Kai Parris remembers the tortured existence he endured last season.
Then a junior for the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy boys basketball team, Parris had big plans to carry the Tigers on his back on a deep run into the Public School Athletic League postseason.
But some spotty work in the classroom derailed those plans, and Parris was forced to watch all but the season’s first eight games from the sidelines while he got his academic work in order.
“I was inactive part of last year because I didn’t pass some of my classes,” Parris said. “But that motivated me more for this year to make sure that I’m actually on the court and playing this year. It was really tough just watching everyone playing and I’m not out on the court.
“I was seeing things that I could do to help the team, but I really couldn’t help them. It was a really tough situation I was in, but I put myself in that situation so I had to deal with it and tough it out.”
With things going well in the classroom this year, Parris has been able to show his dominance on the court, and all he’s done is post one stellar performance after another.
So far, Parris has topped the 20-point plateau in all nine of RKA’s games, surpassed the 30-point level five times, and posted a 40-plus point game twice. His top outing came in a 49-point, 21-rebound performance in a 100-96 overtime win over Albert Tuitt High School.
“My goal for this year was to make it far into the playoffs and to hit a 1,000 points in my career,” said Parris, who is averaging a double-double on the season with 32.1 points and 10 rebounds. “That’s a big goal of mine. I’m a senior and this is my last year, so I want to accomplish as much as I can before I’m finished playing. So I just came into the season with the mindset of winning as much as we can.”
According to the PSAL website, Parris is closing in on the 800-point mark for his career, and with six regular-season games remaining plus any playoff contests, Parris has a shot at reaching that 1,000-point goal — if he can average more than 30 points per game. And while he has been outstanding throughout the first half of the season, Parris believes there is another level he can take his game.
“Honestly, I think I can do way better than I’m doing right now,” Parris said. “This hasn’t even been the best yet. I can go way past what I’m doing right now. That’s just being honest.”
The Tigers, through no fault of Parris, have hit a lull of late, losing their last four games after a 4-1 start. So the Christmas break may have come at just the right time.
“When we come back from the break, our first game is against IN-Tech and that’s going to be the game to watch,” Parris said of the Jan. 10 battle. “We’re looking to win that game to get us going again. That’s our goal — come back from the break with a fresh mindset and not think about any of the losses from the first half.”
Parris has dedicated himself to honing his skills, but also credits added pounds for helping his game flourish.
“I put a lot of work into my game from my sophomore year until now,” Parris said. “But the main thing I was focused on was putting on a little more weight because I was really skinny as a sophomore. I know I have skills, but I needed to put on some weight to get a little stronger.”
Parris already has heard from colleges and says he’s excited for what his future holds thanks to basketball.
“I’m definitely looking to play college basketball next year,” Parris said. “No doubt about that. A few schools have been talking to me already like Manhattanville, Russell Sage and Brockport. I like what I’m hearing from them. They really want me to go to their schools.”
But first there is some unfinished business for the Tigers to complete this season. Mainly, getting back on track and making that deep playoff run.
“We’re really going to talk about what’s going on and what’s wrong and make the adjustments we have to make because we know that we’re a good team and we have all the talent in the world,” Parris said. “We just have to put it all together.”
And if he were to reach that coveted 1,000-point plateau and have his banner hung on the wall at RKA’s gym?
“That would be really cool,” Parris said. “I hope it happens.”