The Ohio State basketball program got a large gift when current Buckeye big man Jared Sullinger committed to return for his sophomore season, spurning what likely would have been a top selection in this summer's NBA Draft.
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A program that has been blessed with big men during the course of current head coach Thad Matta's tenure, Ohio State's coaching staff hopes having a dominant big man in its front court will continue long after Sullinger's college days are over.
That's probably the reason the Buckeyes have pursued one of the most coveted players in the 2012 recruiting class in Lithonia (Ga.) Miller Grover's Tony Parker, a dominant 6-foot-9, 250-pound center.
Parker - currently rated as a 4-star recruit by Rivals.com - has nearly 20 offers, most notably from Ohio State, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Florida, and countless others.
"I would say them and Duke (have been recruiting him the hardest). Ohio State has been coming pretty steady the last year," said Virgil Parker, Tony's father. "They have been coming pretty hard."
Virgil indicated that his son would like to reduce the schools on his list to roughly six by the time July rolls around, not only to take the next step in the process but to also line it up with how many official visits Tony is permitted to taking.
Of that list of six, Tony said Ohio State, North Carolina, and Duke are likely to make the cut. However, both Virgil and Tony said he doesn't have a current top-five list.
"They are the best basketball programs that have good basketball history," Tony said of Ohio State, Duke, and North Carolina. "Those are the schools that are great and the campus and the atmosphere at those schools really speaks for itself."
The Buckeyes have had a lot of success putting big men into the NBA with former players Greg Oden and B.J. Mullens leaving Ohio State after their freshmen seasons to pursue careers in professional basketball.
Sullinger was considered a top lottery pick after his freshman season, but he decided to return to Ohio State for one more season after the Buckeyes' year prematurely ended in a loss to Kentucky in this year's Sweet 16.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta has had a solid track record when it comes to putting players in the NBA, and while that means something to both Virgil and Tony, it was Matta's work ethic that seemed to be the most attractive.
"I hear so much about how hard Coach Matta works when I hear people talk about Ohio State," Virgil said. "That's huge because Tony is a hard worker. He gets up at 6 a.m. every morning and goes to workouts.
"Tony has been committed to getting in the weight room and working out and getting up shots, and that's what's impressive about Ohio State. You can see how hard the kids work at Ohio State."
Parker has made a visit to Ohio State and has met current members of the Buckeye basketball team multiple times, including Sullinger and Shannon Scott, a current Ohio State point guard commit out of Georgia. Both Parker and Scott have a history playing together on the same AAU team.
In the time spent on Ohio State's campus, Tony has come away impressed, saying "The facilities were really nice and cool and the players there are really cool.
"Ohio State is a great school, it has a great atmosphere," continued Tony, who comminicates with Buckeyes assistant Jeff Boals about five times per month. "They have a really have a great basketball program. It is really a win-win situation."
Virgil and Tony share a close bond that centers around basketball and Parker's father has tried to teach him as much as he can about the game. In doing so, Virgil - a former point guard - has mentioned the importance of finding a dominant presence in the post without being predictable.
Without predictability, Virgil said Tony doesn't have one big man he's trying to emulate. Instead, Tony has worked diligently to build an array of different moves and styles that best suit versatility on the floor.
"We saw Jared Sullinger in high school and Ohio State took a lot of what he can do and they added to it with his ability to get up and down the court and positioning," Virgil said. "It all plays an important part in developing a big man, the angles and it is makes it easier for a kid to be successful.
"Tony and I walk a lot of basketball on TV and he has a really high basketball IQ and he dissects a lot of what big men do," Virgil continued. "A lot of time you hear the phrase 'go-to move' and that's something I have tried to keep him away from. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the sky hook, but other than that I think it is important to have a presence from the right and left side, a hook shot, and I think he has taken a lot from a lot of players."
Virgil said that Ohio State is a school Tony has "high on his list," but right now the big man is hoping to enjoy the recruiting process and take it slow. With a checklist that keeps him up-to-date on the process, Tony is making a calm, well-evaluated decision.
For now, he's just enjoying the process.
"It is going really well," Tony said of the recruiting process. "It has been really fun, you only go through it once."
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.