In March 2018, Deshon Parker entered the Cintas Center at Xavier University with a chance to win a regional title for his high school. He had the opportunity to advance his school into the semifinals and replicate the state championship that the Wayne Warriors achieved in 2015. This was his opportunity to go out on top before he started a new life at the college level.
Despite the dream of bringing Wayne High School another state championship in basketball, the Warriors fell short.
Wayne (Huber Heights, Ohio) lost 65-53 to the eventual champion. There wouldn’t be a shining moment at the end of Parker’s high school career. Instead, he walked off the court with his jersey tousled and his hand over his face to hide the pain.
In the stands was Toni Myers, Deshon’s mother, who couldn’t hold back tears. She knew she’d have to say goodbye to the team that she and her family had grown up with, even before high school. For one last time, she watched her son represent the place that helped him flourish into a Division-I athlete.
As the team walked back into the locker room, it signaled the next step for Parker’s career, which would take him to James Madison University, just under seven hours from Huber Heights. The distance was daunting, but that wasn’t the time for Myers to worry about what was next.
She was focused on being there for her son, who was heartbroken from the end of his high school basketball career.
That’s how it works in their family. When one falls, the rest are there to help bring them back up. Parker said it’s been that way for as long as he can remember, and it won’t change.
The transition from Southwestern Ohio to the Shenandoah Valley wasn’t going to be easy. Parker was born in the Dayton area and lived there throughout his childhood and high school years with Myers and his older brother, Demond. It’s the city he said he prides himself on every time he steps onto the court as a reminder of what helped him get to play basketball at the college level.
There are challenges that come with playing at a university that's over 400 miles away from Deshon’s hometown. He said that not being able to see the people he cares about the most weighed on him, but simple things like text messages and phone calls go a long way for the family.
“It’s very hard,” Parker said. “I know when I first got here last year, I was kind of unsure just because I’m a big family guy, so I missed my mom. But, she’s my queen. I FaceTime her every day, text her, ‘Good morning, Mom’ every day. There’s no other way to put it — that’s my world. I want to see her happy at all times.”
Deshon and Demond have played basketball since they were children. Myers said the gym has been their place to go to escape from the world and take a few moments to relax and play the game they love. To her, it’s where she knows her kids can be happy no matter what.
“The gym has always been my boys’ outlet,” Myers said. “For stress, for fun, for anything, really — that’s where they’re home at … I’m glad Deshon is at a place where he can continue that because that’s when he’s the happiest.”
Deshon, Demond and Myers FaceTime every night. They chat throughout the day, sending quotes and scripture readings, among other things, to one another. It’s not the face-to-face conversations they’re used to, but with a family containing two collegiate athletes, sacrifices are made. One of the sacrifices Myers said she made was when Deshon committed to JMU, meaning that for the first time in their lives, he’d be far away.
“I always say in the recruiting process that you’re passing the baton,” JMU men’s basketball head coach Louis Rowe said. “They have to trust us. Obviously, we’re never going to replace their family, but there’s certain times that we become a part of that family. If Deshon needs something, and I’ve got to go over there and check on him, that’s the stuff they know they can trust me to do.”
Rowe developed a relationship with Deshon’s mother and father throughout the recruitment process. Rowe said he believes that when it comes to recruiting, it’s not just about the player but rather the player and his family. That’s one of the things that Myers said earned her trust and helped Deshon feel comfortable committing four years of his life to play at JMU.
Now in his sophomore season for the Dukes, Deshon has had time to adjust to life away from Ohio. However, he said there are times where it gets difficult compared to living close to home. On Dec. 4, JMU fell to in-state rival Radford, 94-71. Deshon went 0-for-6 from the court and only amassed two points — both coming from the free-throw line.
“There are going to be some nights where you just wish you could drive 20 minutes down the road and go home,” Deshon said. “We FaceTime a lot, but FaceTime doesn’t get it that much. But, having that support system back home and having that love and care, it’s second to none.”
Myers said seeing games like the Radford loss is tough on her because she wants to be able to console her son, but she taught her sons at a young age how to maneuver through adversity and that every day is a new day.
When Myers is able to make it to Harrisonburg, she gets to find herself in a place she grew accustomed to when her two sons were growing up. For the entire game, she’s focused on her son’s success. Sometimes, she sits alongside Demond, who plays basketball at Cedarville University, meaning the family enjoys a few days of being reunited.
“It’s sad when we leave every time, and it breaks my heart, but then Deshon texts me, ‘20 more days, and I’ll be home,’” Myers said. “We make it work. We talk about his day, practice, what’s going well and bad. I spend a lot of time communicating with them.”
When Deshon returns home, he’ll be working out and playing basketball. If able to, he’ll do it with his brother and best friend. Deshon said playing on the same team as his brother is the best feeling in the world because to him, family is everything, and that’ll never change.
“I honestly think I was so blessed God gave me these boys,” Myers said. “I love being their mother.”
Contact Noah Ziegler at email@example.com. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.