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The Daily Tar Heel

Parker Fights Foul Trouble, Pleases Parents With Win

By Bret Strelow

Assistant Sports Editor

After the final buzzer sounded, Jason Parker walked to midcourt and stared into the Smith Center crowd.

Parker quickly spotted his father, Jesse, standing in the front row near the Kentucky bench. The Wildcats had just beaten North Carolina 93-76, and Jesse extended his right arm and gave his son a congratulatory thumbs up.

"We're just glad we got the win," Jesse Parker said. "They were 1-3, so this really was a big win for them."

Jason Parker had a hand in stopping the Wildcats' slide. Parker scored six points and corralled three rebounds in the victory. He picked up two fouls in each half and was limited to 12 minutes of playing time.

"He doesn't like to sit too long," Jason's mother, Mable, said at halftime.

The Parker family - Jesse, Mable, Jesse Jr. and Stephen - arrived in Chapel Hill approximately two hours before tip-off of Saturday's game, which was Jason's first as a college player at the Smith Center.

Parker had signed with UNC while at West Charlotte High School, but he failed to qualify and spent last season at Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Va.

Parker wasn't admitted this fall after a qualifying score on the SAT was flagged by the NCAA.

UNC coach Matt Doherty sent a letter to The Daily Tar Heel asking students to give Parker a standing ovation before Saturday's game because he had wanted to play at North Carolina.

The fans - most of them, anyway - obliged and cheered for Parker when he was announced as Kentucky's starting power forward.

"That's outstanding," Jesse Parker said. "I knew they would. They're a first-class student body, a first-class university."

Parker called his parents last week and told them he wasn't making the UNC game out as anything special.

He scored his first bucket on a dunk with 15:21 left in the first half to cut UNC's lead to 10-4. Parker sat the final 12:28 of the first half after picking up his second foul.

Parker had seven touches on the offensive end in the contest and hit

3-of-5 shots, including two dunks.

"The minutes he was out there, he contributed a lot," Kentucky teammate Keith Bogans said. "I just thought this was something big for him. Mentally, it was real big coming back in here for him to have a good game. He still did what we needed him to do out there."

Parker is not allowed to talk the media because of a rule Kentucky coach Tubby Smith has implemented for freshmen. Parker was averaging 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds coming into the game.

UNC center Brendan Haywood primarily guarded Parker when the Tar Heels played man-to-man defense. Parker's only two misses were hooks attempted over Haywood.

Haywood said he and Parker didn't talk much, but he did approach the Kentucky freshman after the game.

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"I just told him `We could have used you out there,'" Haywood said. "He smiled and said, `I wish I could be here.'"

After the conversation, Parker continued walking toward the tunnel on his path to the Kentucky locker room.

Jesse Parker stood and watched his son the whole way. By the time the

No. 42 on his son's back was barely visible, he stood, shaking his head.

He couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

The Sports Editor can be reached at