March 02, 2024

Main man to role player: Ray Parks accepting reduced role is the Gilas feel-good story no one is talking about

Main man to role player: Ray Parks accepting reduced role is the Gilas feel-good story no one is talking about
Art by One Sports

The basketball gods should have just given that game-winner to Bobby Ray Parks Jr. He deserved it. He sacrificed a lot to get that one shining moment—perhaps more than any other player who wore Gilas on their chest Monday night at the Philippine Arena.

But the basketball gods had other plans, which means Gilas will end this cycle of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers with a heartbreaking loss 90-91 to Jordan. It also means Parks won’t get his turn in the limelight. Instead, he remains the Gilas guy no one really talks about.

That seems quite all right for the B.League veteran, whose biggest contribution to Gilas has been his willingness to cede the spotlight and take on a lesser role—that of a role player. It doesn’t seem much of a big deal. After all, lots of players have accepted reduced roles.

Not all of them, though, were former MVPs in their prime.

That has been the case with Parks, who is a two-time UAAP MVP, a three-time ABL MVP, and a former D-League MVP. And he could have easily been the Best Player of the Conference in the PBA’s Bubble Season after averaging 22.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.5 steals. He also led the TNT Tropang Giga to the Finals of that season's lone conference.

In short, he is among a handful of players who can be one of Gilas’ main men. He is that good. And he can certainly make a case to get more minutes, to get more touches, to have more plays run for him, and to get more shots.

He isn’t asking for those. And that’s great for Gilas because a team can’t be all stars and superstars. Every team at any level needs role players, too.   

Indeed, Parks is doing what role players do. He is playing within the offense. He is making the next pass—the pass that leads to the pass that leads to a score. He is giving up good looks to get Gilas great shots. And he is playing hardnosed defense—not the lockdown type but good enough nonetheless, in part because of the effort and the willingness to take on the challenge.

“I appreciate Shawn Dennis for really installing defense in us. If you guys watch the games out there in Japan we really pride ourselves on defense and really trying to pressure. That definitely helped,” said Parks after the Jordan game, where he was among Gilas’ most active defenders—extending his D, switching onto bigs, and even taking his turn on the prolific Dar Tucker.

The numbers—8 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal—will say Parks played okay. But his contributions to Gilas have always gone beyond the box score. And that has always been the case with role players.

It hasn’t always been the case for Parks. He isn’t complaining, though, and instead is doing the little things for Gilas. And it appears he has a most compelling reason to do those little things that often go unnoticed.

“We want to represent this country as best we could.”

In the case of Parks, even if that means accepting a lesser role.