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The last game of Ray Parks for National University
by rick olivares
There was urgency to the game. The National University Bulldogs let slip their lead in their Round of 16 match of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League. What was once a double digit lead was now Far Eastern University’s. With time quickly ticking away and the Tamaraws sporting a 13-point lead, Parks took a forward pass and dashed off to his team’s side of the court. Three Tamaraws took off in hot pursuit. Knowing that FEU behemoth Christian Sentcheu was trailing by a stride, Parks swooped in from the right side, used the ring as protection, and kissed the ball of the glass on a reverse lay-up. Bucket.
Without Jean Mbe who had been finally released from NU duty, the Bulldogs were without a post presence not to mention a shot blocker. Troy Rosario and Kyle Neypes sometimes manned the fort for the team in D-League play (as BDO-NU) when the promising and undersized Tristan Perez wasn’t saddled with fouls. And more often than not, they played small ball.
Against FEU, the Bulldogs raced to an early lead with Parks as playmaker. Without him on the floor, they lost all sense of creativity. It didn’t help that Glenn Khobuntin missed two straight jumpshots and turned the ball over on one offensive thrust. FEU on the other hand, began to make their shots by repeatedly pounding the ball inside.
With the game on the line, FEU switched from a 2-3 zone to a 1-3-1 to stop Parks’ incursions. The Tamaraws ran Anthony Hargrove or Sentcheu to help Carl Cruz in harassing NU’s Main Man. With taller and wider players coming at him like blitzing linebackers, Parks had no choice but to pass off. That is exactly what FEU wanted – for NU to try and beat them with players not named "Parks".
Bobby Ray gamely tried to battle on as he pulled down rebounds and continued to find teammates for open looks. But all game long, FEU fed the ball inside to Hargrove who poured in 27 points on 13-15 shooting and 2-3 from the line. He also hauled down 13 boards including four off the offensive glass. The second year American center also rejected four NU missiles.
To underscore FEU’s dominance inside the paint, the Tamaraws scored 60 points to the measly 22 of the Bulldogs.
With a minute left to play and the outcome already decided, an exhausted Parks was finally lifted by NU coach Eric Altamirano (they still have to play a D-League game the following day at 10am).
The son of PBA great Bobby Parks pulled out his jersey and wore a sheepish look on his face. He finished with 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a 88-70 loss to a FEU squad that no longer had the services of Terrence Romeo who ousted him as two-time MVP and RR Garcia. It was an unobtrusive moment. No singing of the alma mater song. No announcement from the game barker. Just a simple low five of a job that came undone.
When Parks was on the floor, NU looked deadly. His court vision was non-pareil. Without him, they battled but looked lost.
Number 15 will go down as one of the best to ever play in the country’s most popular collegiate basketball league. Parks is not only a dangerous scorer but a complete player. He is at once NU’s best defensive player. Next to Ateneo Kiefer Ravena and Ryan Buenafe and Adamson’s Jericho Cruz, he is an incredible passer able to thread passes through the most improbable of angles.
Parks brought glory to National U by winning two Most Valuable Player Awards. With his presence and all-around game, the “under” was removed as a prefix from the word “dog”. And as a result, he also led the team to back-to-back Final Four berths (unfortunately missing out on the Finals) including numerous pre and post-season tournaments; an incredible feat unheard in these parts save for Loyola Heights.
This season was their biggest chance to win that elusive UAAP crown. With a weakened Ateneo, the season was wide open for several teams to unseat the Blue Eagles. NU looked good but not invincible. In the Final Four against UST, they got bullied by the more physical Growling Tigers who knocked them out despite the twice-to-beat advantage of NU.
Although there is some basketball left (D-League and the SEA Games), it is the last time that Parks will wear a “NU” jersey. He will graduate this March after which he will try his luck in NBA camps in the United States.
Although he has two more years left in his UAAP eligibility, Parks has opted out to pursue a childhood dream. “It’s not an easy road, for sure, but I have to try. My mom wants me to try. My brother wants me to try. And I have to do it. If it’s doesn’t happen then at least I can say that I tried. But I have to follow a dream.”
Added Parks, “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll make myself available for the next PBA Draft.”