Basketball coaches love it when players think defense first.
Senaya Parker is one of those players.
Parker is a sophomore combo guard for the Panthers, and if you ask her about her game, the first thing she talks about is defense.
And when you consider how much she fills up the stat sheet on offense, it really says something about her efforts on the other end of the court.
“I think my defense helps my offense, that’s what I look to do,” said Parker, a West Philadelphia resident. “I like playing defense. I like making the people I’m guarding uncomfortable. The better I play on defense, I feel like the better I play on offense. I use my defense to get my scoring going.
“I take pride in my defense. My dad taught me to play defense, he was a good basketball player, and he loved playing defense. So I use defense to get my offense going. It helps with my game and my confidence. I take defense really seriously.”
Parker must be one heck of a defensive player because she’s currently the most prolific scorer in the area.
Parker is scoring a ridiculous 43.8 points per game for the Panthers, who have gone from a winless squad last year to sitting pretty with an 11-3 record overall, including a 6-0 mark in the American Conference.
It’s been a great season for Parker, who is now acclimated to her new team after transferring from Imhotep Charter before the start of the school year. Last year she was the first player off the bench for a Panthers team that won the Public League championship.
This year, her role is very much different, but it didn’t take her long to get up and running with her new teammates.
“I really liked Imhotep, but I wanted to go somewhere where I fit in and Fels has been great,” said Parker, who also leads the Panthers in assists. “It’s different. Imhotep was a charter school and Fels is a public school, but I love the environment. It’s very nice, the teachers are great, they’re very supportive and I love my coach.
“Playing here took a little while to get up to speed with everyone, but we’re doing well now. I usually try to get myself going, and if everyone starts to come to me, I love to get my teammates going. They’re very good. Some of them didn’t play basketball a lot before they got here, but they’re really improving.”
Parker never shies away from anyone when she’s on the court.
In fact, playing high school basketball with other girls her age is a lot easier than when she first started shooting hoops.
As a kid growing up in West Philly, Parker would go to the park and play pickup games. She never had a problem finding other people to play with, but there weren’t a lot of girls running ball at the playground.
So she played with the boys, including her twin brother Shamar and her older brother Stanley, who is a senior at Fels.
“I grew up around all boys, that’s where I got my heart and it’s why I play so aggressively,” Parker said. “It was tough, but I had to adjust. It wasn’t easy, I couldn’t be soft and cute, they weren’t playing around with me. They would get mad, boys don’t get like getting dominated by females, so that made me do it more. If I can compete with them, they’re my brothers, they’re not letting me win, I knew I could compete with anyone.
“They liked beating me, but they’re very supportive. I’m lucky, my brothers are really supportive, my whole family is supportive. They always come to my games. I have a great family.”
Family is a huge part of Parker’s story, and one of her biggest fans was her grandmom, who passed away last year.
She was a huge fan of sports, and loved her grandkids more than anything, so she would be very much enjoying her granddaughter’s emergence as one of the top players in Philadelphia.
“I play for her and that motivates me,” Parker said. “She pushed me. We were really close. She died about a year or two ago. I know she would be really proud. She was a huge basketball and football fan. When it was on, she would watch, she would scream. She went to some of my games, she would cheer for me, too.”
While she continues to make her family and grandmom proud, she’s also gaining notoriety throughout the area, and recently went viral with a TikTok video showing that she’s a great athlete, and a great person off the court.
“I don’t do much other than basketball, really, but I just recently blew up on TikTok,” Parker said. “It got over 200,000 views and 60,000 likes. It was a basketball video. Ms. 50 on the court, Senaya off the court. They’re kind of different people.
“On court, it’s a hostile personality. I’m not that friendly and I don’t try to be on the court. I try to have a personality that’s serious, I lock in. Off the court, I love to be nice, I love to have friends and be social. I think people don’t know there’s a difference, but I’m nice off the court.”
Now she just wants to bring a championship to Fels over the next few years.
It won’t be easy, but she’s very proud of where her team is right now.
“This year, I know we’re doing much better, but I would really love to win a playoff game, that’s our goal,” Parker said. “I think we can be very good. We are getting experience and everyone is working hard. I think we can keep getting better and become a very good team.”