The USF men’s basketball team lost its top four scorers from a year ago, but the return of a homegrown star in the making has made it easy for the Dons to move into a new era.
De’End Parker took an unlikely road to USF, however.
He was a star at Lincoln High School, earning CIF San Francisco Section Player of the Year honors in 2008-09 and led City College of San Francisco to a state title in 2011, the first time CCSF did so since 1962. His performance was enough to draw the interest of one of the most storied programs in college basketball, and Parker took his game to UCLA.
Things in SoCal didn’t work out like he expected though. He played in only two games for the Bruins last season, and when his family in San Francisco needed him, coming back to The City seemed the obvious choice.
“My mom had heart surgery, she just started feeling real ill,” Parker said. “I’m the youngest of 10, I felt like it’s my responsibility to be here, my duty as the youngest son to help her out and come back home.”
The transition has worked out well for Parker. After struggling in the season opener against Stanford, he led the team in scoring in USF’s next two games, wins over Cal State East Bay and American University. He’s now averaging 16.7 points per game while making eight of his 11 3-point attempts.
Parker said his poor performance against Stanford motivated him.
“I don’t like losing at all,” he said. “I think people saw it on my face too. I took that Stanford game to heart. The way I performed in that game shouldn’t happen again.”
He showed some of that toughness in the win over Cal State East Bay, a close, physical game in which his temper flared in the second half before USF pulled away late for a 73-58 victory.
“He said to me, coach I’m protecting my teammates,” coach Rex Walters said of Parker’s momentary flare-up. “He’s about that. That’s The City in him. That you don’t mess with my teammate and my teammate’s my brother. You’ve got to like that, but also you’ve got to make sure you do it the right way.”
Parker received the loudest cheers as he was introduced at that first home game of the season, and he said he expects more friends and family to come out as the season progresses. As long as he keeps scoring and the Dons keep winning, that seems likely.
The team returns to War Memorial Gym on Saturday for the Hilltop Challenge against Columbia.