HIGH POINT, N.C. – Kwe Parker is a 6-foot-2, 165-pound walking Pogo Stick of a guard who turns in the types of dunks in games that require video evidence to be believable.
Watch this: Parker can do a look-in-rim dunk.
No, that’s not some cunning, play on words; it’s exactly what you think it is. His head comes over the rim and he looks inside it before throwing down the slam.
Let that sink in for a few ticks.
Now admit it; you think that’s a total lie.
“I’ve seen him do some crazy things,” said Parker’s teammate at Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) Harry Giles III. “Crazy things.”
Parker’s YouTube highlights have amassed millions of views and he was voted best dunker by his peers in the USA Today HSS Players’ Choice awards last month. He’s won the coveted top spot on Sportscenter’s Top Plays twice; most recently in June when he caught a self-lob on one bounce, cupped the ball with his right hand, made a full turn to the left and threw down a windmill.
As ESPN Recruiting Nation recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin put it, “Kwe’s an elite athlete… I mean EEEEE-LIIIIIITE!”
What. A. Life!
Still, a shade of unrest clouds Parker’s happy-go-lucky aura as he leans back in the wooden chair inside of Wesleyan Christian’s practice gym on this overcast September afternoon.
The culprit hides in plain sight; brilliantly displayed through his Twitter handle: @iJump_tooMuch
“Man I hate those dunking highlight videos,” said Parker, a junior. “All of it. I… I hate it.”
Yes, Parker’s well aware of the eerie dichotomy; a player blessed with celestial athletic ability who displays it often but wants to be known for anything but, well, dunking.
“I’m a basketball player,” Parker said matter-of-factly. “If you look at a highlight video of me you see all of my dunks, but the reality is that only happens a couple times in a game. The rest of the time I’m knocking down shots, making passes and playing defense. I don’t want to be known as the dunker. I don’t like that.”
Wesleyan Christian coach Keith Gatlin said he was relieved by that unsettled mindset when Parker decided to transfer from Trinity Christian School (Fayetteville, N.C.) this season.
“I didn’t want him to be a show pony,” Gatlin said. “Everyone wants him to dunk because he’s a phenomenal athlete, but he’s so much more than a dunker. He’s a playmaker with the mentality of a stone-cold killer on the court. He’s constantly working to develop his all-around game and his skill-set is catching up to his athleticism. You really can’t box him in; he can do it all.”
Rankin sees similar “do-it-all” potential in Parker, but cautioned not to abandon “Kwe the dunker” altogether.
“Kwe has potential for sure,” Rankin said. “It’s something that he’ll have to learn to blend in with his athletic abilities because he’s got to play to all of his strengths. I do think there’s more to him than just dunking, but it’s even better that he wants to prove that.”
Parker will admit this much; his grand epiphany came about only recently. Initially, he “loved” the attention he received from his 45-inch vertical.
But, according to Parker, “age and maturity” helped him to see the bigger picture.
That and watching college basketball.
“In college, everyone’s athletic,” Parker said. “I’ve got crazy bounce, but that’s not gonna get me anywhere in college. I feel like with all this attention I’m getting for dunking it’s making college coaches think that’s all I can do and that’s not true. There are a lot of great athletes in college; I want to be a great player.”
“There are a lot of great athletes in college. I want to be a great player.” – Kwe Parker
First order of business in making the transition?
No more aerial displays in pregame warmups.
“I’m stopping and pulling up for jumpers now,” Parker said. “After that last dunk when I got the No. 1 spot on Sportscenter it showed me that the only thing people see is dunks. That’s not helping me.”
You wouldn’t know it from his list of college suitors: Wake Forest, Rutgers, Western Carolina, Tulsa, Old Dominion, Clemson and Virginia Tech are all implementing the full-court recruiting press for Parker’s services.
Still, Parker said he’s more concerned about reaching his full potential and less concerned with impressing coaches.
“In everything that I do now I kinda try to shed that image,” Parker said. “Whether it’s workouts, scrimmages, games, whatever. The crazy part is dunking isn’t even my favorite thing about my game. It’s my speed, and, if my shot keeps falling like it is, that’s gonna be my favorite part. Either way, I’m gonna be me. My goal is to be known for all of my gifts. I have a gift with my bounce so I will always use it.”
That’s why it should come as no surprise that, before parting ways, Parker rethought his position on pregame warmup dunks.
“OK, ya know, only for the kids, I’ll probably do about two or three,” he said with a laugh. “They beg me to do it; I can’t just let them down like that.”
Old habits die hard.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY