Ohio junior center Austin Parks enjoys Ohio State visit as recruitment intensifies

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Inside Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University.

It was during Austin Parks’ sophomore year that word about the big guy was officially out.

A self-described raw center who was still working on a basic drop step as a freshman, Parks opened his second season at St. Mary’s (Ohio) Memorial as a primary name on the scouting report of every team in the Western Buckeye League. That much would be a given with his frame, but his growing skill also demanded as such.

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Now as he enters his junior season, the 6-10, 240-pound Parks has earned the attention of college programs including Ohio State, which offered the 2023 prospect a scholarship while on an unofficial visit during a June he described as a crazy month.

“Coming from where I’m from, it’s a pretty small town and I’m thinking how I’m actually able and blessed to go out and do all these things,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It was really neat getting to see all these different campuses and actually being face to face with all these big-name colleges and coaches and all that.”

The college interest first started during his sophomore season, one that saw him earn second-team All-WBL honors as the Roughriders went 16-7 overall. That season, Ohio and Toledo offered him scholarships, and from there things got a little quiet until June.

Cincinnati offered. Two days into July, Indiana, West Virginia and Dayton followed suit. More recently, Michigan State and Illinois have offered, too. And since coaches were first allowed to visit juniors earlier this month, a parade of coaches has made its way to St. Mary’s to visit. During one four-day stretch, the Buckeyes, Spartans, Mountaineers, Bearcats and University of Virginia all stopped by the school

“It feels great, because it makes me feel like I know I’m a priority and all these guys want to come out and watch me practice for an hour,” Parks said.

ESPN.com ranks Parks as a four-star prospect the No. 2 player from Ohio in his class, behind Cincinnati Taft’s Rayvon Griffith. PrepHoops.com also has the duo 1-2 in Ohio ahead of, in order, Centerville’s Gabe Cupps and Africentric’s Dailyn Swain. All four hold offers from the Buckeyes.

Longtime Ohio prep coach Daniel Hegemier said Parks has been working to expand his game to counter teams simply throwing multiple bodies at him every time he catches the ball.

“He's a young man that always wants more, if you can understand what that means,” he said. “He wants his game to get better. He understands his shooting from the outside has to improve from last year, and it has. He works on it very, very hard. He’s usually the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.”

“As of right now I’m trying to get a good jump shot down and have a consistent three-ball, because if they’re going to give me the room I’ve got to do something with it,” Parks said. “You can’t just leave me open. I’ve got to be able to make opportunity out of that.”

Last weekend, Parks was one of a half-dozen recruits Ohio State hosted on unofficial visits. They took in the football game against Tulsa, but more to Park’s liking, they also got to watch the men’s basketball team practice.

“That’s one of my favorite parts, being able to watch how they do things up at their practices and open gyms and be able to take that back to my town and contribute that to some of my teammates to make us better,” he said. “They go full speed. They’re not going to look around. They want to talk, move fast and get everything done. The way they move is at a different level and different speed.”

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The visit also allowed him to spend more time with assistant coach Jake Diebler, his primary recruiter at Ohio State.

“I know he’s a coach and all, but he treats me like a friend,” Parks said. “He’s there helping me through my recruiting process and giving me tips on what I need to keep working on and keep doing. He’s one of those guys who will be there for you.”

Parks said he’s spoken with other coaches about more visits but is not sure if he will get out to see more schools this fall. As for his Ohio State experience, Parks said, “It was my first football game, so I thought it was pretty cool. Just the energy and the fans and all the people at that campus, I loved that. Before the game we went to the pep rally and watched their practice and I just thought it was really cool getting to see all the different environments that people go through there.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy