Unknown in the U.S., Parks has celebrity status in the Philippines
PHILADELPHIA -- The boys' varsity basketball team at St. George's Independent School in Collierville, Tenn., enjoys the luxury of having many of its games webcast on the site justin.tv,
Williams estimates that each of his webcasts is viewed by at least 10 Filipino fans; Filipinos also search out the highlight reels Williams posts on his Web site,
What those Filipino fans are obsessing over, specifically, is a St. George's junior-to-be named
Who is Ray Parks? In the U.S. recruiting scene, he's a left-handed, 6-foot-3 guard with no profile page on Rivals.com, and a meager profile with a two-star rating (as "
The Atlanta Hawks selected him in the third round of the '84 draft, but his NBA career didn't make it past training camp. He was cut, then floated through a tryout with the Clippers, and stints in the CBA and France for a couple of years before settling in a country where his name now extremely well-known.
"My dad," Ray says, proudly, "is like the
That comparison isn't overly hyperbolical. In a 12-year career (1987-98) in the Philippines, where basketball is by far the most popular sport, Bobby Ray Sr. was named the Philippine Basketball Associate's Import of the Year -- the equivalent of the MVP award -- a record seven times, including after a season (1989) in which he averaged 52.6 points per game. In September he'll become just the second American (the other is
Bobby Ray Sr. moved back to the U.S. from Manila in 2005, and Ray followed in 2006, before his eighth-grade year. Both Ray's mother (
"Ray had never seen a washing machine; he had never heard the words, 'Cut the grass,' because we had people doing everything. I had to keep nagging on him [to do chores]."
The main point of the move, though, was to expose Ray to better basketball competition so he could earn a Division I scholarship in the U.S., and pursue a potential pro future. Ray enrolled at St. George's because
Filipino fans discussed Ray's sophomore season -- and the justin.tv webcasts -- in a
Parks made news in the Philippines in January by returning there to try out for the Under-16 national team. He made the squad and was also told he'd likely have a place on the country's senior national team when it attempts to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.
There were also pleas for him play his final two years of high school in Manila, against college competition; Ray says there's only a slim chance of this happening, but that a few Filipinos have e-mailed him "essays" on why he should stay in the country. (In an article in the
At the Reebok camp, the night before the games began on Wednesday, Bobby Ray received a call from a representative of the junior national team, who asked, "Can you bring Ray over in September?" Ray plans to play with the team in a tournament in November, but they want him to come two months early -- when his dad arrives for the Hall of Fame ceremony -- to begin training. "I want him to play for the national team, and he wants to play, too," says Bobby Ray, "but I don't know if I can pull him out of school for two months."
Given that Ray is already spending much of his summer away from home -- he went to elite camps at Virginia and Alabama, then the Reebok camp, and will be traveling with the Memphis-based Mike Miller AAU program to Las Vegas -- traveling for the entire fall as well is not ideal.
If Ray is considered high-major college material by next summer, Memphis and Virginia -- both of which already have some interest -- would be his two most likely destinations. The Tigers make sense because Bobby Ray played there, still lives there, and is currently on scholarship at the school -- at the invitation of the athletic department -- as he takes adult education classes in hopes of earning the degree he didn't finish while playing for the Tigers. The Cavaliers make sense because Bobby Ray is currently the personal assistant to
Looking much further into the future, Bobby Ray makes a point of noting, "There's never been a Filipino to make the NBA, and if [Ray] did that, it would open up such a big market [of 92 million Filipinos] for the league. But" -- and this is his realistic addendum to NBA dreaming -- "Ray's only been here for a few years, and he's barely even had a chance to get on the radar yet."
Ray plans on following in his father's footsteps in some regard -- no matter whether he sticks on the radar as Ray Parks, or Ray-Ray Parks, or Bobby Parks, or Bobby Parks Jr.; or whether he ends up making a bigger name as a hoopster in Memphis or Manila. As he played in Philadelphia on Wednesday, his camp-issued Reeboks were covered in black-markered inscriptions. One line, in English, read "Got it from my pops," while another, in Tagalog, read "Pangalawang laro." That, Ray says, means "Second game."
"My dad was the first game," he says, "and I've gotta do good, because I'm what's next."