Throwback Thursday: I’m Home. Let’s Work

This article originally appeared in SLAM 199

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Conquering the NBA D-League, his rightful spot on Gilas and defending Terrence well. Read Ray Parks’ thoughts on why he’s so sure of all of the above.

As told to Nikko Ramos

I usually have morning workouts and then I’d be off to practice. That’ll be like 10, 10-12. So right after that, you know grab me something to eat then I have a personal trainer that was with me full-time based out in Dallas so we’re working around til like 7-8 at night. This is my guy out of my own pocket.

That’s the tough thing about the developmental league. Like first things first, there’s a lot of politics that goes into it, there’s a lot of talent there but you don’t get to really develop because for the most part like the coaches are trying to build themselves out too. So you know, they’re trying to win games but at the same time they’re looking after themselves too. I mean, I personally, like I give two thumbs up to my trainer for making me a better player throughout the whole year. If he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have been a better player.

It’s as competitive among teammates as it is among oppontents. I mean cause you’re really out there to fight for a spot and then coming into the training camp they was doing cuts so first day like everybody’s going at each other, not really too much friends. But we created a bond throughout the season because at the end of the day, the players gonna have each other’s back because we were the ones stepping out on the floor.

I can personally say that I could have got cut anytime. I was close to being cut. Truthfully, because the coach didn’t know how I played. They had no idea. They just went off word from Coach Nick that “Yeah he’s a good kid.“ But none of the other coaches knew who I was.

People always fear the unknown. They don’t know how to, you know, to coach you in a game. They don’t know how you play. It was at the end of the season when they kinda figured it out that I was more of a point guard instead of just running a wing being a three. I have to play four at times when we was a man short. It showed at the end of the season that you know once you put me in my natural position I can excel in it.

I always felt like that I could compete with them all truthfully. It’s just I wasn’t given the opportunity. Just being straightforward, I mean, that’s what I mean by there’s a lot of politics that goes into it. They take care of the homegrown. They take care of those guys who went to college in the States, fresh grads.

It was definitely a great experience, I don’t know if I would do it again because truthfully in the middle of the season I wanted to be done with all of it. Throughout the season I wasn’t playing, I only played 5 games to the month of what – January. I walked into game day and then it’s “Hey I don’t have my jersey hanging in the locker room.”

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It’s that straightforward out there. Nobody knew the struggle I was going through. Everybody thought I was just living the life, you know. It was a tough setup. There was a lot of ups and down. The D-League is a crazy world and I had me a couple of games that I put together that I was playing well. Next thing you know, I’ll be inactive in the next few games and then they’ll try to throw me into the fire by starting me out of nowhere. It’s like, “You throwing off a person’s rhythm!”

Not a lot of people know that because most people go off articles and stuff like that. Those true fans that really pay attention, they see the process, they see what I was going through and that’s one thing that, you know, being from Philippines and I was in the states it’s hard for most people to see that.

I appreciate a lot of Filipinos, this is home to me. And I’m not just representing myself, I am representing the whole country and it’s a blessing that there are people still supporting me. And you know to those who doubted me and was like “Oh what is Ray doing there?” and all that, I feel that they just basically missed me, they want me to come back and play for the PBA straight up so with that, I appreciate everybody’s support that I see online. I was in a whole different city, Dallas, I’ve never really been to Dallas and I mean for me just to hear their voices and say that they still got my back is a blessing.

Basketball is what I’ve been doing since i was young and it comes natural to me. I’d rather shoot a clutch free throw than to sing on stage. I mean, you know we all have our own different talents where we feel comfortable and I feel it’s not pressure i feel that they’re just pushing me more to represent the country and so I feel that they are proud of me in a sense.

You know, so funny, the same people are coaching me online like telling me “Hey don’t pass the ball man, itira mo na lang ikaw na bahala diyan. Magbakaw ka na lang.” It’s funny, really. i can see the passion that they have, in the support they have for me, more than anything.

You do this for a living you should be confident with what you’re doing. You shouldn’t let a random person coach you, you don’t even know who they are. The pressure will sure test you and it’s a lot and some say crazy stuff but I am a bigger person than that. Articles will come out that intrigue people, rumors will intrigue people, but you know what, you can’t give them that.

It is tough out there as it is. The D-League is a grind for real. You travel to the city a day before the game, land there in the evening, play in the morning, pack your stuff and you leave the next day for the next city. 10-game road trips you know, between buses and taking flights and the time changes and it’s crazy. So each and every night you don’t know what to expect.

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I must say the Philippines is home for me and you this is where I’m loved. It’s tough to leave that, and be in just a whole new different place that I don’t know. Being in a whole situation where I had to start from scratch, people don’t know me and I had to claw my way through. Truthfully it ain’t for everybody, the move that I made and the sacrifices that I have been making is not for everybody.

You really have to be passionate about you do and I mean I have asked everybody, and they’re always saying “Man you just stay here where you’re loved, here you’re gonna make money, you can be a top draft pick you know, why make the sacrifice?”

But of course I personally feel that, there’s more out there for me. I wanna play at the best level I could’ cause at the end of the day the Philippines is gonna be here for me. I mean, I definitely don’t want to come to Philippines with my name, all watery like, he already at 27 or 28, that’s not cool. So in the next few weeks, next few months, I am definitely open-minded so I am definitely looking at that. My main focus right now is to do Gilas. If i do get into the squad and I feel pretty confident.

