MINNEAPOLIS — Assistant coach Steven Pearl often wonders to himself: Who will replace Malik Dunbar next season?
"You know, I've been thinking — damn, who's going to be that energy guy next year when Malik's gone?" Steven Pearl said.
Walk-on Myles Parker already sees himself following in Dunbar’s footsteps.
Parker said a key part of being walk-on is doing what’s best for the team. Parker stepped into the rotation early in the season when Danjel Purifoy, Samir Doughty and Austin Wiley were unavailable. Head coach Bruce Pearl said at the time that he expects Parker to join the rotation in the near future.
Bruce Pearl said that walk-ons play just as important a role as the scholarship players.
“The non-scholarship players are in the same locker room with the scholarship players. They’re held accountable just like the rest of the guys, and they make us better every day,” Pearl said.
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Parker also proved himself an asset on the road, being the only walk-on to join the team in Nashville. Quick on his feet, Parker was also able to land the last 3-point shot during the Sweet Sixteen win against UNC.
“When I caught the ball, I was just ready to shoot it,” he said.
As Dunbar's time in an Auburn uniform comes to a close this weekend at the Final Four, the freshman peering over Dunbar's shoulder looks to be a perfect replacement next season.
“My role is to keep everybody’s energy high, and to sort of just lift their spirits up when their down, and preparing them for the games,” Parker said.
When describing how he goes about energizing the team, Parker immediately mentioned Dunbar.
“I chime in with Malik sometimes singing. We make up songs on the spot, so anything we’re feeling we just start singing it,” Parker said with a smile. “We love making up songs. He’s my roommate, too.”
Parker identified Dunbar as a role model and mentor. Regarding the rest of the team, he characterized them all as father figures to the true freshman.
“I mean, they have children, so they’re fathers. You feel me? They have big role model positions,” Parker said.
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