Olivia Parker has been around basketball courts since she was in elementary school. She loved the action, she loved to get the fans involved.
It’s just that she wasn’t always playing in the games.
“I was a cheerleader,” Parker said proudly. “I cheered for my sisters – Claudia and Ariel – because they were the basketball players in the family.”
But when Parker hit middle school, she had to let go of her first love. Coming from a family that included a 6-foot-7 father (Doug) and older sisters hovering around 6 feet, Parker herself hit a growth spurt.
“I got a lot taller than the other cheerleaders, and that’s when I knew: ‘Time to play basketball,’” she said.
Now a 6-1 senior forward for powerhouse Providence Day, it seems Parker made the right move. Last fall, she signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Division I Gardner-Webb University. And with the private-school state playoffs beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Parker and the Chargers are favored to win their third consecutive championship.
And while much of the attention surrounding Providence Day basketball centers around nationally recognized Tiffany Mitchell and Jatarie White, Parker plays an integral role for the Chargers.
Parker ranks third on the team in scoring (10.3 points per game) and rebounding (six), and is just behind White in shooting, making 53 percent of her attempts.
“Olivia’s extremely talented and very selfless,” Providence Day coach Josh Springer said. “She doesn’t seek out the limelight. She deflects a lot of credit to teammates – when sometimes I think she needs to be more selfish on the basketball court.
“Obviously, with players like Tiffany and Jatarie’s talents on the court, sometimes she defers to them, but Olivia has the ability to score 20 points on any given night. But she’s really embraced her role, saying, ‘(Sometimes) I need to be a scorer, and (sometimes) I need to be a rebounder.’”
Parker wasn’t necessarily accustomed to that role when she transferred to Providence Day from Harding University High two years ago.
“It was a big change,” she said with a laugh. “I noticed it as soon as I got here. The first game, I realized I didn’t have to score as much to win. It kind of hit me hard. But I’ll do whatever it takes to win. You just have to know your role on the team.
“I love it here. I love my teammates. They’re really cool, and it’s like a family here, and we all have our responsibilities. For me, that means sometimes I have to focus on rebounding and sometimes I have to focus on scoring. I’m totally happy with that, especially if that helps us win another state championship.”