As active a season as the 2020-21 college basketball campaign was for Georgia Tech guard Bubba Parham, the offseason is turning out to be almost as busy.
Going strictly by the calendar, the Brookwood grad and 2017 Daily Post Boys Player of the Year should be preparing for graduation and weighing options on possibly pursuing a professional career either domestically or overseas.
However, the NCAA’s decision to allow all student-athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic offered the Yellow Jackets’ guard a rare opportunity he simply couldn’t pass up.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for me,” Parham said. “As far as my teammates, I’m not sure what their thinking process is, but for me, I think it was the best decision for me and my family.”
The teammates he is specifically referring to are his three fellow scholarship seniors, guard Jose Alvarado and forwards Moses Wright and Jordan Usher.
So far, Usher is the only other member of the group announcing he will be returning for a “super senior” season.
Alvarado and junior Michael Devoe have put their names into consideration for the NBA Draft, but have the option of withdrawing and returning to Tech, while Wright is leaving for the draft.
So it is uncertain how much of the band will be getting back together for an encore performance.
Either way, Parham wasn’t ready to consider 2020-21 the finale of his college career, even if he treated it as if it was.
The season was quite the roller coaster ride, with two lengthy hiatuses caused by COVID protocols representing the lows, and the eventual late-season run to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship and Tech’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years being the high points.
It was enough to leave him wanting more, especially with the Jackets’ (17-9) first-round exit in the tournament representing a little unfinished business.
“Regardless of COVID, I tried to play every game, every possession, every minute, every second like it was my last and not taking anything for granted,” the 5-foot-10, 162-pound senior said. “What I can say is I learned from this year … and last year is that tomorrow isn’t promised.
“So yeah, it wasn’t the (most) fun thing to take COVID tests two times a day every day, having to go through all the protocols and being shut down for 10 days. Of course none of that’s fun, but at the end of the day, we’re all just grateful to have the opportunity to play the game that we love. … I think that’s why we reached some of our goals this year. We all looked at it that way and tried to make the most of our opportunities. The coaches preached on that a lot.”
Parham made quite a bit of his opportunities for playing time during his past two seasons at Tech by taking on a completely different role from the one he played during his high school career at Brookwood and his first two seasons of college ball at Virginia Military Institute.
After being a prolific scorer, including earning Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2018 and All-SoCon honors a year later, he assumed a different role as more of a facilitator and defensive specialist, including averaging 6.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.0 steals.
While Parham remains happy to play whatever role he’s asked to play by Tech coach Josh Pastner and his staff, he is also ready to take on more of his traditional role no matter which of the seniors return.
“Coming out of high school, … my role and what I needed to do to help my team win was to score,” Parham said. “I (showed) that I was very capable of doing that on the high school level (at Brookwood) and when I went to VMI. So when I got to Georgia Tech, … it wasn’t actually the same role for me. They needed me to make more plays for my teammate, defend a little harder and those things.
“Don’t get me wrong. Scoring is still what I do. Scoring is still my background in basketball. I see stuff all the time where people say I’m not a scorer anymore. That natural scoring never goes away, but when you’re on certain teams, they require different things. Next year, I’m definitely looking to expand my game, looking to score more, shoot the ball more, shoot the ball better so I can also reach my goals and get to where I want to get to. But this year, it wasn’t what my team needed from me. I can do what it takes to help get my team to the places that we got.”
No matter what role he winds up playing, one thing is certain. Parham expects his “super senior” season to be considerably less stressful despite the higher expectation the Jackets have set for themselves after a successful 2020-21.
Aside from the success of the vaccine increasing the chances of a return to a more normal atmosphere both on and off the court, Parham has stretched out the remaining classes he needs to graduate with his degree in History, Technology and Society until next year.
“I really only need five courses to graduate,” Parham said. “I was in all five (this semester), but I ended up dropping two just to lighten the load. This year’s been a tough year for me, so I kind of fell behind academically early on. So I decided to lighten my load to stretch my degree out until next year.
“For sure, it takes the weight off. The (less) academic stress, I can put that time into my game more and doing what I’ve got to do.”
Between the lighter academic load, the return of several of his teammates from this year, including fellow Gwinnett County high school alums in Norcross grad Kyle Sturdivant and Lanier grad Jehloni James and the addition of a national top 20 recruiting class that includes Lilburn native and former Parkview standout Miles Kelly and the addition of recent Mississippi State transfer and Grayson grad Deivon Smith, Parham expects his one last season at Tech to be a lot of fun.
But make no mistake, there is plenty of business to take care of, too, something he is eager to face head on.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Parham said. “Like I said earlier, I don’t take anything for granted. I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got a lot of talent coming in, a lot of returning talent, as well. We’ve got a lot to work with, so I feel like next year should definitely be one for the books. We’re all looking forward to getting back to workouts.”