Aided by a new coaching staff and a new men’s basketball trainer, sophomore forward/center Tony Parker lost 25 pounds in the offseason, mostly around his midriff. But the new staff lifted even more weight off Parker’s shoulders.
Parker, whose troubled freshman season left him on the bench for most of the year and contemplating a transfer by season’s end, heads into his second year happy to be where he is.
“It’s just a good situation for me now. I think coach (Steve) Alford is a great guy,” Parker said.
After Parker averaged just over six minutes per game under coach Ben Howland last season, rumors about his desire to transfer began to swirl. But despite the hardships he faced as a freshman, Parker took positives from the experience.
“I feel like last year was perfect for me. I needed a reality check and I feel like it was a good thing for me,” Parker said. “I learned a lot and it really tested me and I learned how much I do love basketball, so I think it was a good job for me to go through that.”
Parker’s new attitude stems from his new physique. After spending the summer training with new athletic performance coach Wes Long, Parker trimmed his weight down to 257 pounds and said his improved health and conditioning is making him feel positive about this season.
His teammates have noticed his improved demeanor.
“Tony, along with the rest of us, had a very good offseason. You always caught him in the weight room putting in extra work, so you can just see how focused Tony is,” said sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson.
This concentration has led to confidence, as Parker’s trimmed-down frame allows him to do more on the court.
“Once he lost the weight, he started building confidence because he saw himself running the floor differently, he saw himself making post moves differently, so then he started getting success,” Alford said.
Success is something Parker had very little of last season. With limited opportunities to play, he averaged just 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. But those opportunities are destined to increase this season.
Beyond his improvements, Parker’s presence alone is important for the Bruins. With the eligibility status of freshman forward Wanaah Bail still undetermined, UCLA currently has just three full-time bigs on the roster that are expected to see significant playing time – Parker and redshirt senior forwards David and Travis Wear.
With increased playing time, a leaner body and an improved psyche, Parker’s desire to leave Westwood is a thing of the past.
“I’m feeling really great,” Parker said. “I’m in shape, I’m healthy, so I’m really feeling good about this season.”