Mikayla Parks didn’t expect to make her college decision this early. She didn’t anticipate any of what her recruitment has looked like over the past few months.
Parks, a standout junior guard for the Norman High girls basketball team, had several opportunities to play at the Division I level. And on Monday, she jumped on the chance.
Just before 8 a.m., Parks posted a note to her Twitter account, announcing her verbal pledge to Kansas State.
The timing of her commitment is not quite what she planned. Parks, a crafty player who can play either the point or shooting guard, thought she would wait to go public with her college choice in the middle of her junior season, not before it.
“It's still a great feeling,” Parks said. “I still feel like I accomplished big things with the people by my side to help me through that. I really didn't think I was gonna commit so early during junior year, but I feel like all the pressure’s off.”
The COVID-19 pandemic played a role in Parks’ expedited process.
The NHS guard didn’t want to wait too long to secure her scholarship with recruiting visits on hold, the start of the upcoming basketball season unclear and what opportunities will be there for her when she does return to the hardwood.
With the Big 12’s Wildcats, she felt the most comfortable.
“I just automatically felt like they were my family,” Parks said, “like I could go to them whenever I'm there and might not be able to go back home and talk to my parents about it. Like I could easily just go to the coaching staff. I just feel like their family already. That's my No. 1 thing when it comes to colleges, being able to feel at home.”
The difficult part for Parks was letting other schools, that invested time in recruiting her, know she was picking K-State. She spent the weekend before committing to the Wildcats calling the coaches actively pursuing her that she made her decision out of respect.
“It is such a big relief to just have it out there,” she said.
Kansas State offered Parks in January amid her sophomore campaign with the Tigers, which didn't receive much of an ending.
NHS went 24-1 this past season, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and earned a state-tournament berth a year after winning a state championship.
The coronavirus pandemic canceled the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association’s 2020 state basketball tournaments before they could start, still leaving Parks with two more seasons to capture another gold ball.
Having her recruitment out of the way helps free Parks to focus on just that with a talented cast around her.
Fellow NHS starters Kelbie Washington and Chantae Embry are also committed to Big 12 programs. Washington, who plays guard alongside Parks, is headed to Oklahoma, while Embry, NHS’ star forward, is committed to Texas Tech. NHS junior Myka Perry also holds various Big 12 offers, but she is still undecided about where she wants to play.
Wherever Parks and her teammates end up, they plan to maintain the bond they have built by supporting each other. Being in different jerseys, especially within the same conference, will still be an adjustment.
“It's gonna be definitely weird to play against them and see them and everything on different teams,” Parks said, “but they’re still my best friends for life and being able to still grow at different universities is gonna be big for us.”
The future Big 12 foes still have one more season together — both Embry and Washington are seniors.
Parks is happy to concentrate more on basketball and at peace with her sooner-than-expected decision.
"I just wanted to be able to have a spot at such a great school like K-State,” Parks said. “I love the coaching staff there. ... I'm so excited to be able to be a part of that big, huge family."