A pivotal player: St. Marys’ center Austin Parks breaks two school scoring records

ST. MARYS – You might say Austin Parks has reached new heights this basketball season without even mentioning that he has been listed as 6-9, 6-10 and 6-11 at various times and places on the internet.

Since early November, St. Marys’ big man (“I’m 6-11 with shoes on,”) has signed with Ohio State, broken the Roughriders’ boys basketball career scoring record and set a new single-game scoring record with 45 points against Sidney.

He has been on a roll. And so have the Roughriders (14-5), who have won 10 games in a row.

A preseason injury caused Parks to miss a few weeks of practice and St. Marys’ season opener against New Knoxville.

Since returning, he is averaging 21.6 points a game, 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and is shooting 71 percent on field goals. Last season he averaged 19.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 blocked shots per game for the Roughriders’ Division II regional runner-up team.

Parks has been a four-year starter on teams which have won 19 games, 15 games, 17 games and 14 so far this season.

He is part of a four-man Ohio State recruiting class which is ranked No. 5 nationally by 247sports.com.

His final three schools were OSU, Indiana and West Virginia with the choice coming down to the Buckeyes and the Hoosiers.

His first offer came from Ohio University late in his sophomore season. “A couple weeks later I got another one, then after that Ohio State called me. They didn’t offer me on the phone but after they called I was just sitting there like, ‘They’re really interested in me,’ ” Parks said.

“We (he and his parents) started taking visits. After that I knew I had a chance to go anywhere I wanted to go if I kept working hard.

“I slowly kept making the list shorter and shorter. It was tough between Ohio State and Indiana. But once the decision was made it just felt right,” he said.

Parks was born in Texas, where his mother is from, and lived there the first two years of his life, before the family moved to St. Marys, because of his dad’s job.

He played Little Riders basketball starting in elementary school and played football through his freshman year of high school.

“I was the tallest one but I wasn’t taller than everyone like I am now,” Parks said. “I hadn’t grown into my body back then. I was a little bit awkward and goofy. But I mastered being more coordinated as I got a little older.”

St. Marys coach Dan Hegemier was the Roughriders’ coach from the 2009-2010 season to the 2014-2015 season, retired for four years, then came back for the 2019-2020 season when Parks was a freshman.

“I didn’t know anything about Austin. I knew they had a big kid but there’s always a big kid floating around. I didn’t know he could jump and run and was as athletic as he was,” he said about Parks, who was 6-7 as a freshman.

“When I got him in the gym I knew he was a Division I player. His skill level needed to get better but we just worked with him. He works hard. He plays AAU. He spends a lot of time at it. He grew up to be 6-11 and 250 pounds. A young man like that who can run and jump like he can, they don’t come around too often.”

Hegemier said Parks has become more conscious of being a scorer this season.

“His ability to sense, ‘I can score when I want to’ is different,” he said. “Against Sidney he got on a roll and started scoring and didn’t want to stop. In the past he would have stopped. He’s a very unselfish player, he wants to get his teammates involved.

“One of the things the Division I programs liked about him is he’s big, he’s strong, he’s athletic but he can pass. He really wants his assists. After games he will say, ‘I had at least eight assists,’ and I’ll say, ‘I’ll have to check,’ and tell him, ‘You only had seven,’ and he’ll be like, ‘Oh, I had more than that.’ He likes his assists.”

Parks dunked for the first time when he was in seventh grade and did it in a game for the first time as an eighth-grader when he could hit around half of them. By the time he got to high school it was an almost automatic two points when he got an open dunk.

He knows playing in the Big Ten will be a very different level of competition than high school or AAU basketball.

“Everything’s got to get better in my game. My defense has to get better. I have to polish up my post game. Even though I’m big and athletic it needs to have more skill added to it. And the outside game, of course. I need to get a good mid-range shot going,” he said.

Parks says he is not concerned about the possibility Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann’s job security could be shaky with OSU having lost nine of its last 10 games to fall to 11-12 this season.

“He doesn’t really bring that up too much. I haven’t heard him talking about it. I’m not too worried about it. I have seen things but I believe Coach Holtmann will still be there,” he said.

“He’s bringing in great recruits so I believe we’re going to have a great team for the next couple of years with the freshman class they have right now and my class.”

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.