My rookie season, as told by TNT KaTropa's Ray Parks

Ray Parks was traded to TNT late in the 2019 season. Ernie Sarmiento/ESPN5

Bobby Ray Parks Jr. was nothing short of impressive in his much-awaited rookie season in the PBA.

After a stellar stint in the Asean Basketball League that saw him win three Most Valuable Player awards, one finals MVP and one title, Parks made his way to the PBA and was drafted by Blackwater with the no. 2 pick in the 2018 Draft. Parks made the playoffs twice in his freshman year -- first with the Elite in the Commissioner's Cup, and later with TNT in the Governors' Cup after a late-season trade.

In 32 games with TNT and Blackwater, Parks averaged 18.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals, earning him a spot in 2019 All-Rookie Team. Parks has set loftier goals for himself with TNT. Aside from a title, the 27-year-old swingman says he's gunning to be a star on the defensive end once the season restarts.

What was it like getting selected in the PBA Draft?

It was a blessing and a privilege. A lot of people dream of playing in the PBA. I just trusted that God would put me in a place and position that He wants me to be in. Blackwater never reached out to me personally, but I guess they made it known through the media.

Take us through the emotions you had during your first PBA game. Did anything surprise you or did you feel comfortable right off the bat?

I was excited to take on the new challenges. I wanted to change the culture to a winning and respectable one. To be honest, I felt I could have done better, but I'm glad we got the win. The main factor that gave me problems was the basketballs because the PBA switched to a new basketball and they weren't broken in yet, so they were very slippery.

What were the biggest adjustments you had to make as you shifted to the PBA?

Not a lot, really. I've been playing pro since I left college. I played in the NBA Summer League, the NBA D-League, and also played in the ABL for a couple of years. The change was just the style of play of the PBA, the physicality and how the game would be called. If you drive past someone and they hip check you, you have to take the bump and continue your dribble in order to get the call or get to the basket. I definitely also needed to use more jump stops in order to take the hit and be balanced.

What were the toughest challenges you faced during your first year?

Just adjusting to the new system and new team, especially being traded [to TNT] mid-season. I didn't want to step on anyone's toes, I just wanted to help and fit in. I did my best to adjust amidst the short time. The management, coaches, and players welcomed me with open arms and tried to make my transition as quick and smooth as possible. I had to learn the system and learn what role they wanted from me. I wish we had more time so that I can fully know the system and synchronize with the team.

What are things you learned about the PBA, players or coaches that you didn't know before?

Each coach has their own regimen and way of coaching. Each team has their own culture. Each player has their own routine and set of beliefs. I gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom from my veterans.

When I got drafted to Blackwater, my vet was Mike Cortez and he really took me under his wing. I enjoyed learning and learned a lot from him. When I was young, I looked up to Harvey (Carey), Ryan (Reyes), Jay-Wash (Washington), Kelly (Williams), and Jayson (Castro). They really helped me a lot in my transition when i got to TNT.

Name a favorite/memorable moment you had during your rookie year.

Being able to team up with my old [Summer League] teammate, Alex Stepheson, and make a run to make the playoffs, and from the team winning two games in the prior conference to being just one shot away from making the semis. Playing with Stepheson definitely helped a lot, and I loved how coach just let us play and allowed us to get the rhythm of the game. Coach [Aris] Dimaunahan did a great job.

How do you plan to take your game to the next level, and how are you able to do that amid the pandemic?

By continuing to grind and work as hard as I can. Safety is definitely priority and it's tough to work out, but you have to be a professional. I don't post a lot of the stuff that I do, but let's just say I still get the job done to put in work someway somehow. Have to turn a negative into a positive.

Any positive takeaways from your first year that you can carry into this season?

Just being more motivated to get a championship since that is the ultimate goal. I know we need to work harder and take advantage of every moment.

In elevating your game, do you see a bigger role for yourself with TNT?

I definitely have a much clearer aspect of what my role is, and I have to be a defensive anchor and be able to do my best to slow down whoever my assignment is on the opposing team. We have a lot of guys that can score and carry the offensive load.