SALT LAKE CITY — Talk about a big shot. Few compare to Parker Van Dyke’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave Utah a thrilling 93-92 win over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 9. Teammate Sedrick Barefield, who passed the ball to Van Dyke on the play, said it was probably the best thing he’s been a part of during his career with the Utes.
“That was really something I’ll never forget,” Barefield said.
He’s not the only one. Van Dyke’s shot is sure to remain in memory yet green for Utah fans. It capped a furious rally from 22 points down by the Utes and etched the former East High School star’s legacy with the program.
“People will always remember that shot and that play and that comeback,” Van Dyke said. “That’s something that I’m extremely grateful for.”
Van Dyke added that he’s also really proud of it, too. That’s because he’s well-versed in Utah basketball history, having heard stories about guys like Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller and Rick Majerus while growing up. Van Dyke’s grandfather had season tickets and Parker attended a lot of games with his brothers, Barrett and Harrison, along with uncles and cousins over the years. He has fond memories of getting autographs and posing for pictures with Utah basketball players like Tim Drisdom and Bryant Markson. Van Dyke remembers being star-struck and scared to meet them.
“Parker has loved the Utes,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “He’s seen probably more games through his lifetime than any player that we’ve ever had.”
One of Van Dyke’s earliest memories was rushing the floor as a kid to celebrate Utah’s upset of No. 1 Alabama in 2002. He also recalls conference championships and watching the Sweet 16 team with Andrew Bogut.
“When I came to Utah I always wanted to be a part of something like that,” Van Dyke said.
Last year’s trip to the NIT finals in New York provided good memories. So, too, did the victory over UCLA. Van Dyke was quickly mobbed by his teammates after the latter. The senior captain made an indelible mark on a program he loves and has loved for a long time.
“I’m a Ute. I’ve always been a Ute. I’ll always be a Ute,” Van Dyke said. “I was a fan before I was ever a player and I’ll continue to be a fan after.”
In the meantime, Van Dyke is enjoying his role with the Utes. After scoring 15 points on five 3-pointers against the Bruins, he returned home to hit his first five shots from beyond the arc in a win over Arizona.
Van Dyke has made 24 of his last 47 shots (51 percent) from 3-point range. He’s averaging 15.8 points over the past five games.
“For him to be playing well and hitting shots, I don’t think it’s an accident. I’ve always said you’re going to earn what you get and get what you earn,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s no reason that we can’t all cheer for that kid and be happy that he’s having some success.”
Krystkowiak added that there’s no reason to be surprised. He said Van Dyke is an example of the way you’re supposed to take care of your business and represent your school.
It’s a responsibility Van Dyke takes seriously. He’s determined to finish his final go-around with no regrets and by leaving it all on the line — all while enjoying the experience.
“What’s happening lately is just kind of a combination of all those thoughts. That’s leading to some of these things,” Van Dyke said. “I love the experience I’m in right now. I love playing for my community, playing for my city, playing in front of friends and family.”
As his collegiate career winds down, Van Dyke notes there’s no time for a lack of confidence and he’s determined not to be passive — vowing to do whatever it takes to help the Utes win.
“If that’s hitting open shots and taking some shots and taking big shots, I’m willing to do that,” said Van Dyke, who acknowledged having the best mental approach he’s ever had — being very calm and ready to shoot when open.
Several of the Utes have raved about Van Dyke’s ability to shoot the ball. He did lead the state in scoring at East, averaging better than 24 points per game. At Utah, though, his point production has been somewhat limited — going from 2.5 points per game as a true freshman to his current average of 8.1 points.
Van Dyke said he’s learned many different roles on several teams, including AAU ball where he was more of a facilitator. Besides, doing things like taking care of the ball, focusing on good defense and getting shots for teammates tends to open things up for him.
“My first priority is to win and have team success,” Van Dyke said.
* * *
Van Dyke plays to win.
“He hates to lose at anything — ping pong, a quiz game, anything,” said his mother, Kim. “He’s always been very driven.”
