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Bobby Ray Parks Jr. takes the NBA's long road with the Philippines on his back

Bobby Ray Parks Jr. is a guy you've likely never heard of, with a story worth knowing about.

LAS VEGAS -- There are three types of players at Las Vegas Summer League.

The first are phenoms like D'Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor, the highly-touted draft picks who typically draw all the crowds. The second are the players looking to get another shot at the league, like gunner Jordan Crawford or former No. 2 pick Hasheem Thabeet. Type three is the Google group, the guys who force you to search their name because you know absolutely nothing about them.

That's where Bobby Ray Parks Jr. comes in.

In his homeland of the Philippines, Parks Jr. is a recognizable name, a golden boy for homegrown basketball talent. But in the United States, he's living under relative anonymity while playing for the Dallas Mavericks summer league roster in Vegas.

While he could be relishing in his notoriety back home, he's in Vegas chasing a lifelong dream, and looking to make a certain someone proud.

"[The NBA] is definitely the main goal," Parks Jr. said. "Not just for me, but for my father, too."

Parks Jr. is the son of Bobby Ray Parks Sr., an American basketball player who played collegiately at Memphis State (now known as Memphis), and largely regarded as one of the greatest imports the Philippine Basketball Association has seen. He played in the country for 12 years and won the Best Import award seven years in a row.

Parks Jr. spent the first 13 years of his life living in the country his father dominated professionally before moving to Memphis, in hopes of catching the eye of stateside college scouts. His skill set was clearly enough to earn a four-star rating from, and attract schools like Louisville, Virginia, Georgia Tech and New Mexico, who watched the combo guard win a state title at Melrose High School his junior year.

He eventually committed to Georgia Tech in November 2010, but the situation became complicated.

Parks Sr. had moved back to the Philippines to accept a position as athletic director for National University in Manila in June of that year, but was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. His son was left with two options: chase his NBA dreams, or be with his ill father.

"It was better off for my family," Parks Jr. said, recalling his decision to forgo playing at Georgia Tech. "My father was sick at the time, so I just decided to make that happen, and put my NBA dreams to the side."

While he realizes his decision would make his path to the NBA "definitely harder," it wasn't much of a debate for Parks Jr. to return to the Philippines.

"In the back of my head I wasn’t even thinking about it," he said. "I was just focusing on my father ... I just wanted to spend as much time as I could to be with him."

He opted to enroll at National University, where he starred on the school's basketball team. He won MVP honors during the 2012 and 2013 season, despite having to worry about his father's declining health. On March 30, 2013, Parks Sr. passed away from lung cancer, which developed from his laryngeal cancer. He was 51.

Parks returned to the United States in preparation for the 2014 NBA Draft after spending his first season in the PBA's D-League.

Both his mother and sister were living in Los Angeles at the time, so Bobby moved into their small home to help support his remaining family nucleus, while also setting his sights on his previously forgotten basketball dream.

"I was just basically living off a couch," Parks Jr. said. "My mom and my sister had a condo in Los Angeles. My mom’s a single mother, and she’s working, and my sister’s she still in school, I’m helping her out. So instead of just staying in a hotel, I’d rather just stay with them and sleep on a couch."

He was ruled ineligible for the 2014 draft, but re-entered his name in the 2015 draft after spending another season in the PBA D-League. Despite going undrafted this year, he was able to latch on with the Dallas Mavericks summer league roster.

The 22-year-old Parks has played just 13 minutes for Dallas over three games, totaling one point. It's safe to say his NBA options look pretty bleak, and for now might have to explore a different avenue for the upcoming season. But frankly, for this international man of mystery, just being able to come this close to achieving his goal is remarkable in itself.

"There’s not a lot of stories where guys are able to come to the states, do something at the high school level, go abroad, and then be rediscovered," said Travis Blakeley, the assistant general manager of the Mavericks D-League team, the Texas Legends. "For him to be able to do that is a testimony to his hard work."

Although he may not be able to showcase the skills that put him on the map as much as he'd like with the Mavericks, he's certainly felt the support from his Filipino fan base.

"We're hoping, man," Jon Mercado said about Parks' NBA dreams, a native of the Philippines now residing in Las Vegas. "First homegrown talent playing in the NBA. That'd be great."

For that, Parks is grateful.

"I wish I could have a meet and greet with them or something, just to tell them that I’m very thankful and blessed to have them here," Parks Jr. said.

That attitude from him is not surprising. He's a guy who has willing to give to others his entire life, putting his own ambitions on the back burner to help his family when they needed the support the most. It's been an uphill struggle for Parks Jr. since leaving high school in Memphis, but his journey has given him some perspective.

"You have to be dedicated to what you’re doing, and know the sacrifices that it takes," he said.

Over the past several years, Parks Jr. has been an embodiment of that sacrifice. And as he laces up to play in front of a crowd who may have never heard of him before, he'll continue to work until he's recognized as an NBA player.


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