Back To Basics For Parker

By Marco Santana
Updated: December 23, 2009

Candace Parker, right, works with Kaylah Rainey, 8, of Naperville during a basketball clinic at The Chicago Bulls/Chicago White Sox Training Academy in Lisle.

Candace Parker, right, works with Kaylah Rainey, 8, of Naperville during a basketball clinic at The Chicago Bulls/Chicago White Sox Training Academy in Lisle.

ILLINOIS — When Larry Stewart began helping then-Naperville Central High School senior Candace Parker train, he already saw the talent that has led to her become one of the most successful basketball players in the game.

But because of Parker’s strong basketball upbringing, Stewart said training had less to do with instruction than it did with support.

“I didn’t teach her anything,” Stewart said. “I tried to reinforce what she already knew.”

For two years, Stewart helped Parker develop her game and recently she returned to Lisle’s Chicago Bulls/Chicago White Sox Training Academy to run a clinic for area girls.

“It tells me we have done the right thing by her and we have done the right things as an organization,” Stewart said of Parker’s return.

About 52 girls between the ages of 8 and 18 participated in the drills, which were followed by a 30-minute workout demonstration by Parker and an autograph session.

And Parker emphasized the importance of the drills. She kept the girls in line and on task, telling them that the “boring” drills were part of becoming a winner.

“Do it right because this is what we do,” she told the players.

Parker has the background that makes her someone to listen to.

She won two state championships in Naperville in 2003 and 2004 and was Illinois Player of the Year three times. At the University of Tennessee, she continued her success with two national championships.

She was a member of the 2008 U.S. women’s Olympic team and that summer, she became the first WNBA player to be named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season.

She nearly averaged a double-double, scoring 18.5 points and grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game for the Los Angeles Sparks.

Thaddeus Newby of Markham made the 45-minute trip with his friend’s 8-year-old daughter, Jana Turner. Parker is Jana’s favorite player and Newby said her father said it was an early Christmas present.

“It’s awesome,” Newby said of Parker’s appearance.

“You can’t beat a professional athlete coming back and giving to the kids.”

Matteson High School sophomore forward Nia Green attended the event and was able to work under a player she has watched for years.

“I have always loved Candace Parker,” Nia said. “I have been watching her since high school. She has a kid now so for her to be taking away from her family, it’s really appreciated.”

Parker set up the event when she knew she would be in town with her NBA player-husband Sheldon Williams of the Boston Celtics. She contacted Stewart and said she wanted to conduct a clinic for area girls.

He said the gesture was gratifying.

“When I’m working with my players, I want to see them go as far as they can go and still be the same person; still be humble,” he said.

As Parker led a squad through drills, Stewart said her work ethic paired with her talent make her the “heir-apparent to Michael Jordan in the woman’s game.”

“She practices what she preaches,” he said. “She’s a phenomenal athlete and basketball player. She has the fundamentals. She can pass. She can shoot. It’s a scary combination.”