UCLA Basketball: How High Is Tony Parker's Ceiling in 2013-14?

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UCLA Basketball: How High Is Tony Parker's Ceiling in 2013-14?
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Something encouraging happened for the UCLA basketball team on Tuesday night: Tony Parker flashed some incredible potential for the 2013-14 season.

Of course, he’s had immense potential from the onset, but it’s something he has yet to realize at the collegiate level.

The ever-clumsy raw talent that is Tony Parker was the most dominant player on the court in the Bruins’ blowout win over Oakland in Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday.

“Dominant” is an adjective that has long awaited the 6’9”, 255-pound center, who was part of the Bruins’ stellar 2012 recruiting class alongside Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson.

It was a breakout night for Parker, who posted career highs in points (21), rebounds (12), blocks (3) and steals (2), garnering his first double-double in the process.

Above all, Parker, who recklessly got himself into foul trouble in his freshman season (one foul per 3.8 minutes), also managed to avoid the snare of foul trouble on Tuesday, which subsequently allowed him to play a career-high 34 minutes.

That’s a drastic contrast from the Tony Parker who committed 16 fouls in the final 34 minutes of his freshman season.

Harry How/Getty Images
An all-too-frequent expression on Parker's face in his freshman season after committing a foul.

While Parker’s performance was impressive, if not stunning given his track record, it was merely a nonconference game against a very mediocre opponent.

Yet, there are significant takeaways from Parker’s dazzling performance on Tuesday night.

The first being that Parker established himself with a dynamite performance and will have more confidence from here on out, which will create a snowball effect if he can sustain his tenacity.

The second: Coach Steve Alford is effectively shaping Parker into a college-level player.

“Coach has been on me about keeping my hands up and staying out of foul trouble,” Parker said in the press conference following the game. “The coach has to trust me so I have to play hard.”

Unlike Coach Ben Howland, who was ineffective in cutting down Parker’s foul tendencies, Alford seems to have instilled more trust in the talented center, which seems to be paying off.

So, what exactly does this mean for Parker and the Bruins this season?

Although it’s a small sample size, it means plenty.

Highlights from UCLA's victory over Oakland

In order to become a complete team capable of achieving greatness in the Pac-12 and beyond, UCLA needs a strong inside presence.

Twin senior forwards David and Travis Wear have greatly improved their perimeter presence but are generally overmatched in strength in the paint, which leaves Parker as the Bruins’ only hope to hold down the paint.

If he can reproduce performances like he had against Oakland every few games or so, the Bruins will be a dangerous team, as Jordan Adams alone already gives the team a perimeter presence to be reckoned with.

Will Tony Parker be a consistent force for UCLA this season?

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However, Parker is only just beginning his uphill climb towards the pinnacle of his potential.

The 20-year-old from Atlanta, Ga. not only has to continue to refine his skill set, but also needs to drastically improve his free-throw shooting.

A 44-percent free-throw shooter in his freshman season, Parker went 1-of-4 from the charity stripe, an unimpressive start to his performance at the line in his sophomore season.

“It was hard to box me out, but I know I also have to work on my free throws,” Parker acknowledged after the game.

If he continues to diligently work on the small but important things, like free-throw shooting and keeping his hands up on defense, Parker can take this UCLA team to the next level.

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