By TYLER PHILLIPS
Ryan Parsons sat down with a huge smile, one that seemed to be permanently etched on his face. The senior was wearing black Nike Roshe running shoes with shorts and an EKU basketball T-shirt. He was happy, maybe because the Yankees just started their season or he happened to catch a Seinfeld marathon. His smile is genuine, but just a week ago, his basketball career ended.
“Just the other night, I was sitting in my apartment and my body felt so weird,” Parsons said. “And I thought, I haven’t sweat in a week. It’s been really weird, now I know I’m never going back.”
Parsons has had his fair share of interesting highlights in his Colonel uniform. One of those came against a team he had watched his entire life, in an arena where he watched many games over his life.
On Dec. 30, 2012, junior Corey Walden fouled out against the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown, W.Va. Eastern head coach Jeff Neubauer then looked down the bench and pointed at Parsons to go in.
“I knew coach Neubauer was going to try and get me in the game because he knew how much West Virginia meant to me,” Parsons said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get in but I knew he would try. When Corey fouled out he points at me and I go, ‘Oh boy’.”
In front of his family and friends (who made giant cutouts of his face) Parsons drew a charge and a few minutes later hit a three-pointer in the face of WVU guard Juwan Staten (who led the Big 12 in scoring and assists this year).
“When I hit the shot, I floated back down the court,” Parsons said. “It was like, ‘did I really just make this shot?’”
That moment of happiness was just one of many Parsons had during his time in a Colonel uniform.
Four years ago, Parsons was graduating from Morgantown High School in Morgantown, W.Va. His team just lost the state championship to Capitol High School, but he knew he didn’t want his basketball career to end there. Parsons knew he wanted to play college basketball. It had always been a dream of his to play at the highest level and the way his life played out, he got his chance at Eastern.
Parsons’ father, Mike, was the associate athletic director at West Virginia University and had known Neubauer from his time at the university as an assistant. They made contact and Parsons got his chance.
The first two years Parsons was at Eastern, the teams had a combined record of 31-32. But when Glenn Cosey, Corey Walden, Tarius Johnson and Marcus Lewis came in two years ago, he knew that’d change.
“When they got here, we knew they were talented right away,” Parsons said.
Parsons said he embraced his role on the team and knew that he may not get to play as much, because of the new talent Eastern had on the team.
“I never really worried that much about playing time,” Parsons said. “I came here to win and not get personal honors. It didn’t really matter to me.” During that time, Eastern won 49 games, an OVC championship and an NCAA tournament berth, which Parsons calls the best moment of his career.
Now that basketball is over, Parsons is headed to law school. He took the law school entrance exam the same day Eastern played Longwood Dec. 7. He doesn’t know where he is going to school yet, but said he will always follow Eastern basketball.
“It’s been a great learning experience for me, just in life,” Parsons said. “I’ll remember the first two years when we weren’t winning, those tough times. Worked hard and stuck with it and reached the top.”
Mike Parsons told his son that watching Eastern play Kansas on March 20 in St. Louis was the best tournament experience he ever had. Mike watched West Virginia reach the Final Four in 2010 and the Elite Eight in 2005 under John Beilein (Neubauer happened to be an assistant on that team), but this one was his favorite.
On that December day just before the turn of 2013, Mike wore a maroon sweater, taking a break from the gold and blue he had worn his whole life. He and the rest of his family were cheering on the Colonels. That day and the rest of Ryan’s experiences at Eastern are sure to be things told around the Parsons family for years to come. Maybe that’s why he is so happy.