His quest to be successful, she explained, includes an expectation of perfection. He’s hard on himself when things don’t go as hoped. And when they do, he’s quick to give credit to someone else.
Parker’s father, Paul, praised the way he approaches things — including basketball, academics and being a good representative of the university.
“I think it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication. He’s been a benefactor of excellent coaching and just great mentors in his life, not only in sports,” Paul said. “Everybody that he seems to associate with, or gravitate toward, is successful in one way of their life or another. He quietly goes about imitating those people the best way he can.”
Characteristics include discipline and hard work.
“He knows that nothing comes easy and he’s not afraid of a challenge,” Paul added.
Such was the case during the recruiting process. Although Van Dyke received a full-court press from Arizona State — as well as interest from programs like BYU, Stanford and Utah State — he was sold on Krystkowiak’s vision for Utah.
“I just think the more time I spent around the program and Coach K, and reflecting on my time growing up a Ute fan, I couldn’t see myself not being a Ute,” Van Dyke said. “I couldn’t see myself playing for Arizona State and coming to the Huntsman Center and playing against Utah. I was too much of a Ute.”
Van Dyke liked where the program was headed under Krystkowiak. He also had a great relationship with associate head coach Tommy Connor.
“I’ve never felt as if this wasn’t the place for me,” he said. “It’s been great.”
Van Dyke’s collegiate career began in 2013-14. At season’s end, he accepted a mission call to Alabama for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — ironic considering his memories of the Utes defeating the Crimson Tide in his youth.
“It’s kind of funny how it comes full circle,” said Van Dyke, who reminded folks there — in a friendly way — about the result as well as Utah’s win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Even though there were some worries about leaving college basketball for two years, Van Dyke considered it just a “little bit of a sacrifice” to do so. That said, he had enough access to gyms and managed to stay in really good shape while serving his mission.
“So when I came back I wasn’t completely gone,” Van Dyke said.
While in Alabama, Van Dyke and his companion would stop and play when they saw kids playing basketball.
“Those were some of my most fun experiences because you’re in a white shirt, tie, slacks and loafers.” Van Dyke said. “And you just start playing in the street with some kids and you create a lot of attention.”
Van Dyke’s skills took them by surprise. As a missionary, he noted the importance of using his talents to make connections with people. One of his favorite activities was to hold weekly basketball nights at the church buildings he served. People in the neighborhood were invited in to play.
“That was really fun to do,” Van Dyke said. “I made a lot of friends that way through basketball.”
Upon his release, Van Dyke acknowledged that he was welcomed back to the Utes with open arms.
“It was a great transition from missionary back to being a college basketball player,” he said. “It’s been a great experience ever since.”
Even so, Van Dyke admits his first season back was almost like having a second freshman year. He kind of had to learn the game again, getting acclimated to the speed and atmosphere of college basketball.
Van Dyke describes himself as “an old-school kind of athlete.” He played multiple sports growing up and had visions of playing for all of his favorite teams, most notably the Utes, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Braves. Basketball took over in middle school and high school.
And yes, there were dreams of making big shots.
“When you’re a kid you kind of envision yourself playing in those moments. I wasn’t sure how specific I was just because I also played football and baseball,” Van Dyke said. “I didn’t really have a favorite sport. I was kind of whatever the season was, that was my favorite sport.”7 comments on this story
Van Dyke’s decision to pursue basketball, obviously, led to the shot at UCLA. His brother, Barrett, was watching the game on television at work. He turned it off when the Utes were down big with a couple of minutes left and headed home. Fortunately, he turned the radio on and listened to Parker’s heroics.
“I was screaming and lost my voice for a little bit,” Barrett said. “It was kind of surreal.”
A lot of calls and text messages followed.
Mom was especially proud. Parker missed a potential game-winner in a loss at Arizona in January.
“I was so happy for him and so glad because of that Arizona shot that just kind of went in and out,” Kim said. “It was a little redemption. ... I was just thrilled that he got that chance.”