Parrom Grows From Tough Year
By Nicole Dimtsios
The 2011-12 season will always be a question of "What if?" for Arizona forward Kevin Parrom.
The junior was on schedule to make big strides after a promising sophomore season where he was instrumental in helping Arizona reach the Elite Eight round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. He was averaging 7.6 points per game and 3.4 rebounds last season as a bench player for head coach Sean Miller. But when Parrom and the Wildcats look back at the 2011-12 season, they will see a gaping hole.
Parrom's struggle just to see playing time has been a back-and-forth affair, characterized by a mix of personal hardships and unfortunate circumstances that started before the season even tipped off.
The Bronx, N.Y., native was visiting his hospitalized mother, Lisa Williams, in September 2011, when he was shot twice — once in the hand and once in the leg — with a .22 caliber handgun. The injury left him mentally and physically scarred, as some of the bullet from the shot still remains in Parrom's knee. His season was already in serious question when his health became the main focus for Miller and the Wildcats.
Three weeks later, Parrom was back in Arizona, attending classes and doing physical therapy. Then, his mother lost her battle with cancer. Earlier that summer, Parrom's maternal grandmother also passed away.
"I don't know if anyone can really walk in his shoes," Miller said. "It's tough enough to deal with one of those three things, let alone all three of them."
With physical therapy, the forward worked for months to walk without crutches and get back to playing form. Parrom returned to the court on Nov. 13, 2011 — an accomplishment Miller called "fortunate." A month later, the coach said he was less sure about Parrom's ability to make an impact.
"Kevin hasn't contributed very much to this year's team," Miller said. "We're just trying to get the most out of him that we can, which isn't much to this point.
"In hindsight, none of us had a crystal ball and we don't know what the future holds, but a redshirt, you could make the argument, may have served him well."
But in the two weeks following Miller's remarks, Parrom began to show promise. Against Utah and Colorado, Miller said Parrom's impact on the game was "almost like a starter." Parrom played 19 minutes against Utah on Jan. 19 and finished with 12 points and four rebounds. He had six points and five rebounds in 22 minutes against the Colorado Buffaloes on Jan. 21. It was the most Parrom had contributed all season for Arizona and part of what he called his recovery process.
"I didn't want to sit the whole year thinking about what happened," Parrom said in January after he was able to play more minutes and increase his production. "In order to recover, I had to recover mentally. In order to recover mentally, I had to play basketball. I had to play in order to become what I am now."
It was a glimpse of what Miller had hoped to see from Parrom all season, and it looked as though the forward would finally turn the corner and salvage his junior season with more than half of Pac-12 Conference play still remaining. Miller said he and the coaching staff were looking to give Parrom more minutes on the court and make him a bigger part of Arizona's bench.
Parrom reported his legs were at 98 percent in January, and Miller said he "always hoped that maybe that light will turn on," adding that he saw the junior start to settle into his role.
"Mentally, it's much better than it was a couple months ago," Parrom said. "I'm starting to accept the fact that everything's happening for a reason and just moving on from that."
He also said basketball was an essential part of his recovery.
"I think I needed to play this year," Parrom said. "Whether good or bad, I needed to, mentally."
But during Arizona's Jan. 28 game against the Washington Huskies, the forward took another blow. Parrom broke his foot and had to have season-ending surgery.
"He had a lot of nerve pain," Miller said. "He got hit in either the leg or the foot and the fact that he's confused on whether it's his leg or foot kind of showed you that it triggered off a lot of the symptoms that he's had since he was shot this fall."
After Parrom was taken off the court for his injury, Arizona lost 69-67 to Washington. The atmosphere in McKale Center was electric before the game as Arizona hosted College Game Day earlier that morning, but after Parrom's injury and the loss fans left the center somber.
With Parrom off the court for the rest of the season, there are no more questions of what Parrom could contribute when he returns or how his play will be reflected in the Wildcats' record. Arizona will have to finish the season without the forward that was expected to be a key reserve player.
Arizona has said they will apply for a redshirt for Parrom, who hopes to get a fifth year of eligibility as an exception to the medical hardship waiver. But that process won't start until the season is over.
"I think just to represent Kevin and his family in the right proper terms, that's something that we'll try to help him get," Miller said.
The Wildcats still have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, and the "What if?" questions about Parrom have only increased. Three Arizona starters are averaging more than 30 minutes per game and as March approaches, the team's success depends on a seven-man rotation that Miller has put his faith in.
But for Parrom, the 2011-12 season will be about recovering and trying to start over when basketball starts again in 2012-13.
"He's had immense struggles, like any young person who would deal with just a single episode of their life," Miller said. "When you have the complete circumstances that have affected Kevin, it's hard to believe. A family generally doesn't go through that, let alone one person at the age of 22 years old."