MANILA, Philippines—After a slow start to his UAAP career, Far Eastern University's rookie point guard Jasper Parker has been slowly but surely finding his groove.
While he still shares playmaking responsibilities with veteran Axel Iñigo, fellow transferee Hubert Cani, and Jojo Trinidad, Parker is showing that he has what it takes to be the premier guard for the talented Tamaraws.
Against a dangerous National University team on Wednesday, Parker shook off a scary fall in the third quarter caused by an inadvertent elbow to his head by teammate Arvin Tolentino, and went on to lead the Tamaraws to an impressive 90-83 win.
He finished with a UAAP career-high nine points, on top of five rebounds and three assists. More important than his statistics, however, was his ability to set the tone for the Tamaraws, as they refused to play at NU's preferred pace.
"JR (Parker) played well today, so he deserves to finish the game," FEU coach Olsen Racela said of Parker, who played almost 23 minutes in the contest. "Mabuti na lang, OK siya doon sa nangyari kanina. 'Yun lang ang rason kung bakit nilabas ko siya."
For Parker, it's all about adjustment. A transferee from Southwestern University in Cebu, the athletic guard was superb in the preseason, but needed some time to get used to the pace of the UAAP game and the level of competition.
"The difference is these players are more talented, compared to those in Cebu," said Parker, who grew up in California before returning to the Philippines in 2014. "Aggressiveness-wise, it's a little more physical in Cebu, but you learn to adjust here."
"I think just playing with these guys, it's a test for me to see where I am as a player, what I need to improve on," he added. "I think that's the difference."
Parker took the long road to FEU. He was originally committed to play for the Tamaraws when he came back to the Philippines, but decided to take his talents to Cebu first so as he can adjust to the Philippine style of basketball.
Once he found his way to the Tamaraws, Parker found himself under the tutelage of one of the greatest point guards in the history of Philippine basketball in Racela.
That he has a golden opportunity to learn from a true legend is not lost on the 23-year-old Parker.
"It's great," he beamed. "He has lots to teach us."
"You can tell he's very experienced with his game. He definitely made a big impact in the PBA, and I'm definitely taking advantage of anything he teaches me," Parker added.
Right now, the one thing that Racela has repeatedly stressed upon Parker is discipline and execution, especially when it comes to making the most basic of passes.
"One thing I know he doesn't like with me right now is my one-handed passes," Parker said. "I have to work on that. He's a great point guard, he's a great player."
Parker believes that he is "doing kinda well" so far in his first year in the UAAP, but knows that he has a long way to go before he can add his name to the long list of great FEU point guards.
"I still have lots to improve on," he said. "Hopefully, this year goes better for me."
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