When former Arizona Wildcats forward Kevin Parrom arrived in Ukraine last month, he soon found out that starting a pro basketball career wasn’t just about the basketball.
Fortunately, he had a friend and former teammate in Kyryl Natyazhko, a native of Ukraine who has been playing elsewhere in the country.
“I was like, ‘Kyryl, what can I eat?’ What will I like? What should I do?’ “ Parrom said. “He was telling me a lot about what to do, what not to do. Kyryl was a big help to me.”
Unfortunately for Parrom, however, the new experience didn’t last long. He was let go by his club in Cherkasy after playing in just one game, when he collected two rebounds and two steals over nine minutes, and he’s starting over again this week with the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley (Texas) Vipers.
“It was a decent organization and I learned a lot from it,” Parrom said of Cherkasy, speaking Monday from McAllen, Texas, where the Vipers will open training camp this week. “But as a team we didn’t play well; we didn’t have any chemistry. As an organization, they wanted changes, so there were no hard feelings.
“It was a misunderstanding of what they wanted me to do. I learned as a rookie, you’ve gotta be ready.”
It was the second setback of Parrom’s pro career, after he broke a finger during a pro showcase event in July and missed several weeks afterward.
Rather than test the European market again in the early season, which could have been difficult, Parrom opted to return to Tucson after leaving Ukraine.
He put his name in the D-League draft, waited, worked out, and was taken by the Vipers in the second round Friday. Then, two days after the draft, he flew to Texas and moved into an apartment in order to adjust before camp starts.
As the fourth player drafted by the Vipers — Rio Grande Valley may also have three players assigned by parent Houston and one returnee — Parrom may have good odds to make the 10-man roster.
“It should be fun,” Parrom said. “I’m just ready to go hard and make this a good situation.”
Whatever the future brings, though, there’s little doubt where the native New Yorker will return between basketball stops.
“I’m a Tucson kid now,” he said, chuckling. “They’ve adopted me.”
Another shot for Stoudamire
Meanwhile, UA guard Salim Stoudamire will launch a comeback attempt with Fort Wayne (Ind.) of the D-League, which picked him in the fifth round since his old D-League rights had expired.
Stoudamire played three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks upon leaving UA in 2005, and with two D-League clubs previously, but was out of the game for most of the past two seasons.
“If he can do what he used to, he’ll be one of the best shooters around,” Fort Wayne President Jeff Potter told the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
“He played in the D-League a couple years and stepped away from the game the last two years. Now he wants to make another go at it. I played with his brother (Antoine) at Oregon so I know Salim and his work ethic and how good he is.”
In all, seven former Arizona players are scheduled to play in D-League camps, counting transfers Zane Johnson (Hawaii) and Garland Judkins (Texas A&M Corpus Christi).
When the Toronto Raptors hired former UA administrative aide Jesse Mermuys as an assistant coach for this season, that left an opening with the Rockets, where Mermuys was an assistant coach and director of player development.
Houston filled his role with several personnel, including ex-UA player and coach Matt Brase, who served as an assistant coach at Rio Grande Valley last season.
Brase said he sits behind the bench at all home games and splits road trips with another associate, helping provide additional training with younger players.
“It’s mainly development of the younger guys, putting them through the workouts they need to go through,” Brase said. “With the guys leaving (college) early now, they have talent but they’re not always quite ready.”
— ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said UA guard T.J. McConnell is “the difference between being very good and good” on a media conference call Monday. Bilas also spoke highly of UA’s frontcourt players and overall athleticism, but said “the question is whether they can shoot the ball from the perimeter or not.”
— Freshman Aaron Gordon was named to the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year award watch list by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Gordon was the only Pac-12 player listed, while Kentucky had four freshmen and Kansas two on the 10-player list.