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Persistence paying off for Mundelein's Parola
 

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Persistence paying off for Mundelein's Parola
  • Mundelein's Derek Parola, left, drives to the hoop against Grant's Steve Dunning.

    Purchase Photo | Mundelein's Derek Parola, left, drives to the hoop against Grant's Steve Dunning. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 

Four minutes.

That's about the amount of playing time per game that Derek Parola got during basketball season last year.

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"If we needed a quick 3-pointer at the end of a quarter, they'd throw me in there," Parola said.

Now, Parola, a senior guard at Mundelein, is counted on for 3-pointers at the beginning, middle and end of every single quarter…of every single game. And in any four-minute span, he's probably shot at least a few of 3-pointers, often making at least half of them.

Parola is a classic case study in persistence and perseverance. He could have quit basketball after last year, and made a legitimate case for it.

A stellar golfer and baseball player, who is coached by his father Todd in both sports, Parola could have said that he wanted to focus on his two best sports during his senior year. After four minutes a game last year, and the potential for a future in golf or baseball after high school, no one could have blamed him for hanging up his high-tops.

"I didn't even think about it," Parola said firmly. "I've been playing basketball my whole life. I couldn't leave the game like that. Once I start something, I like to finish it. And, I kind of wanted to see what would happen this year."

What an eyeful Parola has gotten this season. The Mustangs, too. His play has been a blinding bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2-20 campaign for Mundelein.

In just one season, Parola has gone from a seldom-used situational player to arguably the best 3-point shooter in all of Lake County.

Already, Parola has rung up 102 3-pointers, which equates to 4.6 made 3-pointers per game. There are entire teams that don't average that many made 3-pointers a game.

The records are piling up, too.

At the Martin Luther King tournament at Rockton Hononegah, Parola drained 19 3-pointers in four games to set a new tournament record.

Earlier this month, he nailed 12 3-pointers in a game against Libertyville to set a new school record at Mundelein. The 12 3-pointers (on 24 attempts) also put Parola in the state record books, tied for third on the IHSA list for most 3-pointers in a game.

The way Parola is hitting from long range, the state's top spot isn't out of reach. Andy Thomas of Sycamore hit a state-best 16-of-29 3-pointers in a game against Geneva in 1993.

"It's definitely really surprising," said Parola, who is just six 3-pointers away from Mundelein's season record of 108 3-pointers. "From not playing a lot last year, to having the ball in my hands a lot and scoring like I am…I never even thought something like this could happen. It's pretty cool."

Parola hasn't cooled off from his highest highs. He scored a career-high 39 points against Little Village early in the season, but has had other monster games, such as the 12 3-pointer outburst against Libertyville that yielded 38 points and a 27-point effort against Warren on Wednesday.

On the season, he's had three 30-plus-point games.

"Derek is a very good shooter and we're always looking to get him the ball," first-year Mundelein coach Corey Knigge said. "It's been incredible what he's been able to do (from 3-point range). We told him before the season that he was going to have to play a much bigger role for us."

Parola has delivered in such a big way that even college coaches are starting to take notice. Calls and letters are starting to come in.

Officially, that means that Parola, an honors student who boasts a 4.1 grade point average, is now getting recruited in all three of his sports, including the sport he once considered a distant third on the food chain.

"I would keep (playing basketball in college) as an option if it was there," Parola said. "But I really have to see what happens with baseball first."

Baseball is what Parola knows best. He may be a regional champion golfer, and he may be putting up superstar numbers this season as a basketball player.

But he grew up around baseball. He lived it everyday, breathed it. It's his love, his passion.

Parola's dad Todd has been the head baseball coach at Mundelein for the last 20 years. The younger Parola was a staple at Mundelein practices and games all throughout his childhood.

"My whole life has kind of revolved around baseball," said Parola, a second baseman and shortstop who made the North Suburban all-conference team last year after going through the entire season without an error. "I picked up a bat when I was 2 and I'd go to practice with my dad and I took ground balls when I was 5. Just being on the field and getting to hang around all the high school players made me really like baseball. It made me want to get really good at it, like them."

Parola has certainly followed in his father's footsteps.

Todd Parola was a star baseball player at Grayslake High School and went on to play in college at Indiana University. He was also a standout point guard on the Grayslake basketball team.

In fact, the older Parola pulled out his moves a few years ago and held Derek scoreless in a game of one-on-one. Final score: Dad 21, Son 0.

"Derek's always been a pretty good shooter and back when he was a freshman, he had this big game, a pretty high-scoring game. And he started to talk a little bit. I decided that I needed to bring him back to Earth," Todd Parola said with a laugh.

Defenses this season would love Todd Parola's secret.

They've tried face-guarding Derek Parola to stop him. They've tried double-teaming him. Virtually nothing has worked.

"I've been lucky because my teammates are really looking for me and they're setting me good screens and they're getting me the ball," Parola said. "I wish we were winning more, but I think we're all still having fun. I'm having fun.

"My goal at the beginning of the season was just to enjoy my senior year and to play hard so that I would have no regrets. I think I'm doing that. This has definitely been a season to remember."

Every last minute of it.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

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