Jordan Parks embedded the silly comment in his mind like directions to his home in Queens, N.Y.
During his four years at N.C. Central, he’s received tongue-lashings from coach LeVelle Moton, many times. For some reason, the coaches’ comment during a game at Howard last season sticks in his mind. Parks, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, has a collection of blue Nike Elite socks and wears them often.
Those socks drew Moton’s ire.
“He got (mad) at me,” Parks said. “He said, ‘You know what? The next time you wear those blue socks, I’m docking you $10 per sock.’ I was so stuck. What do my socks have to do with this?”
Parks, now a team leader, stopped wearing the socks for a while, better to be safe. Yet, he learned, it’s the little things that upset Moton the most.
“You get in trouble for the littlest of things,” said Parks, who has endured worse outbursts from his coach in four seasons. “The small things add up to the big things. … You have to really pay attention to detail here. You can come out and miss a line and he’s going to explode like you just lost a game.”
Moton, a former Enloe standout, said this week that one possession could be the difference between a team capturing the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and a team going home empty-handed.
He’s here to lead his alma mater to back-to-back conference titles, a tall task made all the harder considering the target the Eagles (26-5) are wearing as the No. 1 seeds.
The Eagles entered this tournament undefeated in conference play, with an undefeated conference streak of 35 consecutive wins dating to 2012-13. The pressure and stakes have Moton, a man who can tell a joke, smiling less away from Scope Arena and grim-faced in front of the bench.
He’s calling out every mistake these days in preparation for Friday’s semifinal game against the winner of Thursday night’s game between Delaware and Howard.
After smashing Coppin State in the opening round, the Eagles return for a matchup they anticipate will be tougher. With that in mind, Moton and his staff are fine-tuning game plans, knowing the team’s only route to the NCAA tournament is by capturing the conference tournament on Saturday and earning an automatic berth.
“It may not mean as much to ACC teams because they get six or seven bids,” Moton said. “… To us it means the world because we get one. Whoever is that dog that grabs the bone on Saturday that’s the guy that goes.”
N.C. Central players such as Park, who is leading the conference with a 64.2 percent field-goal percentage, have bought into Moton’s approach and accepted that from time to time he may erupt.
“It keeps me on my P’s and Q’s,” Parks said. “Everything I do, I know I have his eyes on me.”
As for his rough language with Parks, Moton said, “Love language. … He’s from the housing projects in Queens, so you have to talk to him the way I was spoken to. That’s not for everybody.”
Parks shrugs it off.
“It never really crossed my mind to leave,” he said. “It kind of threw me off a little because when he starts to get into you, you’re confused about where you sit with him. You have to look past that. Sometimes he says things that might be a bit harsh but there’s a message in it. You have to find that message and remove everything else.”
Even your socks.