By narrowing down to three schools fairly close to home, he got the relatively easy part out of the way.
Now comes the hard part.
Step one for class of 2023 center Austin Parks after cutting his list to Indiana, Ohio State and West Virginia on Friday was a road trip to Bloomington.
Parks had been to Indiana over the summer to meet the staff and check out the facilities, but his Sunday unofficial visit was all about experiencing an IU basketball game day and watching head coach Mike Woodson’s system and program in action.
The 6-foot-10 and 240 pound Parks left impressed.
“He got to feel that whole Assembly Hall atmosphere, the tradition in there,” said Jake Meisler, his AAU coach with Ohio Buckets who joined him on the trip. “We walk in and he gets an ‘Austin Parks’ chant right away from the student section. So he kind of realized how big basketball was in Bloomington and Indiana as a whole. He really saw what basketball was about at Indiana.”
When the game against Minnesota tipped, Parks was locked in on Indiana’s No. 23, and he like how Indiana emphasized playing through its center.
“Obviously a 6-foot-10 big man like Austin sees how often Trayce (Jackson-Davis) touches that ball,” Meisler said. “They make a concerted effort to throw it into the post. Austin recognized that. He’s a smart kid, he’s knowledgeable about the game, and he understands how they would want to use Austin as well.
“He really enjoys Coach Woodson. He’s been very upfront and transparent with how they plan to use Austin, how he thinks Austin will be able to develop and help them, which is soon and early.
After the game Indiana drove home to Parks he is a priority recruiting target in the high school junior class.
“Coach Woodson brought the entire staff into a conference room and made it clear to Austin how important he was to Indiana,” Meisler said.
“Austin has a lot of respect for those guys, Coach (director of recruiting Brian) Walsh and Coach (Dane) Fife have done a great job of recruiting him.”
Parks doesn’t shy away from being labeled as a center, and that’s something that is somewhat rare as players are attempting more and more to gravitate out to the perimeter.
Ranked the No. 18 center in the 2023 class, the St. Marys, Ohio (St. Marys Memorial H.S) product is embracing the more old-school role.
“He’s a true big man, Meisler said. “He’s expanded his game out to 15 feet and the arc will be next, but he’s one of those guys that excels back-to-the-basket or turn-and-face from two to six feet, that’s just kind of his game. He’s very big, he jumps well. That’s (being a center) his fit at the next level, and he’s really improved guarding. He’s not just a shot-blocker. He’s really improved sitting down and guarding a quicker offensive guy.”
With Jackson-Davis likely out the door after this season, and Michael Durr the next, Indiana projects to have just one scholarship center, Logan Duncomb, on the roster by the time Parks would be ready for college in 2023. Obviously much can change via the transfer portal between now and then, but the forecasted roster makes Indiana a good fit for Parks.
What will be the key variables when it comes to making a final college decision?
“I know he’s a big relationship guy,” Meisler said. “He’s big on the guys on staff and teammates. The people recruiting him have had a big impact, and he feels like these guys (West Virginia, Ohio State and Indiana) have impacted him the most. Obviously on the court is important, offense and what these teams are doing, but every bit as important is off the court. Can his family hop in the car and come see him play? With these three schools they can.”
It probably won’t take too terribly long from here for Parks to figure out his college destination.
Another round of visits to his finalists after his high school season concludes is likely the final step.
“We don’t have official visits even on the calendar yet, and I know he’s going to want to take officials to these schools he’s narrowed down to,” Meisler said. “I don’t think he’s in a hurry, but I don’t think he wants to drag this thing out to his senior year either. I think things will move relatively quickly to take the official visits to the three schools, early spring, possibly before AAU.”
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