I dusted off the old Q&A this week and spoke with Gilbert Parga of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. Originally from Los Angeles, Parga is a junior forward that sat out all season last year after he transferred from Citrus College. He’s a 22-year-old finance major. In 10 games so far, he has averaged 11.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Brooklyn Eagle Sports: I noticed reading your bio that you sat out your first year at Citrus College, what happened?
Gilbert Parga: Well, I sat out my first year because I wasn’t ready to play physically. I was much smaller than everyone at 6-foot-1 and 160-pounds, and I grew quite a bit since then and now I’m weighing in at 6-foot-4 and 205-pounds.
BES: That’s a lot of growth for a college student. How did you do it?
GP: Obviously the height part was natural, but the size I put on by weight lifting. When I was in high school, I tried to lift on my own because that’s not something that the basketball team did. We didn’t have strength and conditioning coaches. Their entire focus was study hall over lifting.
BES: So you started your lifting program at Citrus?
GP: Yeah, when I got there I was struggling benching 145 pounds and coaches said there was no way I could compete even with the skills I’ve had. That whole year every single day, I got a gym membership, I started lifting on my own, worked on my game every single day without a break, on my shot everything.
BES: That’s quite a work ethic to put on about 45 pounds…
GP: Ever since I was a kid, my parents can attest, I was always working on my game, but it was never applied to the weight room. I figured I already work hard on my game and could apply it to this as well. It was more than just bouncing a ball.
BES: Once you finally started playing at Citrus, how did you do?
GP: I was average, it wasn’t anything spectacular, my percentages weren’t astronomical, I played like a normal freshman that did what he was supposed to and nothing outside of that. I’m the kind of person that as time goes on I get better and adjust, my second year in points and rebounds and assists doubled. I went from 8 points to 18 points my sophomore year and I went from 35 percent to 45 percent from 3-point line. That’s what I was known for my sophomore year.
BES: So how do you go from Citrus to LIU?
GP: I was being scouted by a coach from Iona and when he took a job at LIU, I decided to follow him. We had a good relationship and after I visited, I thought it was a better fit for me to come to a situation where the coach was more familiar with me. I always figured that I was going to live in California no matter what, so i thought why not take a drastic change from one side to the other and just ended up in New York.
BES: Has that changed? When you graduate do you plan on moving back to Cali?
GP: Yeah, I’ll probably move back after school.
BES: What has adjusting to Brooklyn been like for you?
GP: I like it, it’s just the weather part that is hard to adjust to. Really hard to adjust to, I’m still not used to. But, to be honest, it’s not much of an adjustment because I’m a home body anyway. I’m in my room doing my school work or in the gym.
BES: Were there any other schools you were considering besides LIU Brooklyn?
GP: I was considering staying at UC Riverside, but there weren’t a lot of schools that were still recruiting me by the time I made my decision. A lot of the ones that I had been in contact with had already given away their scholarships.
BES: What was the adjustment like on the basketball court?
GP: Just like my first year, I noticed that these guys are much more stronger than the guys in the junior school because they’re upperclassmen. It was another step forward, I had to up my weight training and condition and my game had to adjust to the speed and size of these players. I used that whole year off to gauge myself and compete with them until I was more comfortable.
BES: So you felt like that additional year off made a big impact?
GP: Most definitely because the guys I was playing against in practice every day were some of the best players in the conference and more experienced. Learning from them and playing against them every day helped me and it is reflecting this season.
BES: LIU Brooklyn has won the last three NEC titles, but you’ve dealt with a lot of injuries. What are your thoughts on the team this year?
GP: I would say that this year is more of an enduring kind of year. Not knowing what is going to happen the next day. You can’t dwell on the things that you don’t have and ou just have to push and work with what you have. It’s a no excuses, we just have to keep going kind of year. Some of the things that we thought we had at the beginning of the year aren’t there, but we still have to achieve.
BES: One of those things you thought you had was obviously Julian Boyd. What was the emotional toll on the team when you found out that he needed a third knee surgery and wouldn’t be back this year?
GP: It’s tough because you see the progression that he made and what he was working on outside of basketball so that he could have the season he wants and win a final championship. It hurts, you don’t want anybody to end a season like that. Especially with the career he’s had, you want him to go out with something much more.
BES: Obviously you still have a chance to win, but it is much harder now…
GP: Most definitely, we have five or six players reaching in double digit scoring. Offense isn’t an issue, Julian would have just added to what we have. You can’t really key on a certain player. Defense seems to be the issue, but we’re still getting comfortable playing with each other. I think we still have something special here.
BES: Tell the readers what you are like away from the court.
GP: I like to stay relaxed, I’m a laid back person. I’m kind of boring, I don’t like to go out. I like to put my focus toward school and basketball.
BES: Do you have any superstitions when it comes to basketball?
GP: One and I don’t like telling people because it’s weird. I’ll share it with you though. I don’t like touching people with my right hand before the game or when I’m playing. It’s because of Space Jam. In that movie, they take the powers away from the players by touching their right hands and, I know it’s silly, but I’ve always avoided letting anyone touch my hand because of that. I don’t want my powers to be taken away (laughs).
I want to thank Gilbert for taking the time to speak with me for this article. His Blackbirds are still looking for their first Northeast Conference win and will go up against Fairleigh Dickinson at LIU Brooklyn on Thursday. You can also read past LIU Brooklyn student-athlete Q&A’s here.