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Utah Jazz: Filipino player Bobby Parks Jr. chasing NBA dream

SALT LAKE CITY — Upon ending his pre-draft workout Monday, Bobby Parks Jr. reached out and shook hands with multiple media members who’d just interviewed him at the Utah Jazz’s practice facility.

That kind of polite gesture is almost as rare as an NBA player from the Philippines.

Sure, it happens every once in a while, but not very often.

Parks, among six players to audition for the Jazz on Monday, is in the United States with a lofty goal of accomplishing just that. This was his first workout. He’s now headed to Brooklyn, Dallas, Atlanta and Boston for more.

“Really, now, it’s just the opportunity that I have to just go back here to the States and pursue my NBA dreams,” Parks said.

That getting back to the States part is what makes Parks’ background story so interesting.

His late father, Bobby Parks Sr., was the 58th overall pick of the 1984 NBA draft. When that NBA career didn’t pan out with Atlanta, Parks headed overseas and became a basketball legend in the Philippines, including being named Philippine Basketball Association Best Import seven times along with an induction to the country’s Hall of Fame.

The younger Parks grew up in the Philippines before moving to the United States as a teenager. He excelled in high school hoops in Tennessee and committed to play for Georgia State before making a life-changing decision.

Parks’ father had moved back to the Philippines and was suffering from laryngeal cancer. His son with the bright basketball future opted to return home. He wanted to be with his dying dad.

Parks Jr. was welcomed back into the country’s basketball scene and ended up playing for the Philippines national team. He also played college ball for the National University in Manila and was on a couple of PBA D-League teams.

“For me, it was worth it. To be there until his dying seconds was a blessing for me,” Parks Jr. said. “Basketball career-wise, I still have the opportunity. I’m here right now working out for Utah, so it’s a blessing.”

Parks averaged 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists the past year with his national team. The 6-foot-4 guard is hoping to impress NBA teams with his energetic style and an ability to play and defend both guard positions.

The memory of his father, who passed away in 2013, is one of his driving forces in this quest to play in the world’s premier basketball league.

“Definitely, sir. It was a dream of his, also mine,” Parks said when asked about that motivational factor. “At the same time, I’m so happy that the Philippine community is really helping me out and supporting me.”

Parks smiled when asked about the popularity of basketball in the Philippines, where his dad has been honored posthumously with the renamed Bobby Parks Best Import Award.

“There, it’s really tough to walk the streets. They follow basketball so much, so they’ll mob you,” Parks said, laughing. “After the game, they’ll try to ask everything and strip you down to your underwear.”

There have been a few players with Philippines connections in the NBA, including the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson and former NBA center Andray Blatche. They are both Filipino-American but grew up in the U.S.

“The difference between me is I’m just homegrown,” Parks said. “I really grew up there, speak the language. … For a Filipino who grew up in the Philippines to have that background, it’s a privilege.”

Parks laughed when it was suggested that he might need to wear extra clothes — and multiple pairs of underwear — while in the Philippines if he makes it to the NBA.

“Anything I can give back to the fans,” he said, “and to the Filipino community who (have) really supported me and who love the game of basketball, I would do anything for them.”

Walt Perrin, the Jazz’s vice president of player personnel, said Parks struggled to shoot a bit in Monday’s workout but shot well in a previous showing in Las Vegas.

“Coming from the Philippines, not playing college basketball (in the U.S.), there’s a lot of things he probably needs to do more on the defensive end than on the offensive end (that) he’s got to learn and get better at,” Perrin said. “It was good to get him in and get an opportunity to look at him.”

The 22-year-old Parks said he’s not quite sure where he stands in terms of getting a shot in the NBA. He does know his dad would tell him, “Work hard,” so that’s what he’s trying to do.

“I just leave it up to God and I just want to honor and praise him in everything that I do,” Parks said. “Just every time I step out on the floor, I just want to give it my best.”

JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz have now worked out 90 different players in this pre-draft process. That's in addition to the 27 participants in the recent free-agent minicamp. … Utah has another workout Tuesday with former BYU guard Damarcus Harrison (Clemson), Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos, Florida guard Michael Frazier II, St. Bonaventure center Youssou Ndoye, Michigan State guard Travis Trice and Colorado State forward J.J. Avila. … Jazz players Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert trained at the practice facility following Monday’s pre-draft workout. … Perrin on Stanford swingman Anthony Brown, a possible late first-round prospect: “I thought Anthony had a really good workout. I thought he shot it well, thought he handled the ball well, tried to play defense.”

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