Arizona Wildcats forward Kevin Parrom estimates he’s at “97, 98 percent” physically. Close enough. No matter what number you put on it, his performance last weekend is reason for optimism.
Parrom put together his best back-to-back games of the season, leading a second-half surge at Utah after Solomon Hill was ejected. Parrom finished with 12 points, nine in the second half. He then had six points, five rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes at Colorado — more of the jack-of-all-trades stuff that makes him such a valuable player.
“If he can contribute at the level he contributed on this last trip, we’re going to be a much better team because we haven’t had him in that role at all,” coach Sean Miller said.
“Starting with the Washington homestand, we’re going to give him a bigger role and a bigger opportunity.”
You know Parrom’s story. His grandmother died this summer. His lower right leg was injured in a Sept. 24 shooting while home in The Bronx. His mother died of cancer.
He had a triumphant return to the court in the third game of the season against Ball State — culminating in The Hug — but it was also a bit of fools’ gold, as Parrom still had a long way to travel on his road to recovery.
He has mostly been a non-factor. Before last week’s road trip, he had scored five points in four games.
Just a week ago, Miller talked about how it might have been better to redshirt Parrom.
“When you have a player like Kevin, who has gone through so much, it’s difficult to prompt him to get him to do more because he’s gone through a lot of things physically and mentally,” Miller said.
“We’ve always hoped that maybe the light would turn on and he would really settle in and find himself. I can only hope that this weekend is the starting point for him.”
Miller might have found a way to prompt Parrom just by talking about how redshirting might have been a good idea, given his low level of production. Parrom said he saw those comments, turning them into motivation.
Not that he would have listened to any preseason talk of redshirting.
“I didn’t want to sit out the whole year and think about what happened,” Parrom said.
“In order to recover, I also had to recover mentally. People don’t understand that. In order to recover mentally, I wanted to play basketball I needed to play this year, whether it was good or bad.
“Mentally, it’s much better than it was a couple of months ago,” Parrom added. “I’m starting to accept the fact that everything has happened to me for a reason and just moving on from it.”
Miller said he isn’t planning any changes in the starting lineup in advance of Thursday night’s game at Washington State, but added that Parrom will play the power forward spot for about 10 minutes per game when Hill is taking a breather, and then will fill in at small forward during the rest of his playing time.
Having a 6-6 small forward gives Miller more of the size he likes, rather than having to use three-guard lineups.
“He’s more physical,” Miller said of Parrom. “He gives us that third guy on the glass.”
Parrom is averaging 4.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 15.4 minutes per game. He averaged 7.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 20.1 minutes last season, when he also shot 41.8 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (38 of 91).
Parrom hit a couple of deep 3-pointers at Utah, but also missed a couple long shots, and Miller said Parrom’s decision-making has been lacking at times. Parrom has made 12 of 37 3-pointers this season (32.4 percent).
He says the power in his legs has mostly come back, that he’s also faster than he was a couple of months ago. Last week, he was back to effortlessly gliding down the court after grabbing a defensive rebound.
“The next phase is the jump shot coming back, and that’s starting to work a little bit, too,” Parrom said.
It’s all starting to work a little bit. If Parrom can be like he was last week — or better — then there is more hope that the Wildcats (13-7 overall, 4-3 Pac-12) can surge in the Pac-12 standings.
“Hopefully,” Miller said, “he can build on what did on his latest trip.”