WHEN 24-year-old Ambassador UCC Glanmire Shrita Parker arrived in Cork last September few pundits would have predicted the impact she would have on the sport in this city and country.
The story of Parker’s meteoric rise in basketball is emotional as she recalled the years how it all began for her.
“I was born and raised in a tough neighbourhood of Virginia Beach where they were few girls as I was consistently fighting with men to join their pick up games," said Shrita Parker.
Such was the determination of Parker when the lads would take her basketball and kick it yards away from the court she would simply go and get it and return eager to get among the action.
Thanks to basketball she was the first in her family to go to College and after a four-year stint at Ocean Lake she was signed to play Division 1 ball with Rutgers.
After playing three years with Rutgers she transferred to the University of Wilmington in North Carolina as she needed to be closer to home.
Recalling her youth she believes basketball kept her on the right road.
“It was tough as I was a young girl surrounded by drugs and many other vices in a tough neighbourhood but my determination and love for basketball kept me on the straight and arrow,” added Parker.
Shrita has a serious love of writing music as she believes she can express her upbringing in many lyrics.
“Drug-dealing was just a normal thing where I lived but I was young and ignored it never allowing myself to get caught in that tunnel.
“I tend to put past experiences into music and although my family are still living in Ocean Beach I do not know what is going on there but I doubt if anything has changed for the better.”
Living the dream is what Shrita is doing as she always wanted to play professional basketball from a young age.
“Looking back I think I lost my confidence when I went to Rutgers as I knew it was time for a move and when my grandmother passed away coupled with my trainer having a stroke I honestly thought about quitting the sport.”
At the end of Shrita’s college career she decided to go down to South Florida University and picked up an agent in her bid to get a move to play professional basketball.
“My agent knew my coach at North Carolina so that was a plus and when I got the call to play in Cork there were tears of joy as I felt like a lottery winner.
“People were saying to me that you have made it out of the ‘Hood’ but the bottom line is that my family still live there and the adage that the man or woman that forgets where they came from do not know where they are going to is very true.”
Parker had never been outside of the United States and with smile she indicated when she arrived in Cork that people were actually speaking the English language.
“I didn’t know what to expect but when you have folk understanding you it’s a huge advantage.”
The hills in Cork took Parker by surprise and she had an interesting observation on this issue.
“I couldn’t believe the number of hills that Cork had and then I thought to myself that’s why so many folk have big calf muscles from the climbing they do on a daily basis.”
The Glanmire sponsor is the Ambassador Hotel on Military Hill and for Shrita with her American counterpart Tatum Neubert this is their new home.
“I am embracing my new surroundings as Tatum and I treat the Hotel as our mansion, and we treat all the staff as our family with the manager Eoin Daly the father figure of an excellent group of people.”
On Saturday next Ambassador UCC Glanmire play Pyrobel Killester in the Paudie O’Connor Women’s National Cup semi final and Parker is keenly looking forward to the game.
“I think the basketball people in Ireland are besotted with the national cup and to be honest right over the Christmas period this is the game I have been thinking about as I know what it means to the people in the Glanmire club.”
This is the first season that Parker has played under coach Mark Scannell and she was quick to praise his professional attitude.
“Mark is an outstanding coach and has our team very well organized and hopefully our game plan will come together for what is a crucial game for our season.”
The likeable American believes getting used to the league in Ireland can take some adjusting but is now getting used to the rough and rumble.
“It can take some time to adjust as I was very poor in my first game but I soon learned that you need to be able to adjust to the physicality stakes.”
The standard of the Irish players came in for special praise from Parker.
“My Irish teammates are great and very competent but overall there are some very good Irish players in the league and their willingness to battle is a trait many of them have.”
There is little doubt the class and determination of Shrita Parker should inspire many young aspiring stars in this country and the large attendance at the Neptune Stadium on Saturday afternoon will hopefully see her incredible skills leading Glanmire to the senior national cup final at the end of January.