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Parris Soaks Up Leadership Opportunities

Apr 24, 2023

In his two years at Oregon, Brady Parris has made a habit of parlaying a positive attitude and determined work ethic into big-time opportunities.

Parris did so in two seasons as a UO men's basketball player, contributing primarily as a practice player but earning himself 15 appearances in games the past two years. And he's done so off the court as well, standing out as a participant in development opportunities around campus to the extent that he was encouraged to apply for the NCAA's annual Student-Athlete Leadership Forum.

Just like Parris grinded it out in basketball practices never really expecting to be a contributor in games, he didn't think he'd have much of a chance of representing the Pac-12 Conference at this year's leadership forum in Maryland.

"It just seemed like a really prestigious event," Parris recalls thinking. "Every conference only sends two people. So it's the best of the best out there."

Sure enough, though, Parris was indeed selected as the conference's male representative for the Student-Athlete Leadership Forum, April 13-16 in Baltimore. Parris spent the weekend shoulder to shoulder with other student-athletes from around the country, learning leadership strategies from NCAA coaches and administrators, and even NFL personnel.

"It was really the collaboration with other conferences and other student-athletes that was attractive to me," Parris said. "I've always been in certain leadership positions, whether it was student council or SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), or not even in official capacities – just being a leader on a team. Part of (the interest) was adding to leadership skills and growing in that way, but it was really a collaboration and being around other athletes. Now that I've gone through it, that was definitely the most rewarding part."

Since arriving at Oregon two years ago as a transfer from Regis University in his home state of Colorado, Parris has been a fixture at SAAC events, catching the eye of student-athlete development staff Katie Harbert and Jaleel Kindell. Last year, Parris opted into the UO athletic department's mentorship program as well, and was paired with long-time Nike executive Kelly Hibler.

"Kelly was extremely impressed by Brady's thirst for knowledge and ability to communicate and follow through on his goals," said Kindell, who encouraged Parris to apply for the NCAA's leadership forum. "After speaking with (assistant coach Mike) Mennenga of men's basketball, he also agreed that Brady would be a great candidate for this hyper-competitive opportunity."

Parris played in four games for the UO men's team in 2021-22. He became much more than just a practice player this past season, when Oregon's backcourt was racked by injuries. Parris played 30 minutes across 11 games, and scored eight points – including two three-pointers, one of them in a conference game at California.

When he first arrived at Oregon, Parris said, his goal was to work hard and not "step on anyone's toes." Year two was different – he embraced pushing the regulars in the rotation during practices. Often over the course of the season, UO head coach Dana Altman would laud Parris as well as fellow walk-ons James Cooper and Gabe Reichle for the time they put in, and the effort they put forth.

"Maybe I wasn't the team captain, getting a bunch of articles written about me," Parris said. "But I know I benefitted the team."

And with the basketball program, Parris said, he had a great mentor to learn from every day.

"Coach Altman really has been the best leader I've ever been around," Parris said.

A business major, Parris will bring those same traits to a company or sports organization once he graduates.

"Especially for someone like me who wasn't the leading scorer, didn't play in the majority of games but still found a way to impact the team on a positive level, that's a skill that, as I move now into a job, is really valuable," Parris said. "Not necessarily needing to get all the credit, but finding a way to make an impact."

The theme of the NCAA leadership conference Parris attended was "Beyond the Box." The attendees were split into small groups to attend forums and workshops, and encouraged to consider new and various ways to have impact as leaders.

"I think that's a great message to relate to anyone, and especially people in leadership roles – putting yourself out there," Parris said. "In a world of social media and quick reactions, it can get a little scary to put yourself out there. But I think I would urge anyone to just get out of your comfort zone, not limit yourself, view yourself as leaders."

Among the new mentors Parris gained in Baltimore was former UO football player Juwaan Williams, who went on to work for the Pac-12 Conference.

Upon returning from the forum, Parris planned to connect with Harbert and Kindell about passing along the techniques he learned to future leaders among the UO student-athlete community. It's a community that's viewed with respect nationally, Parris found upon arriving in Maryland for the leadership forum.

"It was an honor to represent Oregon and the Pac-12," Parris said. "The first day I got there, I had one of my Oregon shirts on and saw people giving a certain look. Being an Oregon athlete obviously holds a lot of weight. It's a well-respected school and athletic program. So that was a really cool thing, and being around all those other athletes was really special."