Almost a year has passed since Juwan Parker last suited up for a game at Stegeman Coliseum.
It was an exhibition against Armstrong State, with Parker playing quite a bit. But he came out of it with a sore Achilles, which was previously partially torn. The pain was too much and ultimately cost Parker the 2015-16 season as his rehab took longer than anticipated.
With Georgia set to play an exhibition against Fort Valley State on Thursday, Parker is finally back and available to play. This time, he’s healthy and good to go after what’s been such a long layoff.
“I missed it,” Parker said. “Just to have fun again and do what my team needs me to do so we can be successful this year.”
Parker was penciled in as a starter with Georgia going toward a smaller lineup that wanted to run and push the tempo just before the 2015-16 season started. Without Parker, and with an early shoulder injury to center Derek Ogbeide, the Bulldogs had to adjust their lineup on the fly. The result was a team that started slow out with a season-opening loss to Chattanooga.
Parker has consistently been one of Georgia’s top three scorers in practice during the preseason and figures to play a sizable role, much like he was expected to a year ago. Where Parker could really help this Georgia team is on the defensive end, considering head coach Mark Fox has stated his concern early on about that side of the court.
Fox is thrilled Parker, who earned a medical redshirt last season and is still considered a junior, is back and able to play again.
“I’m happy for him,” Fox said. “The kid’s been through so much. He’s actually practiced really well. I think for a long time he was the second leading scorer in practice. I’m not sure if he still is but he’s either two or three. He’s really played well. I’m happy he’s healthy, and hopefully he can stay that way because it’s been a long road for him.”
Thursday’s exhibition game will be an opportunity for Georgia to work on deciding a starting lineup, which Fox said hasn’t been decided on yet. Parker figures to be someone in the starting conversation, even with the year he missed due to the injury.
Parker, in high spirits with the basketball season approaching soon, said he’s taken on an on-court coaching role with freshman guards Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris as they adjust to the college game.
“As a freshman, you’re running schemes, playing defense and playing offense harder than you ever have,” Parker said. “It’s definitely a learning curve and a transition period. That’s what every freshman goes through. It’s rare a freshman doesn’t have to deal with those issues.”