The lost boy of the Class of 2011
Is it possible for an elite recruit to disappear? When Rivals.com posted its final
After Gregory left Dayton to take the Georgia Tech job on March 28, he had difficulty in contacting Parks. The 6-foot-4 lefty was spending his senior year of high school in Manila, where he was born to an American father and Filipino mother; he had grown up there prior to moving to the U.S. at the age of 13. There were e-mails exchanged about the possibility of releasing Parks from his NLI so he could re-open his recruitment. But as of Wednesday, one month after being hired, Gregory had yet to reach Parks or his father by phone despite multiple attempts. New coaches lose inherited recruits all the time; they just tend to go to other programs, not incommunicado in Southeast Asia.
Although members of Hewitt's former staff warned that Parks might not return to the U.S. this year, Gregory says "it's the strangest recruiting situation I've ever seen, and I've been doing this for more than 20 years." An
This is what happened: After
By late 2010, Parks Jr. obtained the credits necessary to enroll at National University as a freshman, and began starring for its basketball team, the Bulldogs, in offseason tournaments. He's expected to lead them in the 2011 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season that runs from July through October.
An NCAA spokesperson told SI.com that if Parks Jr. wants to play Division I in the future, he'd be treated like a college transfer rather than a recruit, meaning that he'd have to sit out one full season before taking the floor. He could apply for a transfer waiver due to the circumstances of his departure from the U.S.; Parks Sr. says that had his employment situation not necessitated going abroad, his son would have remained in Memphis, on track to enroll at Georgia Tech. As it stands, Parks Jr. has not yet submitted any paperwork to the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse.
"I hope you'll write something positive about him," Parks Sr. said of his son in a phone conversation from Manila. "He's made a lot of sacrifices to move over here."
Gregory said that Georgia Tech would be willing to grant Parks Jr. a release from his letter of intent, and seemed resigned to him never being a Yellow Jacket. "I just feel like it's too far gone," Gregory said. "It's going to be an exciting process getting this [program] back on track, and I need guys with both feet in -- or at least both feet on this continent."
Parks Sr. said he hoped Georgia Tech would remain in the recruiting picture, and asked an SI.com writer for Gregory's phone number on Thursday. Parks Jr., who did not answer calls for this story, indicated on his Facebook page that other schools were in the mix: In a conversation thread with Adonis Thomas, Parks Jr. said he wanted to look at Louisville and Marquette in addition to the Yellow Jackets. In a recent Filipino TV interview this year, Parks Jr. declined to lay out his U.S. college plans, saying he'd "rather take it one step at a time."
Exactly when Parks Jr. would be available to play in D-I is unclear. If he left the Philippines this winter and enrolled in a U.S. college for the second semester, he could be ready to suit up as early as December 2012. In the eyes of the NCAA, Parks Jr.'s "five-year clock" began when he enrolled in classes at National University in 2010, meaning he'd have to use his four years of college eligibility by 2014-15.
The numbers Parks Jr. posted at the Nike Global Challenge in Hillsboro, Ore., last August suggest that he can contribute at a high-level D-I program. As the lead guard on the All-Asia team, Parks Jr. averaged 22.0 points on 44.4 percent three-point shooting, and got to the free-throw line 8.7 times per game while playing against American teams that included blue-chippers Anthony Davis (who's bound for Kentucky), Bradley Beal (Florida), and a Brazilian team that included potential first-round pick Lucas Nogueira. "That was when Ray really blew up," Parks Sr. said. "We're hoping that, down the road, if he's lucky enough, he'll be the first Filipino to have a shot at the NBA."
Parks Jr. has been invited to train with Smart-Gilas, the Filipino senior national team, and it's a near-guarantee that he'll make a huge impact in the UAAP. His choice to play for National University, the smallest (at just under 1,400 students) and most athletically downtrodden (it's in the midst of a record 56-year title drought in basketball) of the league's eight schools, is no coincidence. In 2008, the family of shopping mall magnate Henry Sy, whom Forbes called "
Gregory, meanwhile, will have to turn elsewhere to reinforce a Yellow Jackets team that went 13-18 (and 5-11 in the ACC) last season and could be losing its best guard, junior Iman Shumpert, who declared for the draft without hiring an agent. Gregory is supporting him through the process, but also believes Shumpert could have an "
Various Filipino media reports support that theory, including a
Georgia Tech seems unlikely to stay in that hunt. At one point during a phone conversation Wednesday, Gregory apologized and said, "Can I call you right back? I have a recruit on the other line who's not in the Philippines."