Parker Heads from Tennessee to Texas
HEADED WEST: Former Bearcat Tiana Parker Joins West Texas A&M Basketball Team, Shooting for a Title
By Matt Baide
Western Washington is filled with tall pine trees, beautiful lakes and rivers and is often compared to the land in … Texas?
After two years at Tennessee State, Tiana Parker is taking her talents to that place where everything is bigger — including basketball — at West Texas A&M.
The former Bearcat left the program at Tennessee State for a few reasons.
“We got a new coach, and I guess when we received the new coach, she just wasn’t for me. I thought it was time to go,” Parker said.
Parker played her first two seasons at Tennessee State under Larry Inman. Inman was the winningest coach in Ohio Valley Conference history before resigning in March due to personal reasons.
Inman was 67-76 in five years at Tennessee State, with 547 career wins after starting his college work in 1978 at Middle Tennessee.
When Parker arrived at Tennessee State, she had some adjusting to do in order to acclimate to her busy schedule.
“One, because it was a big time zone difference. I just wasn’t used to working out and going to study hall and having another basketball workout and going to class in the summer,” she said. “It was just a lot to take in at first.”
On top of that, the pace of the game in college was much faster and it took her some time to figure it out.
“I tried fitting in with the other girls that were already there mainly because I had a lot to learn, and I was trying to take in a lot of the things that was said from my upperclassmen teammates,” Parker said.
In Parker’s freshman season, she started one of 24 games, averaging 12.7 minutes per game. She scored 2.2 points per game, averaged 3.4 rebounds a game and was third on the team with 24 blocks.
The team was 12-18 overall and 7-9 in conference, and lost in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to end their season.
In the offseason, Parker put in a lot of work to try and earn a starting spot.
“I was working really hard on my game, going to open gyms and playing with guys rather than girls, just at a faster pace. When I got there, it was really just showing the coaches that I’m capable of starting,” Parker said. “It wasn’t really expected, but that was my main goal, and then once season actually started, it got more real that I could actually start throughout the season.”
Parker improved across the board in her sophomore season, starting 19 (of 26) games and averaging 17.1 minutes. She scored 4.5 points a game, with 3.9 rebounds and a team-high 34 blocks.
The team, though, went 10-16 and 5-11 in conference play, missing the OVC tournament.
“The team was a lot closer. I guess everybody really just clicked with each other,” Parker said. “Towards the end of the season, there was just a lot of things happening, to be honest.”
On top of those things, Parker wasn’t used to losing, especially after a four-year run at W.F. West that included a State 2A title in 2014 and state trophies all four years.
“It was a lot different, mainly because I feel like I’ve been winning my whole life,” Parker said. “After my sophomore season, I thought it would be better if I go join a team that was more like W.F. West.”
Parker will join a West Texas A&M team that was 26-9 overall last season, and earned an NCAA Div. II Tournament berth, making it to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual national champion Ashland (Ohio).
She hopes to fill the role of Lilley Vander Zee, a 6-foot-4 center who transferred to West Texas from Texas and graduated this year.
“I’d like to fill in her role and see if we can go farther,” Parker said. “I feel like the coach (Kristen Mattio) really knows what she’s talking about and she can relate more to us. I feel like they have a really good academic team in general. I feel like if you’re good in the classroom, then you’re going to be better on the court too.”
Parker is a business administration major, and plans on going into human resources after she earns her degree.
She saw similarities with Canyon, Texas, and Chehalis during her initial visit, both in terms of the community feeling and the way the town supports athletics.
“Everybody knows each other and there’s a lot of support from all the folks around town,” Parker said. “I talked to the athletic director when I got there and he said that women’s basketball has probably the best reputation on campus, which was nice to hear. It’s a really winning school in all of the sports so I’m pretty excited for that.”
Parker is improving on her game throughout this summer, while also working on a weight plan given to her by the West Texas A&M athletic trainer.
“I’ve been hitting the weight room pretty hard this summer, and then, when I come back, we have a mile test so I’ve been running everyday, also,” Parker said.
She’ll head to Canyon on Aug. 22. Classes begin on Aug. 28, and Parker will continue working out until practices start for the 2017-18 season.
W.F. West’s girls basketball team placed third this year, and Parker always keeps tabs on her alma mater.
“I always check in on them. It’s good to see W.F. West still improving and still going to state every year,” Parker said. “It kind of makes me jealous that Tom Kelly is coaching. I like his style of play a lot. He has really good gear that he gives to the girls.”
When it comes to her goals for the upcoming season, Parker wants to get back to her winning ways.
“I see myself fitting in because they are really at a fast pace and the coach really gives them the green light just because they win a lot,” Parker said. “Just joining the team, I feel like I can help them win national titles.”