- Tom Archdeacon columnist
As he sat in the Mills Morgan Center waiting for basketball practice to begin the other day, he was asked about the one glitch in his career.
“I don’t like to think about it,” Parker Ernsthausen, Wright State’s 6-foot-11 center, said with a tiny shake of the head, then a slight smile.
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Was he referring to early in his Raider days when he played sparingly?
Or maybe a more recent outing where he missed some easy shots or had an anemic line in the box score?
No, no and no.
He was talking about a class he simply called “Tax 1.”
As he’s set to graduate from Wright State on Saturday with a dual major in accounting and finance and a 3.6 grade-point average, it remains the only college class in which he’s ever gotten a C.
“It’s kind of a notorious class here, but then in Tax 2, I ended up getting an A, which most people don’t,” he said proudly. “So I like to consider it a net B for those two classes.”
Even a B is a rarity for Ernsthausen, who has completed his undergrad studies in 3 ½ years while at the same time turning himself into a sure-shooting starter for the Raiders.
The latter is why he won’t march in Saturday’s graduation ceremonies.
He’ll be in the lineup that afternoon when visiting Wright State tips off against the Toledo Rockets at Savage Arena.
He’ll take part in WSU’s cap and gown ceremony next spring.
“I’ll be able to walk then with my other teammates who came in here with me,” he said. “I’d rather do that. It will be a nice finale to four years here.”
But it won’t be the end for him as a Raider. Since he redshirted as a freshman, he’ll be able to play next season. And soon after that he plans to have completed a master’s degree in accounting at WSU, as well.
All this is more proof that Ernsthausen truly is the Big Man on Campus (B.M.O.C.) at Wright State.
Although he said he’s more like 6-foot-10, an inch shorter than he’s listed on the WSU roster, he has seen a taller student on campus.
And he certainly embraces the student part of his student-athlete designation.
“I know there’s a stereotype in college — that we’re here just to play college basketball — but I think I’m proving I’m here to get my education,” he said. “To me that’s key.”
And that’s why the questions he hears are different now.
“When I get out in the community — say like a restaurant or something — people will start to ask me those same questions and I’ll just go on and finish their sentences,” he smiled.
“It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m 6-foot-10,’ and ‘Yeah, I play basketball here.’ ”
But this past summer when he went on interviews for an internship and possible future employment with a Big 4 accounting firm and another with regional prominence, he said the queries were different.
“A lot of people seemed surprised (by his academic resume) and their first question was ‘How do you keep your grades up?’ ” he said.
“I’d tell them, ‘I guess my only answer is that I never had an option. Growing up I did basketball and I did school and school was first.
Always a student first
Ernsthausen grew up in Bowling Green, where his dad is a veterinarian and his mom worked in the banking industry for two decades before switching to run his dad’s practice.
From the onset he said his parents took an interest in his education.
“I’d come home at night and if I needed help, my mom would go through my social studies and another topic and my dad took the other sections and they’d quiz me about it,” he said.
When he got to high school he commuted to Toledo St. John’s a half hour away. In the early part of basketball season that meant getting up at 6:45 a.m. and not getting home — since basketball practice didn’t begin until 5 p.m. — until almost 9 p.m.
Just as he had done in grade school, he put his homework first and did it right after school in that window of free time before practice began.
While he did well academically at St. John’s, his basketball was a work in progress. As a ninth-grader, he was a skinny 5-10 and was relegated to the freshman B team. Although he grew six inches by the next year, he played JV as a sophomore.
Another season and another growth spurt got him on varsity for his last two years in high school. But because he blossomed late and hadn’t played for a big-time AAU program, his college offers were limited.
With his mom’s help, he said he sent out “cold” emails to over 100 colleges trying to draw interest. He got some response, but wouldn’t compromise the student part of his being a student athlete.
“I definitely didn’t want to go someplace just to play basketball,” he said. “There were a couple of places who offered good basketball opportunities, but not what I wanted education-wise.
“When Wright State popped up, it couldn’t have been better.”
Ernsthausen was recruited by then-assistant coach Brendan Mullins and given an opportunity by former Raiders head coach Billy Donlon.
He redshirted his initial 2014-15 season at WSU and then played sparingly the next season. Last year Scott Nagy replaced Donlon and Ernsthausen continued to develop, which was never more evident than in a late-January game against Oakland when he scored a career-high 24 points in 25 minutes, making 8 of 10 field-goal attempts and 8 of 9 free throws.
Yet as he continues to evolve on the court — he’s averaging 5 points and 2.3 rebounds this season — he’d rather be known for his performance in the classroom.
“I’m always identified first as a basketball player because of my height,” he said. “But personally I’d rather be identified as a student first.”
Gets a good seat
That effort is helped along a bit by a practice Nagy and his staff have installed.
“Coach Goss (WSU director of operations Nick Goff) reaches out to our professors and we have sheets we have to have the teachers sign,” Ernsthausen said. “It gets us conversing with our teachers and helps especially with the classes we have to miss because of basketball (travel). It helps show we’re serious about academics.”
For him that’s not a problem: “I’ve always enjoyed school and being in the classroom.”
And he said when he graduates he believes he’ll be a hotter commodity as a business hire than a towering basketball player.
After he gets his master’s — and with a Big 4 job offer in the works — he said he’d be more prone to enter the business world than pursue pro basketball overseas.
“It’s in the back of my mind, but it would really have to be the right situation,” he said. “I don’t want to sacrifice my early career just to say I played pro basketball somewhere. It’s just because I worked so hard with my academics.”
By now you know Parker Ernsthausen isn’t a stereotypical student-athlete, and here’s one more example.
When it comes to class, he said he never sits in the back
“I don’t think I ever have,” he said. “That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s too easy to get distracted and not pay attention.”
And so he sits up front.
But isn’t that tough on his fellow students who must try to see around or over his towering frame?
“Yeah, that could be tough,” he smiled. “That’s why I always try to sit up front, but on one side of the room or the other.”
While he has no qualms blocking an opponent’s shot, he doesn’t want to block a fellow student’s view.