MISSOULA — For the newest addition to the Montana men’s basketball team, physical therapy for an ankle injury requires someone taking his temperature.
Cameron Parker, a Beaverton, Oregon, product, broke his ankle while playing for Sacred Heart, a Division I school in the Northeast Conference, just 10 weeks ago. He decided to transfer in March and announced his commitment to Montana on April 18, but still had physical therapy scheduled to work the ankle back to full strength.
Only now, with the coronavirus pandemic raging, even something relatively routine like coming back from a sports injury becomes a little more difficult and more than a touch scary.
“It’s crazy, you have to walk in there, they take your temperature and you have to sanitize your hands,” Parker, a 6-foot-3, 175 pound guard, said during a Tuesday evening phone call with 406mtsports.com. “It’s pretty strict now … it makes sense because they’re touching your foot and ankle. It’s different.”
Parker is happy to be back with his family in Oregon, especially during this time. His ankle is healing and he — as well as the team — hope he is in Missoula sometime in mid-summer.
Being closer to home and playing at the same university as his cousin, Griz football receiver Samori Toure, were a big part of Parker’s decision to join the Grizzlies. His final two school choices came down to Montana and Portland State.
Sacred Heart is a school in Fairfield, Connecticut, a long way from the suburbs of Portland. He also attended a prep school in New Hampshire for a year before college and Parker blossomed into a star while on the East Coast.
His biggest moment? An NCAA single-game record 24 assists in an early-season game against Division-III Pine Manor on Dec. 1, 2019.
“I kinda like having the spotlight on me and stuff like that, and I’ve had people ask me, ‘How did you get 24 assists in a game.” Parker said. “It’s like, I had good teammates that made shots and could catch lobs.”
He also broke assists records at his prep school and during his career as an Oregon prep at Jesuit High School was top-three in the state in assists.
So while the assists were not exactly anything new, the national attention was as he finished with averages of 9.9 points and 7.8 assists per game before his season-ending injury. Part of the reason Parker wanted to transfer was also to find a little more exposure and play in front of crowds, he said, that actually supports their basketball.
Montana certainly has that. The Grizzlies have consistently outdrawn several Pac-12 schools in basketball attendance over the past several years and did not play a Big Sky game at Dahlberg Arena in front of less than 3,252 people.
In fact, Montana’s home attendance average in 15 games last season was 4,025.
Playing for Travis DeCuire was another draw. DeCuire, of course, was an all-Big Sky guard for the Grizzlies and still holds the school’s assist record, with 425 in his playing career.
“Why wouldn’t I want to go to a place where my head coach leads all-time in assists when my specialty is passing the ball? He definitely had me feeling more comfortable with that and the guards that have been there the past couple years,” Parker said. “I’m excited to get out there and I know his specialty is guards. That’s only going to elevate my game more.”
Between Parker, Timmy Falls, Josh Vazquez and Naseem Gaskin, there will be some impressive ball handlers in practice as DeCuire continues to find players that fit his style and perhaps remind him of himself.
Parker his hopeful he will have a chance to throw himself into that rotation next year and said he has played against Cameron Satterwhite and Gaskin before. Outside of working on his shooting and other aspects of his game, there are questions as to how soon he will be eligible to play.
He will be in junior standing next year, but will likely have to sit a season in order to play his final two years with Montana.
A request for an eligibility waiver to allow Parker to play immediately will be filed and the new Grizzly sounded optimistic as he spoke about it. There is also a chance NCAA legislation allowing for transfers to be eligible to play immediately will be passed.
In any case, Parker — who said he will be on scholarship — is happy to be headed to Missoula.
“I’m looking at it like, ‘If I can play next year, great. This team is going to be really good and I know that we’re going to have a bright future,’ Parke said. “But if I can’t, I’m just going to look at it as another year develop my body and my jump shot and everything I need to work on.”