High-SchoolVolleyball: Parker Brown

By Walter Villa

Parker BrownTom Hauck"I knew I could have been going to a Division I college," says Parker Brown, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter at Corona del Mar. "But because I had been using, I didn't have any offers."

Parker Brown’s GPA had sunk to 0.9, his weight had plummeted from 205 pounds to 147 pounds and he was coughing up “black tar and other gross stuff.”

Brown’s stamina was down, he was missing practices and he was neglecting his volleyball friends.

It was Brown’s junior year at Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), and the marijuana addiction that started when he was 12 years old had grown out of control.

He was getting high a dozen times a day, and he had gotten himself kicked off his Balboa Bay club team after he showed up high for the 2011 Junior Olympics tournament in Minnesota.

“I was smoking all day, every day,” said Brown, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter who is now a senior at Corona del Mar. “My whole world revolved around pot, and I didn’t realize how much damage it was causing.

“Pot is really a scary drug because it’s one of the worst things for your brain.”

Teammate Joe Ctvrtlik, a Stanford recruit, said he knew for a while that Brown was doing “some stuff on the side.” He said he’d see Brown at school on Friday and not hear from him again until Monday.

“It was scary to see,” Ctvrtlik said. “He was smoking atrocious amounts. His attitude was down and gloomy, and he wouldn’t listen to anyone.”

The low point

The incident at the Junior Olympics turned out to be the catalyst for change in Brown’s life.

His parents -- Carol Peck and stepfather Scott Peck as well as father Jeff Brown and stepmother Diana Brown -- had heard enough. They sent their son directly from Minnesota to Capstone Treatment Center in Arkansas.

Brown hadn’t hit rock bottom just yet, though. For two weeks, all he thought about was getting out so he could use again. He cried a lot and didn’t participate in the program.

Parker Brown
Tom Hauck"He is not afraid to dig the heavy balls that elite guys hit," Corona del Mar coach Steve Conti says of Parker Brown.
Finally, he had an epiphany.

“I figured out how [crappy] my life was going,” said Brown, 18, who stayed at the rehab center for 100 days. “I knew I could have been going to a Division I college. But because I had been using, I didn’t have any offers.”

Corona del Mar coach Steve Conti said Brown was his strongest player in the weight room as a sophomore, but that was not the case as a junior.

“His whole body of work as a sophomore was better than it was as a junior,” Conti said. “I never personally caught him [using], but people in the community had started to talk about what was going on with Parker.

“That was not to ‘narc’ on Parker -- there was genuine concern. You could see that he was less engaging. You couldn’t really have a conversation with him. Parker had a comatose look on his face.”

Conti has a favorite saying. “Show me your friends,” he said, “and I will show you your future.”

Turning his life around

Brown’s future, which looked bleak less than a year ago, is now looking better and better.

His best friend, crew athlete Keaton Kay, has moved in with Parker and the Peck family, serving as a positive role model.

Parker Brown
Courtesy of Scott PeckParker Brown has been clean for nine months, and now other kids ask him for advice.
In addition, Brown has regained the trust of his biological parents, who are divorced and live next door to each other.

“Even when he was getting high, Parker still had a heart of gold,” Carol Peck said. “But now … it’s amazing what he has done in his life the past year. He’s getting A’s and B-pluses. He does his own laundry, cleans his room. He’s just a different person.”

Brown not only quit marijuana, he also dropped his cigarette problem, which had been extensive, and said he no longer feels the temptation to use any substance.

Now, when he does go to parties, Brown serves as the designated driver because everyone in the community knows he no longer uses.

His most recent report card -- a 3.8 GPA -- was stunning to Brown, who for a long time thought he was incapable of doing well in school.

The problem, he knows now, was the pot. Three years of being a “horrible student,” as he describes it, has left his cumulative GPA at 2.7, which he feels is below par.

Because of his issues, only four colleges have shown an interest in offering Brown a volleyball scholarship: Ohio State, Pepperdine, Southern Cal and California Irvine.

“I can’t explain how grateful I am to those schools for giving me a second chance,” Brown said.

Sticking to it

Clean and sober for nine months, Brown is starting to make a positive impact in the community. Seeing how he has turned his life around, some kids have come to him for advice.

Brown said his teammates are clean but a lot of other athletes he knows are “drinking, smoking pot and doing other things.”

Corona del Mar volleyball
Courtesy of Scott Peck"Even when he was going through his problem, he was never disrespectful," coach Steve Conti says. "He was just hurting himself."
He won’t push his sobriety on others, but Brown said he is there for support if needed.

“I’m stoked when kids ask me for help,” he said.

Brown is now back to his normal weight of 205 pounds, his stamina has returned and his relationships with family and friends have been repaired.

Corona del Mar, which is No. 25 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, is benefiting from Brown’s return to prominence. Conti said Brown is an ultra-competitive player who, if anything, has to tone it down at times in the weight room so he doesn’t tire himself out.

On the court, Brown is a versatile athlete who can play setter, libero and outside hitter in college.

“He may be a bit of a tweener size-wise,” Conti said. “He is a little-to-a-lot smaller than some of the college outside hitters who go 6-6 to 6-8, but he doesn’t look across the net and let that affect him. In fact, when sees someone bigger, he gets that look in his eyes because he loves the challenge.

“We’ve also used him some at libero, and he has the mindset you want because he is not afraid to dig the heavy balls that elite guys hit. He just needs to improve his passing for the next level.”

