Originally this was going to be some list of my favorite Bearcats, or the toughest Bearcats, or some crap like that. As I began writing, I realized it was never really that. It was just an excuse for me to write about JaQuon Parker. Rather than pretend like it’s anything else, here’s it is:
My freshman year at Cincinnati was in 2011–12. Because of a housing shortage, I “had to” live in UPA instead of a dorm. As most students know, that’s where the basketball team lives (or at least they did at the time). I would regularly see Yancy Gates (a human that was so hulking it was like two adult men had been taped together) or Octavius Ellis (when he was in Cincinnati the first time, before the expulsion). I’d also sometimes see JaQuon Parker. Seeing Yancy and JaQuon in person never failed to catch me off guard, for opposite reasons. Yancy was 50% larger than everyone else on campus, but JaQuon looked pretty normal. The reason “pretty normal” was shocking is because of how he played. He didn’t play “pretty normal.” I’d see him give hell to big men from Syracuse or Louisville and then pass him on the way to class the next morning and he’d be my height. It never failed to surprise me.
JaQuon more or less played power forward on the 2011–12 team in the wake of the Xavier brawl, when Mick dealt with suspensions by switching to a four-guard lineup that ultimately saved the season. The problem with JaQuon playing power forward is that UC was in the Big East and he is 6’3” tall. The good thing about JaQuon playing power forward was that nobody told JaQuon he was the size of a point guard, so it didn’t end up mattering. (JaQuon Parker is shorter than Troy Caupain.)
Consider this: Parker spent much of his career playing the same position that Gary Clark does. In 2016–17, Gary recorded two or more blocks in a game 11 times. In 2011–12, JaQuon recorded a total of two blocks the entire season. This was a guy covering many power forward duties while averaging 0.1 blocks in his best season.
The Bearcats were forced to play small ball that year. It wasn’t trendy back then quite like it is now. JaQuon Parker playing the undersized-big-man-who-can-do-it-all role made him the Bearcats’ Draymond Green, only smaller. Playing against a guy like JaQuon must have sucked, because he was the ultimate glue guy. Gary Clark goes largely unrecognized, but he’s a superstar in comparison to JaQuon. I’m sure there were opponents from 2011–2013 that wanted to choke him after going through hell for 40 minutes, only to check the box score and see he had nine points and six rebounds. That’s what he did. In Mick Cronin’s tenure, nobody affected winning without scoring more than JaQuon did.
The most JaQuon Parker-ish game that ever occurred was in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Bearcats had beaten Texas to open things up and were facing 3-seed Florida State for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Florida State’s power forward was Bernard James. He was 6’10” and 240 pounds, and he’d later be drafted at the top of the second round by the Cavs. Cincinnati’s power forward in that game was JaQuon Parker, a player merely seven inches shorter and 42 pounds lighter than Bernard James. This would seem like a mismatch. Parker somehow bullied James for eleven rebounds that night, five of which came on the offensive end. It was insane. Tasked with keeping a future NBA big man off the glass, a kid who is my height was up to the challenge. He finished with nine points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. The Bearcats won, largely because JaQuon Parker is tougher than Mike Tyson.
Shea Serrano recently published a book called Basketball (And Other Things) that’s really good. In the book, he has a chapter about which player he’d trust to protect him in The Purge. A few Bearcats were mentioned: Kenyon Martin (duh) and Art Long (for the obvious reason). JaQuon Parker didn’t play in the NBA, so he wasn’t eligible, but I’d trust him in The Purge. JaQuon Parker could out-rebound Godzilla if he wanted to.
In 2011–12, JaQuon Parker closed out a season better than anyone in the Mick Cronin era. Here are my favorite games of his in the last three weeks of that year, ranked:
- March 18— Bearcats beat 3-seed Florida State: 9 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists
- March 8 — Bearcats beat #13 Georgetown: 9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists
- March 9— Bearcats beat #2 Syracuse: 9 points, 8 rebounds
- February 29 — Bearcats beat #7 Marquette: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists
- March 16— Bearcats beat 11-seed Texas: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists