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Doug Lind, photo courtesy of Doug Lind
Lori Parkinson, Cyprus
She had touch," said Adams of why he saw potential in her. "It was raw, but she had so much touch. Lori has always been a basketball player. That's who she is.

MAGNA — Lori Parkinson is an accidental basketball star.

While the Cyprus senior played volleyball and ran track in junior high, her mother never thought she'd find her passion in athletics.

Instead, she recalls the day her precocious daughter came home from elementary school and asked if she could buy a briefcase and wear a business suit to school. At 10-years-old Lori decided she was going to be a Stanford-educated lawyer.

"I saw her work so hard in school," said Jackie Parkinson. "I never thought she'd do sports. I just thought basketball would fall by the wayside."

And for a while, it looked like that would be the case.

Lori played volleyball and ran track in junior high, but she didn't make the Brockbank Junior High basketball team. That still puzzles Parkinson because she was 5-foot-9 when she tried out in seventh grade and a pretty good athlete.

"But I did fall down a lot," she laughs.

To which her mother responds, "That's why I couldn't come that first year. She fell all the time. I couldn't watch it."

Maybe the reason she didn't shine right away was because her reason for taking up the sport was unusual.

"I liked this boy who played basketball," she laughs. "So I thought if I played, he might like me."

What happened was that the boy fell by the wayside and Lori fell in love with basketball.

"It was so different," she said of trying out for the high school team at Cyprus. "It was so much more physical. I loved it."

Pirates head coach Josh Adams saw Parkinson at tryouts.

"She was running a clinic on the other girls," he said. "She was clumsy, but she was so athletic. I looked at her and I said, 'You're going to play D1 basketball.' I think she knew it too. She was a freak."

And he means freak in a good way.

This is the same girl who cried when a nurse told her she was 6-foot-1, the same girl who fell so often in her first year of basketball that her mother couldn't bear to watch, and the same girl who cried when girls got too physical with her.

"She had touch," said Adams of why he saw potential in her. "It was raw, but she had so much touch. Lori has always been a basketball player. That's who she is."

She's a basketball player who started much later than her peers. So when she found club basketball, she ate it up. She applied the work ethic that has earned her straight As in the classroom to her effort on the basketball court and the result is one of the best players in the state.

"I think she's one of the top five players in the state," said Adams without hesitation. "And look at her upside. She's not even close to hitting her peak."

Parkinson said she wonders what life would be like if she'd started playing in elementary or junior high.

"I'm so sad I started so late," she said. "I love playing club. I love the intensity of it. And now I have friends from all different schools."

Dedication during her high school season, as well as during summer club season, cured her of her propensity to stumble and instilled in her legitimate basketball moves.

"Yeah, we worked on her base first," said Adams with a grin. What he found very quickly is that Parkinson offered him a lot to work with and the drive to improve very quickly.

"There is no one quicker," he said. "She'll grab a rebound and there will be nine players between her and the basket and she'll beat them all to the other end of the floor. And she does that every game. She's strong; she's got college speed and college strength. She has the wing-span of a post player and she doesn't just block, she posterizes (opposing) players."

He used to try and stop her from smashing the ball out of the other girl's hands, but doing so gave her and her teammates so much energy, he and the other coaches agreed to let her block her way.

"It's the volleyball in her," he said. "She's smart and her basketball IQ has gotten so much higher. Last year she averaged two assists and this year she is averaging five or six."

That makes Parkinson beam.

Besides being fast, athletic and a beast in the paint, Parkinson adores her teammates.

"I love my teammates," she said with the kind of enthusiasm that makes one think she might start hugging strangers.

That affection allows her a special place on the team.

"She's such a humble player to be around," said Marquessa Gilson, a junior guard. "It's so much fun to play with her. If anyone needs anything, she's the one to give it. To me, she's like a coach and a player."

Adams said if he could sum Parkinson up in one word it would be "contagious."

Having a player like Parkinson allows the team, the school, the community to dream big.

"State," said Adams. "Any team with Lori on the team is going to (have a chance). We have four players averaging double digits. Our expectation is to take it one game at a time."

But the goal is much bigger — for both Lori and the Pirates.

"We want to have a team that inspires the kids to come home," Adams said. "The only reason we have Lori playing here is because she didn't play (club) basketball when she was younger."

Lori has about a dozen schools, including several Division I schools, expressing interest in her. She said the recruiting process is intimidating but exciting. She's already taken one visit, but she's taking a break to focus on her senior season. She hopes to decide by March.

Adams has no doubt that she will play college hoops, the only question is where. He points to her progress in the last three years. Last year she averaged 16 points and 16 rebounds per game and nearly four steals per game.

This year she is averaging 13.7 points and 13 rebounds per game. She is also averaging 2.7 assists and 4.7 steals. She's also showing her volleyball skills with nearly seven blocks per game.

And while she hasn't ruled out life as a lawyer, she is putting all her energy into hoops and school right now.

"24-7 it's basketball, basketball, basketball," said her mother laughing. "It's very exciting to watch her. It makes me feel so proud."

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