Bubba Parham has a history of being overlooked, but his time to be noticed has finally arrived. After leading the Southern Conference in scoring as a sophomore guard at VMI this past season, the Brookwood High grad decided to transfer closer to home.
And so it was Parham, who wasn’t even the star on his eighth-grade team (with reason, it should be pointed out), found himself at Georgia Tech this past Saturday talking with Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner about the possibility of making a significant jump in levels, from the SoCon to the ACC.
“Coach Pastner, he challenged him a little bit, saying, ‘Hey, this is your chance,’” Brookwood coach Daniel Bowles said. “’You’ve always been kind of overlooked. If you want to prove yourself, where else but the ACC?’”
Bowles suspects that Parham made up his mind while on the unofficial visit that he would transfer to Tech, but it became public knowledge Tuesday evening when Parham posted a tweet announcing his intentions. Pastner will take receipt of a 3-point shooter who has put up numbers that few in college basketball can match, providing the Jackets with a boost exactly where they need one.
Parham ranked 54th in Division I this past season in 3-point accuracy (39.7% on 116-for-292 shooting). Of players who attempted 250 or more 3-point shots, his percentage was 16th. Meanwhile, Tech was 331st of 351 Division I teams in 3-point shooting at 30.7%, last among all power-conference teams.
Tech missed Parham the first time, when he was a senior at Brookwood and was named Gwinnett Daily Post player of the year over Rayshaun Hammonds, a Norcross High forward now at Georgia, and Aljami Durham, a Berkmar High grad now at Indiana, among others. (Durham was one of Parham’s eighth-grade teammates.)
Parham didn’t play AAU basketball the summer before his senior year because of an ankle injury, costing him a chance to get noticed. His height and frame – he is now listed at 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds – didn’t help, either. He ended up at VMI, which was coming off a 6-24 season, almost as an afterthought.
But he became the Southern Conference freshman of the year in 2017-18 – he scored 22 points in his career opener against N.C. State – and then averaged 21.4 points as a sophomore, an average boosted by a 35-point night against Kentucky in Rupp Arena. He shot 10-for-16 from 3-point range, including one from the edge of the midcourt logo.
But when Parham decided that he wanted to transfer to be closer to home because of family medical issues, Bowles said, Pastner wasn’t going to miss twice. Bowles said that Pastner reached out to Parham the same day that Parham entered the transfer portal and called Bowles himself (who handled the recruiting interest for Parham, in part because of VMI’s limitations on cell-phone use) the next day.
When they met Saturday, Bowles said it was obvious Pastner had done his homework, which he said impressed Parham and his family. (Bowles said he thinks that former Tech star Josh Okogie, a close friend of Parham’s from Gwinnett County, put in a call to Pastner to encourage him to recruit him.)
“He had watched the good games, the bad games, had broken down some statistics,” Bowles said.
Parham was not interested in extending the process. Bowles said he’s not one to post his five finalists on Twitter, take all the official visits and do the photo shoots in the teams’ jerseys.
“He doesn’t do any of that stuff,” Bowles said. “That’s just not him.”
While Bowles said that four or five ACC and SEC schools showed interest, his options were restricted by his own preferences. Bowles said that Parham was sincere about wanting to be close to home, which limited his choices to Georgia, Tech, Kennesaw State and Georgia State. The latter two are going through coaching changes and Georgia just landed a huge class. Whether it was a pursuit of one legitimate contender or not, Parham liked the fit at Tech and liked the challenge that Pastner laid down.
“It’s the known vs. the unknown,” Bowles said. “You go from a place where you knew you were the focal point to now, it’s going to be you’re going to have to come in and fight like crazy and figure out where you fit. And I do think, even though Bubba’s small, his game does translate. He’s very, very quick and he can be a point guard and can play off the ball.”
Further, Parham is a willing defender, a prerequisite for Pastner. He played in a matchup zone at VMI, so he won’t be entirely unfamiliar with the concepts of Techs’ 1-3-1 zone.
“And he’s a tough kid,” Bowles said. “With the way (VMI) played, he’d get switched onto bigger guys and stuff like that, but he gets after it.”
Bowles said that Parham will apply for a hardship waiver to play immediately. It would seem his chances to receive one are good. If it happens, Tech’s hopes for the 2019-20 season take a boost. With Wednesday’s news that center James Banks has withdrawn from the draft, Tech will have its top three scorers back and will also welcome transfer guard Jordan Usher (USC), who will be eligible at the end of the fall semester but could also himself receive a waiver.
In dire need of scoring and a perimeter threat, Tech has received both. There will be no overlooking him this time.