If they give me a fair shot, I’m gonna make this team. If it’s not just comprised of all PBA players, and as Coach Tab said, he’s open-mined about taking everybody, hey I mean take away the politics, I feel like I can make the squad.

I’ve been grinding for a year and nobody knows about it. I feel like I personally put in this work for a year. They think I’m abroad living lavish and traveling and living good. No. I was in the gym, I have been in the gym. Ss soon as I got back the first thing I did was hop into the gym, flew my trainer out here, using up my savings. I’m on the grind, I am doing two-a-days. I don’t post about it on social media or anything because that’s my work. I don’t feel the need to brag about working. Everybody does it, work. So just work.

I mean, my thing is, once I step out of the floor, I feel that I know I am confident. Once you hop on the floor with me, it’s a different situation. You don’t have to know what I’ve been doing, you don’t had to know what I’ve been working on. I wanna have the edge on you.

What’s different about my game now? Everything.

I feel like I should play above the level, I feel like I should be able to make people say “Oh this dude just really did play in the D-League” and “Oh he’s on a different level.” That’s what I want to bring to Gilas. I wanna help out.

I want to be more than just the athletic guard, be long, be who I was before where I can attack, yes. I can knock down an open shot, sure. But now, I’m making it look easy because I have been working at it and now my game is more about where I can slow down and think about the game more than anything.

Trust me I’ve looked at tapes of me playing for NU. I have copies of it. And I will say “Oh man I was going out there on just one speed.” I was terrible. I felt like I was a scrub, like “Why did you do that?” I was garbage. I feel like I was terrible.

Gilas vs Iran - June 8, 2016 - PRT - 1 - Bobby Ray parks

Now, I am slowing down, thinking about the game more. And the pro game is this, it’s not just being the most athletic. It’s not about being the fastest. It’s about thinking the game. You got to be smart and get to your angles. That’s what I learned being in the states. Because I mean I’m tall here, but there are athletic 7-footers out there, you gotta throw something else into your game there to throw them off. You gotta give him hesitation moves and stuff like that. You really have to use your body well.

I don’t trash talk.

I feel like i have more of a dog in me now though. I feel like I’m hungry, i have a bigger chip on my shoulder. I was gone for a year. That’s one thing I can say. I’m really hungry for it I’ma go at people. As soon as Day 1 gets started at Gilas tryouts it’s gonna be competitive. We can be like buddy-buddy but you know I’m trying out, I want this bad just like you. So you gotta hit them harder first day.

I’m ready to go now. If Gilas practice was tonight I’d be ready. There is so much work that has been put in and i just want to see the benefits of it.

Playing for the flag, it’s everything. People forget, I was born and raised here and I’ve only been in the States four years. Add last year is 5, so I mean I’m 22 right now. Spent 17 years of my life here, I am a Filipino so for me to represent the country, in the best way I could, with the talent God gave me, I mean you know it’s just as good as playing in the NBA. It’s more about the country than yourself.

People ask if I’m the best player not in the PBA right now. I’ll let them decide on that. Truthfully, personally I feel that I’m gonna be the hardest working dude in that gym. That’s what you’ll know me for. I’m not gonna say i am the most talented, I’m not gonna say I am the best player, I am gonna be the dude that is really working hard. I am working at it in every single way.

I feel like I have the potential but like Coach Tab always says, potential is a bad word because that just means there’s more you haven’t reached yet so i feel like I have more to show.

This ain’t just you know, a two months thing. We prepared for this. This is years of preparation. I feel like I wanted to be in Gilas since last year. After I did the Sea Games, after I did SEABA, I really wanted to be in the Gilas squad.

I’ll never forget. I was 17 years old. I remember being with Coach Toroman and my main goal was to be on the National Team so it’s been five years. It’s really a strenuous process and i just want people to be proud of the work I have been putting in, and the work the team and the program has been putting in.

Coming from NU my first year, I felt like I had to carry a team all by myself. You can’t win championships like that. There’s 5 people on the court. It’s gonna be all of you together. You need their help. You need everybody being on the same page and that is one thing I really hope for with Gilas, that we’ll all be in the same page when we go up against other teams. But of course, first things first, we gotta make the team.

Gilas vs Iran - June 8, 2016 - PRT - 4 - Bobby Ray Parks

Someone I respect and practically grew up with, he’s on that team. And I was so happy for him when I was watching him play for Gilas. Me and Terrence, man we practically grew up together.

We were UAAP MVPs, we’ve had battles. There’s a dog in him. I can’t wait to go against him at practice. We’ve always had a competitive edge towards each other. It’s always gonna be interesting.

He went the PBA route, I went somewhere else. If we bump heads we bump heads. It is what it is. It’s about making the squad. We have two different games. It’s not all about making a move and trying to get the cup. Terence is a great player. Terence can shoot, he can pass, dribble. And I’ve seen him embarrass a lot of guys.

Can he do that when I’m guarding him? I don’t know. That’s a tough situation. For me and for him.

No disrespect to anyone, but I just can’t wait to compete. I think it’s what the country deserves, for guys to just fight and battle and give it their all, man. So yes, I am going to give it everything I’ve got from start of practice 1 until they announce the final roster.

After the year I had, after all the hardships and being alone, I don’t know any other way of doing things now. And being back home, wanting to play in the country, with our crowd, with Philippines on my chest? Nothing could make me prouder to be Filipino.

As the saying goes, it’s a dog eat dog world. And I’m telling you. I’m hungry. And I’m gonna eat.

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