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Originally published Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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4A Boys Basketball | Renado Parker's rise at Kentridge

Kentridge's 6-foot-5, 235-pound senior looks intimidating, but teammates say his icy glare hides some powerful humor.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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KENT — "Hey, kid — give me your money."

The Kentridge High School student looks at the 6-foot-5, 235-pound figure in front of him and can't help but quiver.

"I don't have any," he says, voice cracking.

The student readies to run, then sees the slow smile and hears, "I'm joking!"

Renado Parker's dry sense of humor came out in strange ways near the end of his sophomore year. He found it almost comical that anyone would be afraid of him.

And aggravating.

"I didn't like it because they were scared of me for no reason," Parker said.

These days, Parker is a popular guy at Kentridge, on and off the basketball court, and is too well-known to pull off the gimme-your-lunch-money routine. But opponents still view him as a menacing presence for the sixth-ranked Chargers (21-5), who reached the Class 4A state boys championship game last year before losing in double overtime to Ferris of Spokane.

Kentridge is back at the state tournament, which begins today at the Tacoma Dome. The Chargers, who open at 3:30 p.m. against Edmonds-Woodway and could face No. 1 Ferris on Thursday, likely will go as far as their senior leader carries them. A title would be another step in Parker's remarkable transformation from hot-tempered freshman introvert to wisecracking senior leader.

Despite his ice-cold stare, Parker's friends insist he's a funny guy who loves loud music — even at 6 in the morning — and is upbeat most of the time.

"He's the funniest guy you'll ever meet," teammate Brandon Turner said. "You would never guess his personality. He's the most inviting, caring person you'll ever meet.

"It takes him a while to warm up, but once he warms up to you, you can't shut him up."

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Turner remembers the first time he met Parker, when they played for opposing middle schools in eighth grade.

"I was kind of scared," Turner said. "I'd never seen anyone that big before."

Chris Washington, another teammate, remembers that Parker was shy and quiet until he began to loosen up late his sophomore year. Yet some still don't see the real Renado Parker.

"Most people don't know him," Washington said. "They think he's all mean or intimidating. But really, he's one of the softest guys."

Except on the basketball court, where Parker has been a four-year terror. He became Kentridge's career scoring leader this season and needs 31 rebounds this week to break that career record.

This year, he is averaging 21.9 points, shooting 64 percent from the field, and 9.8 rebounds.

"He's just a monster in the paint," Decatur coach Kevin Olson said. "He always makes big plays. ... Renado's a beast."

Parker admits he has matured since his freshman and sophomore years, when his hot temper and indifferent classroom habits hurt him. He daydreamed in class, rarely did his homework and was academically ineligible for 10 games those first two seasons. Parker is not on track to graduate, which has hindered his recruiting possibilities, but said he hopes to make up the required credits this spring in an alternative program through the Kent School District.

Colleges like Montana, Eastern Washington, Portland and Southern Louisiana are showing interest in him as a nonqualifier, according to Parker and his father, Jerry, which would require him to sit out next season.

The Parkers lived in Louisiana from 1997 to 2004, moving back to the Kent area in time for Renado's eighth-grade year. Parker's older brother, also named Jerry, was making his mark at Kentridge in football and basketball, but students kept telling basketball coach Dave Jamison, "You should see his brother play."

By the time Renado was a freshman, he was playing on a Friends of Hoop AAU team that included stars like Martell Webster and Jon Brockman.

But for all Parker's talent, his temper sometimes hurt him. Jamison still remembers the day his star sophomore walked off the court during a holiday tournament, took off his uniform and watched the rest from the stands, wearing sweats. Jamison had yelled at him during a timeout for something Parker didn't think was his fault.

"I just had to cool down," Parker recalled.

Jamison forced Parker to ride home with him when he refused to take the bus.

"There wasn't a word said the whole way home," Jamison said.

Parker did not show up for the final game of the tournament the next day. Jamison later met with Parker and his father, and Renado was allowed to return to the team after sitting out the next league game.

"Back then, I hadn't earned his trust enough to be able to yell at him," Jamison said. "He still doesn't like to be yelled at, but I don't have to do it very often."

Parker has played every game the past two seasons, leading the Chargers to back-to-back titles in the tough South Puget Sound League North Division. He's quick as well as muscular, handles the ball well enough to go baseline to baseline and shows a deft touch around the basket.

Of course, Parker still loves a good dunk, something he first did as a sixth-grader. He hopes to have a few this week at the Tacoma Dome and help Kentridge make another run to the title game.

And then intimidating Renado Parker will be all smiles.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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