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Kennard-Dale grad Charlie Parker survives nightmarish accident to realize basketball dream

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • Charlie Parker now runs his own basketball-skills training center called Crunchtime Hoops.
  • The Kennard-Dale High School graduate began running his business full time in March.
  • Parker recently coached his Sideline Cancer team to the final of The Basketball Tournament.
  • Parker survived a frightening work accident in 2018 that severely injured his leg.
Kennard-Dale High School graduate Charlie Parker works a drill with Rylee Kraft during a training camp at the Hempfield Rec Center, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

When Charlie Parker walked out of the doors of the Harley-Davidson offices for the last time in March, he was hit by a wave of emotions.

Parker, a Kennard-Dale High School and Millersville University graduate and a standout basketball player, was on his way to a training session when the reality of the situation finally hit him.

His business, Crunchtime Hoops, was now his full-time career. With Meek Mill playing in the background, Parker broke down as he remembered the ups and downs of the six-year journey that made this moment possible.

“I got in the car, took a deep breath, looked at the Harley-Davidson sign that’s really big outside the front door, started blasting some music and I headed on my way to Lancaster for some workouts and I just started crying,” Parker said. “Just thinking about the fact that I was chasing my dream and thinking about the fact that it was becoming a reality.”

Kennard-Dale High School graduate Charlie Parker works with Rylee Kraft, left, and Autumn Lipson in a skills training camp at the Hempfield Rec Center, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Building his business: Parker began his basketball-skills training business in 2014 while he was an assistant coach at his alma mater after his playing career ended. Since he was coaching in college, Parker was limited by NCAA rules to only work with players under ninth grade because of potential recruiting violations.

Over the years, Parker has built up a roster of clients who range from a 5 year old to professional basketball players. While it might seem appealing to go after players with pro aspirations, Parker gets the most joy from seeing the high school players improve on and off the court.

“I love to work with pros, obviously it’s fun working with the best, as you would say, but I really take pride in growing relationships and growing young players into mature adults as people, but also working on their game to become the best player they can be,” Parker said.

A freak accident: At the same time he started Crunchtime Hoops, Parker began playing for Sideline Cancer in The Basketball Tournament, an event filled with former NCAA stars competing for a $1 million prize.

Parker played for the team for three years before he became the head coach in 2017. The team advanced to the second round in 2017, but had bigger goals for the 2018 event before tragedy struck four days before it was set to begin.

Fifteen minutes into his final shift as a supervisor at the Kellogg’s factory in Lancaster before he transitioned to Harley-Davidson to be closer to home, Parker suffered a devastating injury. A co-worker, operating a vehicle the size of a forklift, hit Parker on his left side and drove him into an idle forklift, pinning his leg in between the massive machines.

“I asked the guy that was driving the vehicle to back up and he asked me if I was OK. I said, ‘No,’ and just laid down on the floor and they sounded the alarm,” Parker said. 

Parker suffered a compound tibia fracture and needed emergency surgery. He had a rod inserted into his leg with screws at the top of his knee and by his ankle. Parker was unable to coach Sideline Cancer in the 2018 event, but did host a practice four days after the accident occurred in Lancaster with the help of a walker.

While he is able to demonstrate drills during training sessions, Parker still suffers from swelling and other issues related to the injury, especially after a vigorous workout.

“I just take it as a blessing that I still have my leg and I’m still able to get around,” Parker said. 

Kennard-Dale High and Millersville University graduate Charlie Parker coaches during The Basketball Tournament. Parker led Sideline Cancer to the event's championship game as the No. 22 seed.

Growing as a coach: In the past two years, Parker guided Sideline Cancer to the round of 16 and the championship game of TBT. In the 2020 event, Sideline Cancer was ranked No. 22 out of 24 teams, but surprisingly reached the final. 

Parker received praise on the ESPN broadcasts of the Sideline Cancer games for his ability to get the team to to work together and play at a high level, while beating multiple teams ranked in the tournament’s top 10.

For the K-D graduate, whether he is working with a middle-school kid or a former NBA player, the goal is to elicit elite performances on the court no matter the skill set.

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“Honestly, it does seem like it’s all over the place,” Parker said. “To me, it’s all the same. My approach is — I want you to be the best that you can be and (whatever) that level is, I just want to bring it out of you.”

Parked admitted that while he is excited that his training business is now profitable enough to be his full-time job, he has entertained the thought of coaching in college or the professional level after the success at TBT.

Sideline Cancer, team with York County ties, loses in $1 million final after unlikely run

“I still am a very firm believer in what I’m doing, but the team coaching still does itch at me sometimes,” Parker said. “The way I look at it — I get to work with kids from all over (the area), I get to work with players from all over. It’s a back and forth, but I really like the direction I’m in right now. I can say, though, that after the TBT it makes me wonder, ‘What could I achieve as a coach in the team game?’”

Enjoying the journey: Parked added that multiple parents of his players reached out after TBT, wishing him good luck in anticipation that he would join a coaching staff somewhere. For now at least, that’s not the plan. 

Kennard-Dale High School graduate Charlie Parker demonstrates a drill to Rylee Kraft, left, and Autumn Lipson, not shown, during a training camp at the Hempfield Rec Center, Monday, July 27, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

It took a lot of hard work, pain and suffering to get Crunchtime Hoops to the point where it could be his full-time career. The journey was a challenging one, but Parker proved he can coach players at all levels at this year’s TBT event.

From laying on the floor praying that he would still have a leg two years ago, to now training basketball players five-to-six days per week, Parker still hasn’t processed how far he has come in a few years, but he is grateful for the opportunities he has had.

“I just take it day by day,” Parker said. “It really hasn’t hit me. I’m just focused on my next training session ... I can’t believe I can do something I love to do and help kids, be a mentor, a (positive) influence on the community and do what I love.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.