Gig Harbor High School freshman center Drew Parrish is used to being “the guy.”
But with some rare exceptions, if freshmen are good enough to make the varsity team, they’ll need to get used to not being the team’s focal point.
Such is the case for Parrish, who for the first time that he can remember in his basketball life, is coming off the bench as a role player.
“It’s definitely helping me grow a lot,” Parrish said. “I’ve never really been a role player. It’s kind of nice just being able to fill in like that, just seeing how different roles can be played and do my part. Finally, I’m starting to play better. In the beginning, it was tough coming off the bench, trying to get into a flow. It’s getting easier.”
With the starters struggling, Parrish was the leading scorer last week in Gig Harbor’s game against Timberline, scoring 12 points off the bench. For a freshman, he’s beyond his years in his footwork in the post and sports a lefty hook that is almost deceptively quick in its release.
“(The hook) has been in the works probably since the fourth or fifth grade,” Parrish said with a laugh.
At 6-foot-3, Parrish has to battle in practice against taller, more experienced and more physically mature basketball players like senior Patrick Fredrickson, who hovers over Parrish at 6-foot-7. Still, according to Gig Harbor coach Billy Landram, Parrish has more than held his own in practice.
“He hasn’t had a chance (to get a lot of playing time) with (Fredrickson) doing a lot of the damage,” Landram said. “But we definitely see it a lot in practice. He has a lot of confidence in his moves. He’s been doing it for a while now.”
Parrish played summer league with the Tides, so Landram knew he had a good player on his hands coming into the season. But Parrish admitted he was a bit surprised to find himself on the varsity roster in the winter.
“Our team is pretty even with talent but I wasn’t sure where I’d end up,” he said. “I thought I’d be playing with all my friends, who are freshmen. It’s weird not playing with them. I’ve been playing with them since third or fourth grade.”
He’s making the most of the pleasant surprise, finding ways to contribute off the bench and working to get better in practice.
“I just try to know my role, be able to fill in and give minutes when they’re needed,” Parrish said. “Obviously with Fred and Jake (Hanson), it really helps me in practice. They’re making me a lot better. They’re tough competition.”
Against Timberline, Parrish led Gig Harbor’s charge back into the game in the second half, bringing a drowsy crowd back to life and giving the Tides a chance to win the game, before ultimately falling short.
“It was fun,” Parrish said. “But I wish we would’ve been able to pull out the win.”
Chances are, Parrish will have plenty more chances to help his team get wins over the next three-and-a-half years.