Austin Parks Says Frontcourt Duo With Felix Okpara Will Be “Scary,” Doesn’t Expect Knee Injury To Keep Him Sidelined Long

By Griffin Strom on June 26, 2022 at 8:35 am
Austin Parks

Austin Parks was sidelined with injury while his St Marys Memorial teammates took part in Ohio State’s high school team camp on June 10. But that didn’t stop the 2023 Buckeye commit from getting something worthwhile out of the experience.

Parks, a 6-foot-10 center and the No. 102 player in the country, still received plenty of face time with his future coaching staff in Columbus. In fact, he might have gotten even more, given that his ailment freed Parks up to talk to Buckeye coaches he hadn’t yet met. Beyond that, the Ohio native got to hang around the Ohio State facilities once again and spend time with some of his future teammates – the current members of the scarlet and gray roster.

“It’s home now,” Parks said. “I feel comfortable walking around, I know where everything’s at, I know the guys here, so it’s pretty cool to know that.”

Parks’ injury, a stress fracture in the knee, sounds more concerning than the rising high school senior seems to be about it. Parks said the issue will only keep him out for a little over a month in total, and that he may even return to play in a tournament at the end of July.

“It feels fine, honestly. It’s just a cracked bone. It’s just a stress fracture in my knee,” Parks said. “I’ll be good in five weeks and I’ll be running in four. … It’s good to sit back and take it in. It’s really a good chance for my teammates to go out and prove themselves. Without me playing they get to step up and take a bigger role, which is good for them when the season rolls around.”

While his knee issue has thrown a wrench in some of his summer plans, Parks’ commitment to the Buckeyes means it won’t cost him in the recruiting process. Not worried about forming new relationships with coaching staffs around the country, Parks said he’s been locked in on refining his skill set and is looking ahead to his future in Columbus.

“Now I get to focus on one thing, that’s playing basketball and focus on one school. I don’t have to go around talking to all the other coaches and thinking about making a big decision,” Parks said. “Now it’s done and over with, I get to relax and just get better. It took a lot of pressure off of me.”

Parks had his first-ever meeting with new Ohio State assistant coach Jack Owens during the camp session, and said the former Miami head coach “seems cool” and is “real chill.” Ohio State’s top assistant Jake Diebler wasted little time wrangling Parks for a conversation immediately following St. Marys’ first game of the day, and Chris Holtmann joined shortly thereafter.

After the three-year contract extension Holtmann received over the offseason, Parks can rest easy knowing the head coach that recruited him to Ohio State in the first place will be the same one on the job when he officially begins his college career next year.

“I’m excited about that because now I know the guy that put so much faith in me and really wanted me is gonna be here for my whole career, and I won’t have some new coach coming in and who knows how that would work,” Parks said. “The guy who wanted me, I know that he’s gonna be here, and that’s who I want here.”

When Parks does begin his Buckeye career, he believes his pairing with current freshman center Felix Okpara will prove a formidable one. Ohio State may have been lacking big men with legitimate size to bang around in the Big Ten over the past couple of seasons, but that won’t be the case once Parks arrives in Columbus.

Both bigs stand 6-foot-10 or over, and the combination of Parks’ versatility and Okpara’s athleticism should be an exciting one for Buckeye fans.

“I feel like me and Felix would be a good frontcourt and all that. I’m ready to play with him, and just the versatility between me and him, It’s gonna be scary. … I feel like we’re two different players, but we work together really well,” Parks said.

Parks said he hadn’t spoken much to junior center Zed Key prior to his visit to Ohio State camp, but loves to watch him play and admires his work ethic most of all. Parks said the effort Key gives on every play is a template for “how I need to be” at the college level.

That’s just one thing Parks said he needs to work on before taking the step up next year. Parks wants to round out his repertoire in order to fully capitalize on the versatility that Holtmann, Diebler and company love about his game, but he also knows he shouldn’t stray too far away from his bread and butter.

“I gotta get back to the post, get my post game touched up a little bit,” Parks said. “And then of course I’m gonna be extending my game, I’m gonna be taking more threes, taking more shots from the mid-range and be quicker on defense.

“I know what I gotta do. I know I’m not gonna be out there being a point guard and all that, but I do gotta get better at all these abilities, like ballhandling and shooting and all these other things. But I know I gotta be the big guy and I know what I gotta do. I’ve watched plenty of college basketball, NBA, I’ve watched all these great centers and I like to take after them. So I’ll be following what they do.”

Beyond that, Parks is still recruiting peers to join him and four-star combo guard George Washington in the Buckeyes’ 2023 cycle. In particular, Parks has his sights set on a couple of four-star wings that the Ohio State staff has been keeping a close eye on.

“I say a few words from time to time. Like I’ll see a few guys at AAU tournaments that I know are being heavily recruited by Ohio State, I’ll try to put my word in,” Parks said. “But at the end of the day it’s still their decision. … I see (Pickerington Central forward) Devin Royal a few times, I talked to (top-50 overall prospect) Scotty Middleton when he was here on his visit.”

Parks has also used the AAU circuit to continue building his relationship with Washington, who plays for All-Ohio Red and will play his senior season of high school basketball at Dayton Chaminade-Julienne.

That bond should only help Parks, Washington and the future of the Buckeye program as they prepare for the challenges to come.

“We see each other all the time at AAU tournaments from weekend to weekend, and we’re always talking about when we can come down here and work here together, come up and shoot and get some shots up,” Parks said. “So we’re gonna get to know each other a lot more.”

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