RICHMOND — Jermaine Parker graduated from George Washington in 1998, when the Eagles captured a state title in the sport.
Parker didn’t play basketball when he was in school, but his name will now be immortalized in the GW record books.
On Thursday night, Parker led his alma mater to the Class 4 state title. His Eagles defeated Louisa County 55-44 at the Siegel Center in Richmond, claiming their first boys basketball championship in 21 years.
The group that celebrated Thursday night came up together through the system. Two years ago, they showed promise at the JV level under Parker, going 22-0.
A season ago, Parker and the group moved up to the varsity level and went 22-5, but came up short of a state tournament appearance.
So this year’s state championship was the culmination of years of dedication, work and chemistry.
“It’s a life moment for all of the guys. We bonded together,” Parker said. “We’re here now, 2019, and all of them have grown up and matured as young men.”
Among players who’ve improved most in the past few seasons, Parker explained, is Shunta Wilson.
Wilson, a senior who’s been named the Piedmont District player of the year each of the past two seasons, led all scorers in Thursday’s state title game. He poured on 29 of the Eagles’ 55 points.
The Wilson who stepped up to lead GW to the championship Thursday, the player who became the go-to scorer the entire 2018-19 season, didn’t look anything like the Wilson of two years ago, though.
Back then, when he played under Parker at the JV level, Wilson lacked the all-around abilities of a high-quality basketball player.
He was shy, didn’t want to play defense and mainly scored via catch-and-shoot situations, Parker explained.
Eventually, Wilson bought in to Parker’s defensive mentality, and began expanding his game on the offensive end, too. He learned to create a variety of shots on his own and learned he could dunk.
The complete package Wilson’s developed over the past few seasons was on display Thursday, when the senior was nearly perfect on the offensive end, posting yet another 20-plus-point performance — this time on 9-of-11 shooting — to wrap up his high school career.
“[My teammates] call me the human torch because when I’m on fire, I’m on fire,” Wilson said. “As seniors, we take this as a very good moment.”
Fellow senior Ny’rek Wheeler, who joined the GW basketball program a couple years ago after his family moved to Danville from New York, also had a big game, scoring 14 points and ripping down 16 rebounds.
“To move here and be part of the program with talented guys like this, it’s just been a lot,” Wheeler said. “And then to get a ring in my senior year, that’s more than I expected.”
Wheeler and Wilson are two of nine seniors that will leave GW with a state championship ring.
There were times, the Eagles explained, when outsiders raised doubts about their ability to end the GW boys basketball championship drought.
But in the locker room, Parker helped his team block out the outside noise.
“As long as we’re a team, as long as we’re a family, as long as they listen to what the coaches say, we can get the thing done. And that’s what they did,” Parker said.
Their confidence paid off. In 29 games, the Eagles recorded 27 wins, including the most important one at the end of the season.
“It’s going to be lit,” Parker said of the celebration that would ensue in Danville upon his team’s return, sharing a laugh with his players following their win Thursday. “I’m going to use their terminology. It’s going to be lit.”