Parker Ernsthausen grinned and shook his head as he recounted the exchanges: “Yeah, I’m hearing all the jokes now.”
Although still 22, Ernsthausen is the oldest player on the Wright State team that opens its season Wednesday night against Western Carolina at the Nutter Center. A fifth-year redshirt senior, he’s already played in 98 games for the Raiders.
He graduated with a double major – finance and accounting – last December and this spring will get his master’s degree in accountancy, as well. After that he has a job waiting for him as an auditor for Deloitte in Phoenix, Arizona. He’ll begin in October.
“They say you grow up in college,” the 6-foot-11 Ernsthausen said with a smile. “Well, I think I kind of grew up on steroids in college.”
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He was talking figuratively – not literally – but there is no denying his transformation has been Incredible Hulk-like when it comes to eclipsing preconceived notion, if not adding thick layers of muscle.
When Ernsthausen came to Wright State out of Toledo St. John’s High in the fall of 2014, he weighed just 195 pounds and was lightly recruited. Needing to build up his body and his game, he promptly was red-shirted for a season.
The following year then-coach Billy Donlon and his staff weren’t sure Ernsthausen would develop like they had hoped. He said he was told he might play “zero minutes” that season and that they were looking to recruit a European big man (they brought in 6-8 Daniel Mortensson from Denmark) to help fit their needs.
Ernsthausen said he faced a similar challenge a year later when Scott Nagy took over for Donlon before the 2016-17 season and he was told he might not “fit” the program.
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Each time he was rattled but did not retreat. He huddled with his parents – David is a veterinarian in Bowling Green and wife Linda now helps run the practice – who said he could either transfer or meet the challenge head on.
He chose the latter. Throughout the summer of 2017 he spent extra time in the gym and the weight room and also began a new nutritional program his mother came up with. He ended up 230 pounds.
He started all 35 games last season as the Raiders won the Horizon League title, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and finished 25-10.
But as this season begins, he’ll likely be coming off the bench again – as he did Wednesday – for a Raiders team picked in the preseason to win the Horizon League.
Although he admits he wants to start – “I’m a competitive guy and like all the 13 guys in our locker room, you’d like to hear your name called,” – Ernsthausen said he’s a team player first and will do what he’s asked.
He knows that he’ll likely be the first player off the bench, his minutes won’t change and that he now has a firm believer in Nagy.
Last year Nagy said he apologized to Ernsthausen about his initial assessment: “I was wrong about him.”
And the other day Nagy called him the Raiders’ best team defender and one of the smartest guys he’s ever coached.
Against Notre Dame Ernsthausen played 20 minutes and ended up with seven points, six rebounds, a team-leading four steals and four assists.
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In the classroom, his numbers are especially impressive. His undergrad degree came with an overall 3.6 grade point average. This term, he’s taking four graduate classes – two in accounting, a data analysis course and a law class.
“Every day I go back to my apartment and kind of think about how I’m one step closer to this whole journey coming to an end,” he said. “And I want to finish it out right.”
Here I am
Because he blossomed late in high school – as a 5-10 ninth grader he played on the freshman B team and as a sophomore he was on JV – he didn’t draw a lot of early college interest. He said his mom helped him send out 100 “cold e-mails” to college programs trying to drum up interest.
He said maybe 30 schools responded, but few offered scholarships and even fewer fit his requirement that academics would not be overshadowed or compromised by athletics.
He said when then Raiders assistant, Brendan Mullins, began recruiting him, he realized Wright State was the answer.
Although his basketball now has vastly improved, he admits “I’m still not the guy who’s going to score 20 a night for you.”
But he said he tries to do a lot of other things to get people involved, whether it’s ball screens or talking charges or back door passes with Mark Hughes or guarding the other team’s big man.
“I take pride in all that,” he said. “It’s kind of been my ticket to get on the floor.”
After averaging 9.1 minutes a game as redshirt freshman in the 2015-16 season, his playing time more than doubled the following season. He started nine of the 31 games he played in and had a career night at Oakland, scoring 24 points in 25 minutes as Wright State pulled off the upset.
After last season’s run to the NCAA Tournament he drew praise from everyone – Donlon, Nagy several former Raiders who had been his teammates in the early years – all who knew, as he put it, “my journey hasn’t been the smoothest.”
It’s all in the dynamics
While he comes from northwestern Ohio, Ernstahausen has had teammates from all over the U.S. and as far away as New Zealand during his five seasons at WSU.
“I like the dynamics of it,” he said. “Basketball stretches the friendship group you interact with. Guys on the team come from all different cultures, all different places, all different walks of life. I think that’s something valuable I’ll take forward in my career.”
He said one of the best lessons he’s learned from college basketball has been to “be consistent.”
“Show up every day. Make sure people know what they’re getting from you. If you put that consistency together for days, then years, now you can build something. That’s what I did.”
That, too, will translate to his future.
And while he likely would have a chance to play pro ball overseas, he said he discussed the options with his family and decided instead to embark on his accounting career.
“My ultimate goal – and I know some people laugh at me on the inside when they hear this – is to be a CEO or a CFO,” he said. “I know it’s way down the road, but that is my goal.
“But I also know people laughed at me when I told them I wanted to play college basketball. And look how that’s worked out.”
As the ref said the other day:
“What are you, a ninth-year senior now?”