By PATRICK STROHECKER
In Charlie Parker’s four years at Millersville University, there wasn’t a whole lot that he didn’t accomplish on the basketball court.
After playing in his final game for the Marauders in 2008, he finished second in program history in points (1,949) and steals (288) and fourth in assists (454). That goes along with his four All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division First Team selections and two PSAC East Player of the Year honors. He was also a two-time NCAA Division II All-American, not to mention being named PSAC East Rookie of the Year in 2004-05.
Parker flourished under head coach Fred Thompson, but to define exactly what propelled him to become one of the program’s best players ever is hard for him to answer, even now.
He was a small-town kid who always had aspirations of playing professional basketball, but was always doubted by those around him. He had to attend prep school following his graduation from Kennard-Dale High School because he wasn’t eligible to play Division I basketball by the NCAA. He had to turn down D-I offers when he was at prep school, or else risk sitting out a year.
But it was that year at St. Thomas More Prep, in Oakdale, Connecticut, where Parker saw a transformation in himself as a basketball player.
“I always tell people that going to prep school changed me,” Parker said. “Because Kennard-Dale, we had a pretty good year my senior year, but it wasn’t a great program at the time and I really felt like I learned a lot at prep school. Pretty much everyone on my team went Division I. Everybody we played against that year were going to schools in the ACC, Big East, the Big Ten and conferences like that … So that’s what made me so successful my first year at Millersville because I was used to playing against tough competition.”
That competition may have been what got Parker ready for college, but it is also what molded him into a player who would soon get paid to play basketball.
Pro career: Following his four years at Millersville, Parker made the jump to pro basketball by playing in the NBA Developmental League.
For years, the league has been affiliated with the NBA as a minor league system, but it’s rarely used as a feeder system, like in the NHL or Major League Baseball. But, if there is one similarity between the D-League and the other minor league systems, it’s that the lifestyle isn’t glamorous. Pay isn’t great and the road trips and the schedules area a grind.
Parker lived that life for the first two years out of college, having a brief stint with the Reno Bighorns and then playing much of those two years with the Los Angeles D-Fenders. In his third year out of school, he was one of the last players cut by the Erie Bayhawks, leaving him without a team for that season. Parker did play semi-pro basketball that year, but it wasn’t how he envisioned his life after college.
So he packed his bags and headed overseas, determined to continue living out his dream of playing pro basketball, first in Iceland and then in Denmark.
“A lot of the opportunities that I got were very random and I look at it as I was fortunate to get the opportunities,” Parker said.
For Americans playing overseas, the key is to play for a good team, according to Parker. It leads to more opportunities to sustain your career, while also allowing the player to make more money. And for the first time since his days in Millersville, Parker found a good team during his time in Denmark.
“I played for a team in Denmark that won the championship,” he said. “And I had an agreement with the general manager that they were going to re-sign me back to the team.”
Only the team didn’t. With an interim coach in place, one who had different ideas and players in mind, Parker was again without a team. He faced a tough life decision — give up playing the game he so dearly loved, or continue to fight to play pro basketball.
For Parker, the decision was easy.
“I really just thought about the future and life in general,” he said. “I didn’t have to give up playing. I very easily could’ve continued to play, but over the years, the issue I had was that I never really had an agent I could trust or an agent that was really helping me get opportunities.”
Coaching life: While Parker made up his mind to retire from playing basketball professionally, he wasn’t completely set on giving up on the game all together.
With his passion for basketball still burning deep, he turned his attention to coaching the sport. And what better place to start than back at the school where he excelled so much?
“I always knew that (coaching) was what I was going to do when I was done playing, I just didn’t know it would be that soon,” Parker said.
Now, at 29 years old, Parker is back at Millersville for his second year as an assistant coach, again under the watchful eye of his former coach.
Thompson, who is now in his 17th season with the Marauders, was the guy who gave Parker the chance to grow his game as a player and now he’s the same guy who is giving him a shot at kick-starting his coaching career.
“I know what (Thompson) likes, I know what he doesn’t like,” Parker said. “I know what he’s looking for out of the players, so I’m kind of that bridge and the gap between player and coach where hopefully I can help the players develop and grow, not only in basketball, but in his system.”
The York County product is also getting the opportunity to guide some of the area’s top, young talent, in brothers Kelvin and Tavon Parker, who are both York High grads.
Kelvin, now a senior, is one of the Marauders top players, while Tavon, is working toward getting back to being academically eligible in his second year at Millersville.
If there was any guy who the players should look up to at Millersville, it’s Parker. He knows a thing or two about what it takes to be successful at the school and under Thompson.
And if there’s any doubt, then they just need to check the record books for reassurance.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.