those places. But I didn’t have good grades and everything didn’t work out how it’s supposed to work out.
But I knew from high school a lot of the guys I was all-state or all-region with, those guys all went to big Division I programs, so I knew my level was about the same. I knew if I kept working, it’s going to be harder to go to a smaller school and get better and better so much because you’re not going against the greatest. But I already knew my level was already there, so I just never slacked up.
I always had the idea of going pro. I really didn’t want to do another 9-to-5 job. I wanted to be a pro basketball player. . . .
Since becoming a pro, have you ever thought you could take anything for granted in this game?
Well, definitely, and that’s also a little extra (incentive) that pushes me to play so hard and play so well is that I didn’t go to a big school. So it kind of shows people that you don’t have to go to any one of these big schools to be a really good player.
So I try to solidify that so people will know that I’m a good player and I didn’t go to a big school.