3x3 Newcomer James Parrott Hits World Stage with Athleticism and Determination at Age 31
The USA Basketball 3x3 Men’s National Team is full of unlikely stories, but perhaps none of the players on the squad was a bigger longshot than James Parrott.
At 31, Parrott is blossoming at an age when many basketball players are declining.
Parrott did not make the varsity basketball team at Omaha (Nebraska) Bryan High School until his senior year, and even then played sparingly. Then he bounced around difference colleges in his home state. He spent one season at Dana College in Blair, and two seasons at Bellevue University before concluding his college career in 2012-13 with an NAIA All-American season at Midland University in Fremont.
Parrott never thought he’d be where he is today. It’s unlikely that anyone did.
“A lot of people passed on me,” Parrott said in a candid conversation last week in advance of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup taking place this week in Antwerp, Belgium. “I didn’t get opportunities like other people got. I didn’t play that much in high school. I was on the end of the bench and only played when we were up 20 points. I never played AAU. I just kept grinding and then I got this opportunity.”
Parrott laughs at the reactions of his high school teammates, some of whom he is still in contact with.
“They’re pushing for me,” he said. “They want me to do well.”
So what exactly kept Parrott reaching for great heights on the basketball court despite his modest accomplishments in high school and his late arrival as a college star?
“Just the love of playing,” he said. “I just can’t stop playing. I play pretty much every day. I figured there’s an opportunity out there that’s just for me. So I just kept at it.”
Parrott also has grown as a player, in part due to his exposure to the 3x3 brand of basketball that highlights his athleticism, toughness and versatility.
“I’ve just learned the game a lot more,” Parrott said. “Five or six years ago, I was just fast paced and forcing stuff and out of control. Now I just let the game come to me.”
Parrott’s basketball journey has included a stint playing in Saudi Arabia and a brief run with the Harlem Globetrotters. He is joined on the four-man U.S. team by veteran 3x3 standouts Kidani Brutus and Dominique Jones, and fellow 3x3 newcomer Khalil Iverson.
“We have a pretty athletic squad, a lot of energy and our chemistry is pretty good,” Parrott said. “We came together in a short amount of time. I think we can make a run at the gold medal.”
As the second-tallest player on the team at 6 feet 3 inches, Parrott realizes that he — and all of his teammates — must be able to play multiple roles. Whether it’s handling the ball, shooting from long range, driving to the rim or finding open teammates for passes, Parrott has to be a do-it-all force.
“Everybody has to do everything,” Parrott said. “We’ve got guards guarding bigs. Everyone can shoot. You’ve got to be really well-rounded.”
Parrott’s first exposure to 3x3 basketball came in 2020 when he was invited to a 3x3 practice in Nebraska. He was there to compete against a local 3x3 team, but he quickly caught the eye of coaches.
“They really liked the way I played,” Parrott said. “So they made a second team in Nebraska and put three other guys with me and now we’ve got two teams in Nebraska.”
Parrott has now risen well beyond the competition of the Cornhusker State.
“I did not ever see this coming,” said Parrott, whose 3x3 team will face Austria, Slovenia, Belgium and Egypt in World Cup group play from Tuesday to Thursday. “I had a couple of good tournaments last year and I did pretty well at nationals a couple of weeks ago, and they gave me this great opportunity. I’m excited about it. I could not pass on this opportunity — being able to compete for a gold medal. It’s a great honor.”
The Olympic Games Paris 2024 is a distant possibility.
“If that opportunity comes, I would definitely love to do it,” Parrott said. “That’s the biggest stage for 3x3. I would love to do that and represent the USA.”
While that would be the biggest and brightest moment in Parrott’s blossoming basketball career, a trip to Belgium with the 3x3 squad and a chance to bring a gold medal back to his homeland is certainly no slouch.
“I’m definitely proud of myself,” Parrott said. “I haven’t stopped smiling since I got this opportunity. It’s a great honor. My family is excited. My friends are excited. Hopefully we can represent the United States of America in the right way.”
Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.