Hard Work Continues to Pay Off for James Parrott ‘13

Hard Work Continues to Pay Off for James Parrott ‘13

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

James Parrott ‘13 is not your typical success story.

On the basketball court, nothing has come easy for Parrott. He didn’t make the varsity team at his high school (Omaha Bryan) until his senior year, and even then he played sparingly.

But Parrott never let go of his hoop dreams. He grew five inches into his 6-3 frame between graduating from high school and his freshman year of college. But more importantly, his desire and passion for the game he loved grew even more.

Parrott’s perseverance paid dividends in college. After struggling to find his way early in his collegiate career, he eventually molded himself into one of the top NAIA players in the nation. In his junior season at Bellevue University, Parrott was named a second team NAIA All-American. He one-upped himself in his senior season at Midland, earning first team All-American honors as the Warriors advanced to the Elite Eight in the NAIA Division II National Tournament.

Parrott was back on the Midland campus recently, meeting with current members of the Midland University men’s basketball team and head coach Tyler Erwin. “I appreciate James bringing his family here and taking time to meet with our guys,” Erwin said. “I think it’s important for our current players to understand the history of this program. James has been in this locker room and he’s walked in the same shoes these guys have. He’s a great lesson in what hard work and perseverance can get you.”

There was no magic formula for his success, it all came down to believing in himself and continuing to work toward his dream. “In high school, I would practice for hours after school and spend four hours each day in the gym during the offseason,” he said. “I wasn’t as big, or tall, as the other guys, but I just kept putting the work in.”

He spent his freshman season as part of the junior varsity team at Dana College in Blair. He left after one year and returned to Omaha, spending a year at UNO, where he was not a part of the team. But true to form, Parrott kept working and playing. He finally got his opportunity that summer when he was spotted by Jason Isaacson, an assistant coach at Bellevue at the time.

“I was playing in a summer league when he saw me and gave me the opportunity to play at Bellevue,” Parrott said. “I didn’t get to play much that first year, but I kept working to develop my game.”

That hard work finally paid off in his second season with the Bruins as he averaged 19 points per game in earning all-conference and second team All-American honors. His collegiate career had one more part to its journey as he made the choice to spend his senior season playing for Midland and Coach Todd Eisner. He was rewarded for his decision by leading the Warriors in scoring (19 ppg) and finishing second in the nation with 77 blocked shots. Even more significant was that Midland advanced to the Elite Eight, the furthest advancement by a Midland team to that point. He was named to the All-Tournament team, scoring 58 points in three tournament games. Only a last-second, one-point loss to top-ranked William Penn prevented the Warriors from a potential national championship. 

“I still watch replays from that game,” Parrott said with a chuckle. “That season was the highlight of my career. The guys came together very quickly on that team and Coach Eisner knew how to bring out the best in us. Even though I was only here one year, I really enjoyed my time at Midland.”

Just because his collegiate career was over didn’t mean Parrott was ready to leave the court. He had a brief stint playing overseas and was a member of the Omaha Chargers team in the National Basketball League Association. He then spent time playing with one of the Harlem Globetrotters traveling squads, entertaining basketball fans across the country.

Last summer, Parrott was selected to compete for the USA Basketball 3x3 Men’s National Team that competed at the World Cup in Antwerp, Belgium, finishing seventh out of 20 teams. His calendar includes several more 3x3 tournaments where he will be competing with a team of players from Harlem in New York City.  He hopes to land on the 2023 World Cup squad, with an eye on competing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. “If I could compete in the Olympics, that would be a great way to culminate my career,” he said.

At 32, Parrott appreciates every moment he has left playing competitive hoops. “There’s just something about basketball,” he said. “I could be 50 or 60 and still trying to play with these young guys. I love it so much, and I’m blessed for all the opportunities I’ve had to keep playing. I’ve had the chance to see a lot of the world by playing basketball, and been paid to do it, so that’s been fun.”

As he spoke to current Midland players, Parrott preached the importance of doing all the little things, whether that means spending a little more time at practice, more time in the weight room, or listening to your coach to find any way you can improve your game. “If this is something you really want to do, you have to dedicate yourself,” he said. “I remember people telling me I wasn’t good enough to play, and that motivated me even more. You have to make sacrifices to get where you want to be and work hard every day.”