Tony Parker didn’t take the midnight train to Georgia.
The UCLA basketball player who seemed the most likely to bid adieu to Westwood remained in town. Now he is looking to make last season an anomaly.
“I feel like last year was perfect for me," said Parker, a 6-foot-9 sophomore from Lithonia (Ga.) Miller Grove High. “I feel like I needed a reality thing.”
Realities don’t come any starker.
Parker was part of a recruiting class that was ranked first or second nationally, depending on which recruiting service was doing the ranking.
He was hampered by injuries, ballooning to more than 280 pounds, and unhappy with his situation.
Parker was pondering a transfer when coach Ben Howland was fired and replaced by Steve Alford.
“Coach Alford talked with my parents and me, and we had a detailed discussion on what we wanted to do,” Parker said. “I felt it was a good place for me to be.”
Alford said that he and his staff spent “a lot time with him, talking to him, letting him try to trust us and build that trust in us by what we were telling, then backing it up.”
Hiring Wes Long, a strength and conditioning coach who works only with the men’s basketball team, was a key moment, Alford said.
Parker said he is down to 255 pounds.
“If I’m in shape, I can play,” Parker said. “I’m ready to make basketball plays.”