Parker played three seasons at Cedarville after starting his college career at Wilberforce. He scored 406 points and tallied 132 assists in 85 games for the Yellow Jackets.
Parker’s playing career ended just when the coronavirus pandemic was beginning in 2020. He applied for a couple of coaching jobs but wasn’t successful. Then last summer Estepp told him about the opportunity at Baylor. The job wouldn’t be available until 2021, but Estepp also offered Parker the opportunity to join his staff for the 2020-21 season.
Estepp had connections to Baylor assistant coach John Jakus and Ty Beard, the director of video operations.
Jakus worked for Athletes in Action, which is based in Xenia, as a volunteer head coach for NCAA and professional basketball trips from 2005-08 and as the international basketball head coach and director from 2008-14. Estepp said he met Jakus when one of his teams came to play at Cedarville, and they stayed in touch.
Beard coached under one of Estepp’s first assistants, Jason Beschta, at Oklahoma Wesleyan and then John Brown University.
Those connections paid off when Estepp started contacting coaches on Parker’s behalf a year ago. Jakus told Estepp he didn’t have a position open but then called him back in the summer and said there would be a spot available in 2021 if Parker could wait and if he thought Parker was good enough. Estepp said he was. He believes Parker has the “It Factor” when it comes to coaching.
“He’s always had a really high basketball IQ,” Estepp said. “That was one of the things I always appreciated about him. He could see the game. He knew what was going on. Even as a player, he had a good feeling for what play might work or what we might need to do defensively. He never got lost in the game. He was always aware of what was going on.”
Estepp saw all that and advised Parker, who was thinking of becoming an accountant, to get into coaching.
“While I was playing at Cedarville, coach Estepp pulled me to the side in his office and said, ‘I think coaching is in your future,’” Parker said. “You’re a natural in the way you lead the way and direct guys on the basketball floor.”
At that point, Parker wasn’t sure if that’s what he wanted.
“I didn’t know if that’s where the money was honestly,” Parker said. “He said if money is your priority, I understand, but if you can see yourself in an office all day 24-7 — and I don’t think you do — then definitely go for that. But if not, then I think coaching is definitely the avenue for you.”
It wasn’t that Parker hadn’t ever thought about coaching. That idea had been in his mind since he was little because his dad, Yelvis Parker, was a longtime coach.
“When I was born, we lived in Springfield, and he was a coach for Hayward Middle School,” Parker said, “and then he was an assistant coach for Catholic Central. Then he was an assistant coach at Middletown. Then he was an assistant coach under Travis Trice at Wayne for about 10 years. I was always inspired by him. I’ve always wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
After thinking about the decision and praying about it, Parker came to a conclusion.
“This is is what you’re good at it,” he said. “This is what you know. This is what you’ve seen your dad doing since you were born. It was a no-brainer.”
Parker was a three-year letter-winner at Wayne who averaged 6.8 points for the state championship team in 2015. Just as he learned about the game from his dad, he learned from Trice.
“Coach Travis Trice was another one of those inspirations for me,” Parker said. “He and my dad are really close, best friends. During my time there, I saw how he interacts with players — not only on the basketball court. He helps mold guys into young men.”
Parker’s learning continued during his career at Cedarville and this past season on Estepp’s staff. He called Estepp a mentor.
“There’s a difference being a player for a guy and then going on the other side and being an assistant coach,” Parker said. “You learned how he performed in timeouts and how he designed plays and what goes through the thought process when he’s calling the plays.”
Parker will now go from coaching at the NCAA Division II level to the highest level of college basketball. One of his jobs will be working with the guards when they want to get extra work in away from practice. He’ll also be working toward his MBA in Baylor’s graduate program.
Baylor finished 28-2 this season and won its first national championship in coach Scott Drew’s 18th season. Parker became an immediate fan last year when he got the job.
“I love the way they play,” he said. “Those coaches had the ability to galvanize those guys and make them be unselfish and share the ball and play for one another.”
Parker also loves Baylor’s motto, which Drew talked about on CBS after the national championship victory.
“We play with a culture of J.O.Y.,” Drew said. “That’s Jesus, Others then Yourself.”