BROOKSVILLE — He isn't the tallest kid on the team. He can't jump the highest. He isn't loud or outspoken. Following in his brother's footsteps, however, Andrew Parker works hard every day to become a better basketball player.
Starting for both his Hernando Youth League and middle school teams, Parker strives to improve his game, from dribbling to defense, so that one day he will earn a college scholarship.
For O'Brien Insurance in HYL, he is the team's leading scorer as the shooting guard and has provided leadership in his first season on the roster. For Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, the seventh-grade point guard is expected to run the offense as the Gators aim for their third county title in four seasons.
In both situations, Parker follows the reputation of his older brother. Jonathan Parker, a swingman for Nature Coast Technical High School, honed his game in HYL and was among the best players to come through Challenger. Although Jonathan was much taller than Andrew at 6-foot-plus in middle school, there are similarities that coaches see in their games.
"Andrew is smart defensively, like Jonathan was when he was that age," HYL basketball commissioner Michael Bennett said. "Andrew is a little more aggressive, and he has a better skill set as a point guard than Jonathan did."
Andrew, 13, played HYL basketball in 2008 in the elementary division, but he took the year off last season. When Bennett came to him with the idea of playing again this season, he agreed for a number of reasons.
"I get more playing time to work on my game," he said. "I've really spent a lot of time in the past year working on my shooting and dribbling."
With both of his teams, Parker does a good job of providing chemistry. He and eighth-grade captain Cody Bergantino on the Challenger squad should make for a good combination during the coming season. The two work together a lot outside of practice.
Bergantino's older brother, Tyler, is the star center for Nature Coast, so he has a mentor too. Bergantino and Parker work under Gators coach Jeff Laing as they prepare for the opening of the middle school season Jan. 25.
"Cody and I are really good friends," Parker said. "He shoots around with my brother and me all the time."
Parker is building a similar relationship on the court with Conner Foradas for O'Brien Insurance. In HYL, Foradas is the stout force in the post, and at 6-foot-3 his game is blossoming as he plays with Parker.
The trust that the entire team has shown in Parker in only a short time is evidence of how far along his skills have come. Although the team has played only four games this season, coaches and teammates on O'Brien Insurance look to him for leadership in close games.
"Andrew is just a complete player that can play any position," coach Jeff O'Brien said. "This is only my first year coaching him, but I have confidence enough in him to have him run the team with the game on the line."
The motivation and desire Parker shows on the court makes a lot of sense when he talks about basketball and his future. He makes no secret of his dream.
"I've always wanted to play college basketball," he said, "and, eventually, that's what I want to do."