Ctvrtlik said Brown is one of the most determined players on the team.

“He is playing way better now,” he said. “Before, his mind was a little slow. Now, he has that spark in his eyes. He’s proud of himself, and we’re proud of him. I think he can be a really good college player.”

Volleyball aside, Conti said he is excited about Brown’s future.

“I’m most proud that he has not fallen back and has remained on the right path,” Conti said. “Even when he was going through his problem, he was never disrespectful. He was just hurting himself.

“He’s a great kid.”
By Jed Stotsenberg

The boys’ high school volleyball season got into full swing this weekend at the 6th Annual Best of the West boys' high school volleyball tournament in San Diego, Calif. The tournament was a true showcase of what to expect from the top teams for the 2012 season. Click here to browse our gallery of 215 photos.

Here are 10 players who stood out this weekend:

Andrew Benz | Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.)
The 6-foot-6 senior middle was dominating, up early and crushing the angles all tournament while also taking over with his block. Benz is committed to UC Irvine.

Jonah Seif
Ed Chan/ESPNHSThousand Oaks setter Jonah Seif ran a solid offense and scored points with his jump serve at the Best of the West.
Michael Mullahey | Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The 6-5 senior setter was a man among boys, delivering the offense and helping Loyola win the Best of the West title. Mullahey picked apart his opponents' block, isolating hitters all tournament while doing his fair share point scoring with a solid block and deceptive dumps. Mullahey will be a Trojan next year contributing to a strong USC volleyball program.

Kyle Palmer | Servite (Anaheim, Calif.)
The 6-7 senior middle was a huge part of his team pulling off numerous upsets. Servite started as the 12 seed and advanced through to the finals. All tournament he was a horse, getting up big and bombing the angles while completely neutralizing the opponents' offense with his block. Palmer is committed to UCLA.

Edgar Palos | Huntington Beach (Calif.)
This 6-foot senior outside hitter gets it done, bringing solid serve receive, smooth controlled defense, high and hard swings while scoring big with his jump serve. He is fun to watch. Palos is committed to Long Beach State.

Nick Porterfield | Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)

The 6-3 senior outside hitter set himself apart from the pack, earning the Best of the West MVP and helping his team win the tournament. All weekend he passed well and abused his opponents' right-side block with true hitting range and thunder. Porterfield will be attending UCLA next year.

Kevin Rakestraw | Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.)
This 6-11 junior middle is not just big but athletic. He can run a plethora of attacks all along the net, including a back slide that was almost impossible to stop. As a blocker, he is efficient closing laterally, which is rare for players his size at this age. Rakestraw is uncommitted and will have his choice of top college programs to choose from when he's ready.

Jonah Seif | Thousand Oaks (Calif.)
This 6-8 senior setter is a point scoring machine, shutting down the left-side attack with his block and picking off passers at will with his jump serve. He also was quick to the ball and ran a solid offense, feeding his middles as much as possible and isolating his pins. Seif is committed to UCSB next year.

Larry Tuileta | Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii)
The 6-2 sophomore outside hitter was on fire, helping his team to a third-place finish with solid passing and phenomenal defense. One of the top plays of the weekend was a full-speed hit he took off his chest in the semifinal against Loyola that carried over the net and landed left back over the whole team without anybody touching it to tie the game. Offensively he has an extremely high volleyball IQ, bringing out not only the heat but the tips, chops and swipes, which embarrassed opponents' defensive systems all tournament. Tuileta is uncommitted but will have many opportunities to play at the next level.

Brooks Varni | Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)

The 6-2 senior libero was spectacular and a true leader. He passed well all weekend, set in transition off the setter dig, took 75 percent of the court on free balls, dug balls and provided fire with confidence for his team when needed. Varni is committed to USC next year.

Lucas Yoder | San Clemente (Calif.)
This 6-4 junior outside hitter put in some serious work helping his team to a third-place finish. He passed with precision, brought the heat on the left and out of the back row while competing hard the whole time. He has yet to choose college.

Other notables

Bennett Bird, Westview (San Diego, Calif.), 12, 6-6, OH, BYU
Gabriel Vega, Iolani (Honolulu, Hawaii), 12, 6-7, OH, Stanford
Justin Parks, Oak Park (Calif), 12, 6-4, OH, Pepperdine
Kyle Suppes, Bellarmine (San Jose, Calif.), 12, 6-8, MB, Pepperdine
Parker Boehle, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), 12, 5-8, LIB, UCSB
Alex Slaught, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), 12, 6-4, OH, USC
Driss Guessous, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), 12, 6-7, MB, Ohio State
Sam Hunt, Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-6, MB , Air Force Football
Sean Gruebner, Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii), 12, 6-2, OH, Uncommitted
Jack Yoder, San Clemente (Calif.), 11, 6-3 ,S Unsigned
Aidan Crockett, Bellarmine (San Jose, Calif.),, 12, 6-3, OH, Ohio State
Parker Brown, Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), 12, 6-3, OH Ohio State
Jacob Delson, Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.), 12, 6-5, OH, UCSB
Zack Gates, Huntington Beach (Calif.), 11, 6-6, Opp, Unsigned
Cole Fiers, Palos Verdes (Calif.), 11, 6-3, S, Uncommitted
Jack Hughson, Poway, 12, 6-6, S/RS, UCLA
Darren Sorrell, Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-9, MB, Hawaii
Madison Hayden, Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-3, OH, Stanford
Tim Favreau, Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-1, S, Princeton