Posted Aug 14th 2014
Parks-Ferrer rivalry adds subplot to NU-UST do-or-die
By Paolo Mariano Posted Sep 27th 2013
Aside from the final score, everyone tuned in on Saturday's do-or-die affair between National University (NU) and University of Santo Tomas (UST) will be anticipating the match-up between Ray Parks and Kevin Ferrer.
Last Sunday, the fourth seed Growling Tigers staved off the top seed Bulldogs, 71-62 in their Final Four encounter at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. UST kept its season alive, while NU was sent back to the drawing board.
Playing a huge role in UST’s victory was Ferrer, a gangly 6-foot-4 forward, who has a wingspan of an albatross and the strides of a gazelle. He hounded Parks all game long and limited him to 14 points, underwhelming for a player of his caliber and considering that it was a post-season meet.
After the game, Ferrer entered the press room for the mandatory post-game grilling. He had a smile on his face and a bounce to his step. He knew he was pivotal in giving the Growling Tigers another lease on life. He top-scored with 14 points, anchored on four three-pointers, while also making life miserable for NU’s main man.
“I just did my job to try and stop him. He’s their (NU) top player. Plus, we play the same position,” said Ferrer.
But really, what he did was more of psyching out than defending. He stayed close to Parks as if he was his parole officer. He had a mischievous smirk on his face. When he wasn’t smiling, he was covering his nose and mouth with his hands as if he just sniffed something awful.
“Bawal daw mag-trash-talk eh, tinakpan ko na lang ‘yung bibig ko (They said trash-talking wasn’t allowed, so I just covered my mouth),” said Ferrer.
An hour later after Ferrer’s post-game interview, Parks finally emerged from their locker room. He was wearing a gray jacket with the hood covering his head. His left wrist was bandaged heavily and his face had a blank stare. It wasn’t clear whether he was dejected or mad—or both.
“I decided to stay inside and really calm myself down (before going out) because I might end up saying the wrong things,” said Parks.
He did say a lot of things though, mostly about not appreciating Ferrer’s allegedly dirty defensive tactics.
“My dad (Bobby Parks Sr.) played with a lot of guys like that. Michael Jordan had Detroit. This is my Detroit. That’s just the easiest way to put it,” said Parks, referring to the famous “Bad Boys” version of the Pistons in the late 80s, which was defined by its menacing and physical defense.
The “Bad Boys,” which featured the likes of Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, and John Salley, eliminated the Chicago Bulls in three straight playoffs from 1988 to 1990. They were coached by the late Chuck Daly, who even baptized their defensive credo on MJ as the “Jordan Rules,” which inspired Sam Smith’s best-selling book of the same name.
When asked who Ferrer was on the “Bad Boys,” Parks didn’t blink: “He’s everybody and more”—eliciting laughter from him and the reporters.
Allegedly, Ferrer also squeezed Parks’ left hand after injuring it in the final four minutes of the last quarter.
“I landed on it when I got hit in the air. It was just painful,” said Parks. “But what's actually worse is, coming back into the game, Ferrer grabbed my wrist and my fingers, so I really don't know what to say about that."
The two-time MVP wasn’t done, proof that Ferrer really got into his head.
“I thought he was better than that. Sorry, but to come in the game and just grab my wrist and my finger, that's just a little too low. But then again, that’s how they play. I guess they were just thirsty for the win," said Parks.
The history of sports is a treasure chest of glimmering tales of iconic battles. Opposing athletes who refuse to budge and yield the sweet spoils of victory. Ask your dad or your gregarious uncle. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell, Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert, Amang Parica vs. Efren “Bata” Reyes, and the list goes on.
In the UAAP, however, such storied rivalries are hard to come by, especially today, where players are chummy-chummy with each other. They tweet “good luck” before games and help each other up when they fall on the floor. They call each other “Idol” for crying out loud!
Part of this is because they’ve been competing with each other for too long, which ironically is a primary element of a good rivalry. They enroll in the same basketball clinics in grade school, see each other annually in high school varsity leagues, play together in summer camps, etc. So, when they get to the UAAP, everything’s cool. The closest thing the league had to a rivalry was Mac Cardona and Wesley Gonzales in the early 2000s.
Or perhaps it’s simply a cultural thing. Maybe Filipinos are just naturally friendly and polite. Yes, sportsmanship should still be put at a premium. But sometimes, a good ol’ fashioned antagonism doesn’t hurt. That’s why for most fans, the spewing rivalry between Parks and Ferrer is a breath of fresh, tension-filled air.
Both came into the league in 2011. At that time, Parks was christened as NU’s savior, while Ferrer was fresh from his MVP stint in the Juniors with the Tiger Cubs. They also briefly played together for the RP Youth Team under current Bulldogs head coach Eric Altamirano. They were teammates but you can hardly call them friends. Since then, they’ve always been the default match-up for each other.
Last season was the sort of breakthrough of their rivalry. In their first meeting, which UST won, Ferrer and Parks were already gnawing at each other. Then in their second round tilt, which UST also won in overtime, the animosity boiled over, albeit after the game.
Then-UST point guard Jeric Fortuna tweeted Parks and thanked him “for not dropping 30 on us.” “It’s kind of hard because I was too busy trying to avoid Ferrer from kissing me,” Parks replied in jest. “I think he was really trying to,” answered Fortuna with a laugh. “That dude is weird and with that attitude, he’s not going anywhere,” said Parks, this time with all seriousness.
In that game, Ferrer only finished with two points, but he limited Parks to 15 points on 3-of-18 shooting from the field.
After a few days, they met again in the Final Four. This time, Ferrer really outdid Parks. He led UST to a trip to the finals with a game-high 17 points, including the final lay-up at the buzzer. He also limited his rival to 12 markers on 4-of-12 marksmanship.
The story, however, has been different this season. In the elimination round, Parks has clearly gotten the better of Ferrer, averaging 15.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, and 1.5 BPG in an exceptional all-around effort against UST. But more importantly, he has led NU to its first ever top-seed finish in more than three decades.
On Saturday, the two will meet for the ninth time. They know each other too well by now. Parks knows he shouldn’t be baited into a psychological warfare, while Ferrer knows his nemesis can drop 30 points anytime. They may hurl insults all they want or use little tactics here and there, but at the end of the day, they’re just two guys who badly want to win.
“I’m just taking it as a challenge. It’s nothing personal,” said Ferrer.
“I just have to see what God has in store for me,” said Parks. “All the greatest ones have to go through it.”