Tony Parker (Lithonia, Ga./Miller Grove) could be a big reason why UCLA has a special season.
He gives the Bruins more skill and enormous size inside and adds frontline depth to an already big team. Parker can influence the game with his ability to post up and score inside by carving out space or score from the high post.
Once he catches the ball, he operates with good footwork and has a variety of moves (fakes, power drop steps, up-and-unders) to go along with his soft touch facing the basket. Parker has a consistent jumper from 15 to 17 feet and he even can make open 3-pointers, although that’s not what he does best.
However, he does not have to be the man right away because there will be enough playmakers around him that he can contribute and develop at his own pace.
Guards are so important to the development of a big man because they are the ones who are responsible for extending the defense and feeding the post off pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop situations, as well as drop-off passes off dribble drives.
Tyler Lamb, Norman Powell and Jordan Adams all have shot-making ability to challenge a defense, while Shabazz Muhammad will have defenders at his mercy with his ability to drive and finish in the paint. Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew will be the setup men.
Parker's future frontcourt teammates -- David Wear, Travis Wear and Joshua Smith -- also will aid in his development. In practices, Parker will battle against Smith, which will force Parker to score with his back to the basket. In games, Parker will be able to capitalize inside and in the high post, with David Wear knocking down open shots and Travis Wear and Smith posting up on the other side. That quartet will give any team matchup problems.
Regardless of his role right away, if Parker can get in better physical shape and can tone his 6-foot-9, 270-pound frame, he will be able to move with greater mobility, jump quicker, run the floor better, draw more fouls and become a better position defender.
Ben Howland does a great job at taking talented offensive players, such as Parker, and emphasizing defense. Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook are examples of players who became better under Howland’s tutelage and if Parker works at it, he will have a chance to reach his potential at UCLA.