LITHONIA, Ga. – A star-studded UCLA hoops recruiting class now has a lot more shine to it.
Five-star power forward Tony Parker of Miller Grove (Ga.) High School, the top-rated 2012 prospect in Georgia, committed to UCLA on Monday during a lengthy ceremony at his school. He chose the Bruins over in-state UGA and Ohio State, picking up hats for the Bulldogs and Buckeyes and placing them back down before donning a black UCLA hat and opening a jacket to reveal a UCLA T-shirt underneath.
“At the last minute, I really felt like that would be the best place for me,” Parker said. “I thought UCLA was a great place, and I think Ohio State was right next to it. I thought it would be a great place for me to get better, play hard. I knew I would come in with a chip on my shoulder out there.”
Parker did not sign during Monday’s ceremony and said he plans to send his letter of intent to UCLA on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Parker exits the Atlanta area as a McDonald’s All-American and one of the most decorated prep players in the city’s history. He joins a UCLA class that already featured two of the nation’s best in Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, who Parker roomed with during a recent event.
“Shabazz's decision affected me a lot,” Parker said, “because me and Shabazz were really close. We basically had the same schools. Shabazz is a great guy. He recruited the crap out of me, him and Kyle Anderson. … I think everybody is going to have their role. It's just like Kentucky. A big class came in and everybody had their role.
“I want to win. I'm more of a winner than being the man. That really doesn't affect me at all. To be honest, if I win, I think I'm the man eventually. And with that team, I think I can really work hard, and I'll have a chance to get there.”
There were additional ties between Parker and the Los Angeles school.
UCLA assistant coach Korey McCray is a former AAU coach of Parker’s, and the recruit said that was a factor in his choice.
“Me and Korey are extremely close,” Parker said. “He's known me since I was 12. He's trained me and everything, so Korey is a coach and a hometown guy. So there's a hometown guy at UCLA too. He factored in (to my decision) a lot.”
Parker also said that former UCLA star Marques Johnson is married to a cousin of his and that he’ll “have family away from home there.”
“That's something nobody knew,” Parker said, “but he married my cousin. He really was pushing her because he can't talk to me.”
Parker’s decision to head West disappointed fans locally who felt like in-state school Georgia had closed a considerable gap with the top prospect. But Parker said he felt that heading to UCLA would bring more pressure to force him to improve and that staying close to home would be the “easy way out.”
“I just thought it was time for me to broaden my horizon,” Parker said.
“I think Georgia made a lot of headway,” Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “They cleared out a lot of spaces, and up until maybe a week or so ago, I thought they were in great shape. I think Coach Fox does a great job. It would have been a great fit for him, but Tony wanted to test the waters a little bit, and like he said, he wanted to get into more of a pressure situation. I can't fault him for that. I commend him for that.”