Drew Parks has heard the basketball stories about his dad, who also serves as his coach with the Harlan Green Dragons.
“People tell me he was one of the best to ever come out of this area,” said the Harlan senior guard of his father, David Parks. “They say he could handle it as well as anyone and shoot the lights out.”
With Drew only 14 points away from joining the 1,000-point club at Harlan High School, he’s about to reach a level that his father also made it to when he was a senior at James A. Cawood High School 40 years ago.
David Parks was the first member of the 1,000-point club at Cawood and was the point guard, in a backcourt that also included current Harlan County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard, on the first Cawood team to win a 52nd District Tournament title and play in the 13th Region Tournament. Parks helped start the most successful run in school history as Cawood went on to win six district titles from 1976 to 1986 while advancing to the regional finals four times.
Drew Parks would like to help start Harlan back on the path of success after over a decade has passed since the Dragons were a regional power. Harlan hasn’t been to the regional tournament since 2005 and haven’t had anyone reach the 1,000-point club since Ryan Clem and John Smith over a decade ago.
“It doesn’t happen real often,” said the Harlan coach of scoring 1,000 points in a career. “We only got to play 25 games last year. We’ve been mediocre the last few years, and when you are mediocre you don’t get to play in tournaments and get extra games. It speaks volumes for him that he’s been able to stick with it like he has, because, believe me, I’ve been harder on him than any kid I’ve coached. I expected a lot from him. Most kids couldn’t have stood it.
“He’s also been fortunate to not get hurt, like (senior guard) Caleb (Hogue) did this year. Caleb would be here too had he not got hurt.”
Parks would become the 14th player in school history (according to available records) to reach 1,000 points, a mark he could surpass Tuesday at Red Bird.
“I’ve always wanted to get to 1,000 points. It doesn’t happen that often for someone to score 1,000 points in four years,” Parks said.
Harlan is off to a good start this year at 11-8 going into the Red Bird game. Parks has been one of the big reasons for the success, averaging a team-high 13.6 points per game.
“Drew is a real good shooter, and that’s something we need from him,” said the Harlan coach. “I’ve had to sit him down and tell him that he has to shoot the ball this year, because he was concerned about making sure other people get shots. But we have to have him, and a couple of the other kids, doing the shooting if we’re going to have any success.”
Parks, a four-year starter, has enjoyed the experience of playing for his father.
“Playing for your dad in any sport, you’ll remember it forever,” he said. “I think it’s the most fun I’ll have playing anything.”
Getting the chance to coach his sons brought Parks back to basketball four years ago. After two decades of coaching at Evarts, first as an assistant under Billy Hicks and then as the head coach, Parks retired when his sons (Drew and Tanner) were young. After a few years away from the game, Parks turned his attention to working on fundamentals in basketball sessions at the old Loyall Elementary School gym that involved his sons and other friends.
“If my kids wanted to play basketball, I wanted to try to give them as much foundation as they wanted to have,” Parks said. “We were neighbors and friends and decided to put our kids together, and I happened to draw the short straw because I had played basketball and knew a little about it. We’d go down there two or three days a week. Drew learned to love it like I did. I think it all started from that. He got to the point where he could dribble the ball better than I ever could.”
Drew says those basketball workouts helped him improve, but he learned more when it was just him and his father.
“I think the one-on-one stuff was what I enjoyed most, just working with Dad, learning about life and about basketball,” added Drew.
For now, the Dragons’ focus is closing the season strong. Harlan appears to be in line for the third seed in the 52nd District Tournament and could face Bell County for a trip to the regional tournament. The Dragons only lost to Bell by six points in a meeting earlier this season.
“This is the last time I’ll get to do this, and everybody wants their senior year to be special,” said Drew. “Win, lose or draw, you’ll get 100 percent from me.”
“I’d love for them to get to the regional tournament,” said the Harlan coach. “I wanted Drew and his class to get to the All “A” state tournament, but we didn’t make it, and you can’t dwell on those things. We have to move on and find another goal and try to attain it. We won’t be the favorite in the district tournament, but who knows?”
Parks was an assistant under Hicks when Evarts upset both Cumberland and Cawood to win the 52nd District Tournament title in 1983, perhaps the best team in school history. He was the head coach five years later when Evarts won the last district title in school history, but he says the opportunity to coach his sons has been the highlight of his career.
“I wouldn’t trade these four years for anything,” he said, “and it’s because of Drew and the other kids. I’ve grown attached to all of them, but it’s special because of him. You want to see things end as well as they can.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134