The University of Pikeville was one of the first schools to court Julia Parker. The Bears' court will be her home as a result.
Ashland's senior sharpshooter recently signed with UPike to continue her basketball career at the college level.
"They were one of the first teams that really started recruiting me, and it's close to home," Parker said. "It's like two hours (away), so my family can come watch and my friends can come watch. I like that a lot about it."
Parker totes 1,615 career points into her senior season. She boasts sparkling shooting percentages from beyond the 3-point line (38.5%) and at the charity stripe (79.2).
She particularly feasted as a sophomore, starring opposite Mykasa Robinson. Parker scored 500 points, hit 99 of 214 treys and drained 44 of 55 free throws in 2017-18.
She found the going a little more difficult last season with Robinson gone to Louisville, converting 77 of 224 3s, but emphasized another part of her game. She got to the foul line 98 times and connected on 80 of them.
Parker has even further focused on building her mid-range and driving tools to add dimensions to her game.
"My role's always been to shoot it, that's always how it's been," Parker said, "so I've just had to build off of that and try to not be such a spot shooter and try to be able to dribble and pull up and get to the basket a little bit."
Parker has expanded her role with extra effort. Nineteenth-season Kittens coach Bill Bradley called Parker his best 3-point shooter to date and the player who's put in the most time in the gym, with the exception of Robinson and her older sister, Alexis.
"She never hardly has a bad streak," Bradley said of Parker, "and if she has a good game, she still comes in the next day and puts in an extra hour in the gym. Never satisfied."
That also describes Ashland's team aspirations. Parker dressed as a seventh-grader for the Kittens' 2014-15 16th Region Tournament champions. That was Ashland's fourth straight region title, but the latest to date.
"They know tradition here. They see those numbers on the wall," Bradley said, referencing the years of region titles remembered in Anderson Gym, "and they remember seeing them play when they were sixth-, seventh-, eighth-graders and the big crowds we had here. She really wants this really bad this year, to go to the state tournament. ... As wide open as it is this year, they know they got a shot."
One of Ashland's five seniors, Parker is a team captain.
"She knows she has to speak up a little bit more," Bradley said. "She's been doing a lot better at that, being more vocal with the girls. She knows she has to. She'd rather just go show them how to play hard and be a teammate that way."
Parker remains in contact with a handful of Ashland alumni, such as former softball Kitten Zoë Ingram, who have gone to Pikeville.
"I talk to them and they say they love it," Parker said. "The coaches have been really helpful and really nice to me."
Parker is undecided on a course of study.
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