Senior forward Ezria Parsons struggles to make it through practice but is ready to lace up her sneakers come game time. Her struggles stem from a back injury she suffered in a loss to No. 10 Rutgers two weeks ago. Parsons went up for a rebound in the first half against the Scarlet Knights and was grabbed on the arm. She was horizontal in the air and landed flush on her back. Parsons sat out the rest of the first half but returned in the second half to finish the game.
Despite the injury, Parsons realizes there’s no time to sit on the bench and nurse the injury. The Bulls need her presence inside and her leadership on the court if they want to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid.
“When it’s game time, I want to be out there and do whatever I can to help the team win,” Parsons said. “And when I’m on the court, I don’t really think about my back and do the things that I’ve always done on the court.”
Parsons is all about the little things on the court that don’t show up in the box score. She plays tough interior defense, takes a charge in the lane and dives on the floor for loose balls.
“She’s an unselfish kind of player because she doesn’t care how many points she scores,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “She does the little things. She loves to rebound and loves to play defense.”
Parsons leads the team in rebounding, averaging 8.2 a game, and has 97 defensive rebounds, which helps hold opposing teams to many one shot possessions. She led the team last season in rebounding and was fourth in Conference USA with 8.9 a game.
Fernandez, however, wants to get Parsons more involved on the offensive side of the floor to give the Bulls another scoring weapon.
“We need to find more ways to get her involved in our offense because we are going to need her to step up and give us more point production,” Fernandez said. “If we can get her into double figures in scoring down the stretch, I think it will help us out a lot.”
Parsons came up big against Providence on Saturday, hitting a crucial three-pointer that sent the Bulls to a 53-47 victory. Parsons understands her role on the team and concentrates on playing strong defense in the paint. She doesn’t look to score when the ball is in her hands, but takes advantage of scoring opportunities.
“(Junior guard) Jessica (Dickson) is our main scorer, and I just made the decision to rebound and play defense,” Parsons said. “If I need to score, then I score, but my main focus is defense and rebounding.”
Parsons, who transferred from Auburn University, has earned the “toughness” label on the team as she has battled through numerous injuries during her career. That toughness hasn’t gone unnoticed by her teammates and shows the younger players that they can play even if they aren’t 100 percent healthy.
“She’s just a warrior, and I told her that and expressed my appreciation for what she does for this team,” Dickson said. “And it’s big for the younger players to learn by her example and to just keep battling even if they are hurt.”
In Parsons’ mind, the struggles are worth it.