Senior Spotlight: Vidalia’s Parker keeps supporting team despite broken finger
VIDALIA — To some extent, Joseph Parker Jr. can relate to what his son is going through.
Vidalia High School senior Zalon Parker broke a bone in his right ring finger during a boys basketball game Dec. 28, which doctors say has likely sidelined him out for the rest of the season. It was similar to when Joseph broke his hand in the first football game of his senior year at Ferriday High School, but there’s one key difference.
“I played the rest of the year with one hand as a linebacker,” Joseph said. “You can’t do that with basketball.”
Joseph described his son as an emotional player, and there was no shortage of emotions when Zalon went to the hospital the night of his injury and found out he likely wouldn’t play the rest of his senior year.
“I was heartbroken,” Zalon said. “I had never had anything broken on my body, and then it happened right before district play of my senior year. My teammates needed me, and I need them, but it couldn’t happen because it was broken.
“I just cried.”
Zalon has made a commitment to support his teammates from the bench, but he admits watching basketball on the sideline gets frustrating at times.
“In two of our losses against Caldwell and Avoyelles, some of my teammates weren’t doing the right things that I knew they could do,” Zalon said. “I feel like if I had been out there, I might have been able to show them what they’re not doing and help them.”
Joseph said he knows how badly his son wants to be on the court, but he’s stressed to Zalon not to try and rush back.
“I just tell him to keep his head up and don’t get down on himself,” Joseph said. “Don’t try to start using (your hand) too early, because that’s something that can push you back further.”
Vidalia head coach Robert Sanders said Zalon’s desire to support his team from the bench even though he can’t play has not gone unnoticed.
“That says that he has dedication, and he still wants to help and cheer them on,” Sanders said. “It’s great to have kids with that type of dedication.”
Despite any frustration he might feel in not playing, Zalon said he still enjoys being at the games with his team.
“My love for the game and my passion and also, seeing my teammates out there winning and doing the right things (motivates me to come),” Zalon said.
Sanders said the Vidalia coaches and players have missed Zalon’s presence on the court.
“His quickness is an asset to us,” Sanders said. “He’s one of our quickest guys. (The players) seemed down for a while, but the young guys knew they had to step up, and they’ve done a good job so far.”
As he reflects on his basketball career, Zalon said he did a good job during his time at Vidalia High School, but there’s always been room for improvement.
“If I score 50, people might tell me that was my best game ever, but I would tell them that my best still isn’t my best,” Zalon said. “But I’ve given it all I’ve got, so I have no regrets.”
And Zalon credited his father with the assist in helping him learn the game of basketball.
“He comes to all my games and tells me what I’m doing wrong and need to improve,” Zalon said.
Joseph said the main thing he tries to drive home to his son is the importance of good sportsmanship.
“He tends to let his emotions get carried away in games and kind of lose focus on the goals,” Zalon said. “I try to work with him on channeling those emotions toward playing harder instead of making it personal with another player on another team.”
Zalon said his father will play one-on-one with him often, and Joseph has never lost a matchup.
“It’s fun, but then again, he’ll always tell me he hasn’t played basketball in so long, so I think I can take him,” Zalon said. “Then he starts showing me (what he can do). It does get frustrating, because I don’t like to lose.”
During the one-on-one matchups, Joseph said he’s never once tried to take it easy on his son.
“He was good at an early age, so there was no reason to take it easy on him,” Joseph said. “He was very quick for his age, so if you were to pull off of him, he’d beat you.”
Despite the emotional style of Zalon’s game, Joseph said tempers have never flared when the two played pickup.
“We’ve never really gone there on the court,” Joseph said. “I never pushed him to that point.”
It’s not just basketball skills Joseph tries to instill in Zalon. Zalon said his father provides him with health and fitness magazines to help him stay in shape.
“When I was growing up,” I didn’t have that information to my advantage, as far as knowing how to eat and get the most of your workouts,” Joseph said. “I wanted to make sure he was aware of what he was doing when training.”
Zalon’s mother is Lakesha Jones.