April 20, 2009
THE PARKES FILE
Who: Johnny Parkes
Honors: All-MWC singles, doubles, academic; 2006 MWC Freshman of Year
Born: Dec. 27, 1986
Hometown Southport Merseyside, England.
Favorite athlete: Muhammad Ali
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Let's say there was a magical machine where Lobo coach Alan Dils could pour in all the traits he wanted to see in a senior Lobo tennis player.
And let's say Dils threw in tenacity, dedication, maturity, a blue-collar work ethic, a powerful forehand, unselfishness, quick feet, an unyielding sense of team spirit and poured it all in a 6-foot-4 frame. You know what Dils probably would say when his creation popped out?
"Hi, Johnny. You look taller."
About the only thing stopping Johnny Parkes from being the perfect Lobo might be that he stands 5-foot-9. Dils can live with that.
"Johnny is awesome," said Dils. "Every coach would love to have a guy like Johnny. The best way I can put it is that Johnny gets it. He understands what it takes to be a successful player and what it takes for his team to be a success.
"He does whatever you ask with a smile on his face and it's genuine. I could ask Johnny to play No. 6 (singles) or No. 1 and it wouldn't make any difference to him. He would just go out and do his best."
Now, Johnny Parkes says he didn't always "get it." There was a time when he was a bit immature and not quite as focused as the Parkes who has been running around the Lobo Tennis Club for the past two seasons.
That was his freshman year when he tied for team wins with 22, made the All-Mountain West Conference teams for singles, was placed on the MWC All-Academic team and was the MWC Freshman (and Region VII) Player of The Year.
Yep, Parkes probably is lucky Dils didn't run him off the team and send him back to England. What a goof-off!
"I was a bit immature back then," said Parkes, 22. "You wonder what might have been if you had approached things the same way as a freshman as you do now."
Yeah, maybe Parkes would be 6-foot-4. Or maybe the tiny stumbles a boy makes simply better forms the man. Parkes has never been lacking in work ethic or belief in team ethics. He simply took everything to a higher level for his senior year which is why he is 20-1 on the season and undefeated in Mountain West play.
"Johnny came back this fall with a purpose and you could tell that purpose was established over the summer," said Dils. "Usually, he would come back in the fall and kind of start over. This year he picked up from where he left last spring (2008) and there was no catching up for him."
Said Parkes: "I remember the last thing I told Alan last year was that I was going to work my butt off and be No. 1 when I came back."
Which really wasn't a huge leap for Parkes. He was No. 2 in 2008 and the heir apparent to that top spot in UNM's singles' lineup. But you can be No. 1 or you can be 20-1 at No. 1 and that often is determined by what you did in the off-season.
Parkes worked his butt off, especially in taking his fitness to a different level.
"I don't enjoy running that much," said Parkes. "But this past year I have laid off the weights and have done so much conditioning that if I'm in the third set, fitness isn't even an issue. All I have to worry about is hitting the right shots.
"In the past, I wasn't as physically fit and sometimes I was worried about the legs going in the third set. There is a massive difference between how I am now and how I was when I first came here."
Parkes came to UNM from England because of a strong English connection Dils has established and also because his high school teammate, Miles Bugsby, also was making the trip to become a Lobo. "It was a bit of an easy decision," said Parkes.
On the court, Parkes is much like the Lobo off the court. He is focused and very much in control of what he wants to accomplish. He plays with tenacity and desire. He can out-talent an opponent, out-last an opponent, out-think an opponent.
"A lot of players will take a point or two off, but not Johnny," said Dils.
One thing that hasn't changed for Parkes from his freshman year as a Lobo is his strong sense of team play. It was developed at the Millfield School, where he was a captain or a vice captain for four seasons.
"You get a lot of guys who come to college and don't understand the team ethic," said Parkes. "To win championships, to be a good team, you have to be on the same page. If one guy is off the page, he can create tension, do things to hurt his teammates. I think team cohesion is a massive thing.
"If you start thinking you are bigger than the team, you are going to start losing. It doesn't matter if you play No. 1 or No. 6, you have the same impact on the team. Same amount of points. I've never once felt I was out here by myself. I've always found that I'm not as good if I do things thinking about myself."
So, is Parkes the perfect Lobo? Well, he could be taller.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner