Learning through Practice: O'Koye Parker
Learning through Practice: O'Koye ParkerCollege Board Communications
The College Board is committed to the idea that students can improve through practice. Over the course of this year, we'll be talking to student-athletes about the parallels between what they need to do to achieve success in both the classroom and on the field of play. In this first chapter of an occasional diary - Learning through Practice - the College Board talked to O'Koye Parker, a senior and college-recruited basketball player at Caravel Academy in Bear, Delaware, about how he's approaching his senior year and the importance of practice to his life. The conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What drew you to start playing basketball and what’s the most rewarding part of being a member of your school’s team?
A: I actually started playing basketball at the age of two on small toy basket given to me by my father. I've always been passionate about basketball and it runs in my family as my brother and father also played. I was drawn to be part of a team at my school, improving with them, learning new methods, and meeting guys and making friends for a lifetime.
Q: How much time do you spend practicing?
A: I practice daily with my team for two hours as well as also working out on my own and with my Dad for another 1.5 hours a few times per week. In the offseason, I'll usually practice 3-4 times per week for about 90 minutes with my Dad as well as going to the YMCA on own. I also work out with weights in the offseason typically for hour sessions 3-4 times per week.
Q: You are balancing a lot! What kind of strategies do you use to stay focused on school and on sports?
A: I try to be organized and on schedule. I do my homework before and after practice to make sure it gets done. I need to try to stay structured and dedicated to a routine and habit.
Q: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an athlete that’s benefited you academically?
A: It's helped me focus, work harder, develop a work ethic and be efficient with my time (like in workouts).
Q: What kind of future do you see for yourself as a basketball athlete?
A: My team goal (this season) is to win a state championship. I hope to help my teammates get better by taking on a leadership role. Personally, I want to improve every day and consistently perform at a higher level.
Beyond high school, my goal is to get an opportunity to play in a college that is a good fit in all key aspects. For college, that means education first and to lay the groundwork for success both in basketball and my professional career. To do so I plan to stay on track to graduate and learn and grow during my career and establish and achieve new goals.
For my college team, I hope to be around a group that is focused on winning and has good chemistry. Individually, during my college career, I hope to improve every year, contribute to winning early, mature and develop as an athlete. I'm hoping to find college coaches with whom I have a good connection, who want to help and guide me, be honest, develop, and with whom I feel comfortable sharing my problems.
Beyond college, I hope to play professionally - the NBA is my dream - but I would consider and pursue playing overseas.
Career-wise, I would like to be in business, but right now, I'm open-minded to various opportunities.
Q: What kind of support do you receive from your coach in navigating all of these things you need to balance to be successful?
A: My coaches, especially Karen Lange, make sure that my schoolwork gets done and that I stay on top of my studies. They also guide and encourage me. Karen also provides direction and resources to promote me, particularly to college coaches. They are really an inspiration for me.
Q: Describe the recruitment process so far – what’s been most challenging and what’s been most rewarding?
A: Attempting to gain exposure and attention from college coaches in later stages of my career has been challenging and unexpected.
Q: How proactive were you in generating college recruiting interest?
A: I missed some exposure by not playing in AAU-related events, but Coach Lange and George White from RecruitU - a scouting-report tool that helps showcase student-athletes for college coaches and gives athletes a sense of schools that might be a good fit - have been reaching out on my behalf. In addition, my father is planning some college visits.
Q:What process/criteria are you using for selecting colleges?
A: The ReccruitU evaluation and strategic process have been very helpful in targeting schools where I will fit and have a good experience.
Q: What advice would you give others entering the recruiting process?
A: Start early, be targeted in order to gain exposure, enlist your coaches, and think about using outside resources to bolster this process.
Q: As part of your college process, have you taken the SAT, or do you plan to take it? Did you use Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy to prepare?
A: I did use Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy and it provides subject matter and perspectives I that haven't had, in addition to giving me the opportunity to practice. I've learned what to expect on the test and how to approach taking it.
Q: What other factors (besides athletics) are important to you in selecting a college? (academics, class size, proximity to home, cost)?
A: Key factors for me include location, academics (offering a major that is consistent with my interests), the strength of the alumni network and job placement. The social aspect is also a consideration as I'd like to grow my social skills and expand the types of people and ideas that I'm exposed to.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice a coach has given you that’s benefited you in the classroom?
A: Primarily that keeping my grades up will have benefits. I transferred schools (from a local public school to Caravel Academy) during high school and the adjustment needed to learn how to improve study skills and time commitment to do so was a good lesson for me. My coaches and teammates helped me with this management, adjustment period and required effort and persistence.