There were times this year that Daniel Parker Jr. was ready to give up the game he first loved — basketball.
The Blue Springs senior had his future set after committing to play football at Missouri, and he had plans of just staying in shape to play for the Tigers.
However, he decided to return to play basketball this year and on Wednesday, he became the latest Wildcat to score 1,000 career points.
His 3-pointer in the first quarter pushed him over the mark and he set a career-high in points as Blue Springs picked up a 74-67 win against Center in the opening round of the 38th Annual William Jewell High School Holiday Classic.
Blue Springs advances to the semifinals of the Nelson Division bracket to play North Kansas City at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Parker finished with a double-double, 32 points and 12 rebounds, and the point total beat his previous career-high of 30.
After the game, he walked out of the locker room with a basketball that marked the occasion presented after the game by head coach Adam Jones.
“Considering I'm a football player first, it is a big thing,” Parker said. “I couldn't stop smiling after he handed me this ball. It is a great accomplishment, and it will be one of my best accolades. Coming into my freshman year, basketball was my No. 1 sport, and this is what I fell in love with. I never sprouted like everybody else did. Football came easy since I was so much bigger. I became better than a lot of people and took that root.
“This is easily in my top three accomplishments, but No. 1 is being defensive player of the year in Missouri. But easily top three, but being football-first, I think this is crazy.”
Parker hit a 3-pointer with 7 minutes, 17 seconds left to break the 1,000-point barrier, entering the game two points shy of the mark. He becomes the latest in a long list of players to accomplish that feat – a list that Jones is still trying to accomplish. Parker follows former teammate and current Northwest Missouri State player Tyree King in joining the club.
He may have some company soon as RJ Lawrence – who had 16 points in the win – is about 30 points away from joining the 1,000-point club.
Parker and Lawrence were a big reason the Wildcats (4-3) took a 21-12 lead after the first quarter, combining for 15 points.
Stepfan Black II got into the scoring act for Blue Springs in the second quarter by tallying eight of the team's 24 points. The lead grew to as high as 18 points at one point, and Blue Springs held a 45-29 lead over the Yellowjackets at the break.
The trio of Parker, Lawrence and Black had 30 points at the break.
Jones credited the success early to Parker's play inside.
“Daniel is a phenomenal athlete,” he said. “He can score inside and out and we tried to have him establish in the post and today, he went to the block and dominated. He settled in and played well down low and our guards fed off him.”
Center pulled within six late in the third, but an offensive rebound and a putback by Parker and a layup by Lawrence gave the Wildcats a 56-46 lead going into the fourth.
With 3:30 left, the Yellowjackets trimmed a 15-point deficit down to six after back-to-back baskets by Taray Winfrey, who had 17. Up 62-56, Blue Springs went on an 8-0 run to ice the win in a cool Mabee Center.
Each team had three players score in double figures. Along with Parker and Lawrence, Black was in double figures 15. Parker filled up the stat sheet with one assist, four blocks and one steal in 30 minutes.
Daryl Wright scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds to lead Center's offense, followed by 17 for Winfrey and 11 from Chris Smith.