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‘This kid’s different:’ Hart’s Parker Hovey shies from limelight, but it finds him

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior has been a triple-double machine for unbeaten Pirates.

HART – It’s said that a person’s character is revealed by his or her actions when no one is watching.

Everybody sees what Hart senior Parker Hovey is doing on the basketball court. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound point guard is a special player for a Pirates team in the midst of a magical, unbeaten season (18-0). He does not seek attention – in fact, he tends to shy from it – but the spotlight finds him.

A mismatch because of his size, strength and skill set, Hovey is averaging nearly a triple-double. He leads the West Michigan Conference in scoring (25.9 ppg) and assists (9.6 apg), and he ranks second in rebounding (13.3 rpg).

Hart assistant coach Alex Lynn is a believer in Hovey and it has nothing to do with basketball.

Hovey went out to eat one night with Lynn and Caleb Bitely, a Hart senior teammate and cousin of Hovey. As they were getting ready to leave the restaurant, Hovey disappeared for a moment.

“We were getting in the car and didn’t know where Parker went. We kind of turned around and we saw Parker giving a homeless man food and then he said a prayer with him,” Lynn recalled. “That was a really cool moment. That was a really big thing that I looked at, ‘This kid’s different.’ I put him on my inspiration list.”

Hart assistant coach Alex Lynn, second from left, leans over to chat with Hart senior Parker Hovey (24) during a nonconference basketball game against Western Michigan Christian Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Hart, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Hart head basketball coach Nick Bronsema said character is “who we are” and that there are “fakers” and “makers.”

It’s Bronsema’s first season at the Pirates’ helm, but it didn’t take him long to gain trust in Hovey, the 17-year-old son of Jeff and Staci Hovey. Like Lynn, it goes way beyond basketball for Bronsema.

“I trust him first and foremost as a person. I hope my two girls present themselves in the manner he does – to push themselves, especially when no one is around. To treat people the way they want to be treated. If they do, they will live a life of success,” Bronsema said.

Adversity is a great test of character and Hovey encountered it last basketball season.

Near the midway point of the season, Hovey left Hart’s basketball team. He felt it wasn’t the right fit for him and he needed to take a break from the sport for his own peace of mind.

Outsiders may not have understood the decision to step away, but Hovey believed it was necessary. And, as his mother puts it, something has to be Parker’s decision in order for him to be committed to it.

“Sometimes it takes more courage to step away from something – not to make a change, but for yourself,” Staci Hovey said. “Within our family, we just said, ‘You know what, Parker, we will support you 100 percent. It’s your decision.’”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

That didn’t mean Hovey was done with basketball for good. Quite the contrary. He continued to work on his game and lived in the gym – his second home.

While Hovey has been blessed with certain basketball gifts, he’s the player he is because of work ethic.

“He’s always in the gym – he’s in the gym more than anybody else,” Bitely said.

The work is obviously paying off for Hovey and the Pirates.

In addition to his 12 triple-doubles in 18 games, Hovey is averaging 3.2 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. He’s shooting 54 percent inside the 3-point arc, 36.2 percent beyond it and 79 percent from the free-throw line.

People haven’t been this excited about Hart boys basketball since the 1940s heydays. The Pirates are eyeing a perfect regular season and a lengthy postseason run. They’re vying for their first conference title in 60 years.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

“The biggest difference between this year and last year is the type of culture we have now,” Hovey said. “We’ve been super team-oriented and that’s really helped us win games.

“Just being brothers with my teammates has been my favorite part of this season.”

That feeling is reciprocated by his peers.

“He’s such a great friend and teammate, too,” said Hart senior sharpshooter Diego Escamilla, who is on the receiving end of many Hovey passes. “He’s always helping you learn more and just trying to help you elevate your game as much as he is his, so it’s great to have.”

Said Pirates senior Wyatt Dean: “He has a super high basketball IQ. He knows what he’s doing. Having him around will make you better and it’s good to have him. He’ll find you and you’ll definitely get your shot.”

Basketball smarts run in the family. His parents were both high school standouts before going on to play in college. Older sister Jayd is a freshman basketball player at Indiana Wesleyan University. Younger sister Addi is a dynamite sophomore on Hart’s highly successful girls basketball team. His youngest sister, fifth-grader Mya, is an up-and-comer in the sport.

The Hoveys, including Jeff and Staci, back row middle, pose for a portrait with daughters, from left, Jayd, Mya and Addi after Hart’s 37-36 girls basketball win over Montague Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Hart, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Parker Hovey has been offered roster spots by Calvin University and Hope College. He’s also being recruited by the likes of Spring Arbor University and Malone University in Ohio.

Hovey has made it pretty clear that he’d like to play basketball at a Christian-based college, although he’s been recruited for football as well – even if he didn’t recognize it at first. He could make a good tight end or defensive end prospect with that frame.

“During the summer, I got a call from Davenport. I thought it was their basketball coach, so I was talking to him about different stuff and all of a sudden he goes, ‘No, no, I’m a football coach,’” Hovey said with a chuckle. “So, he was trying to recruit me to play football. I had never caught a pass in football, but he was saying, ‘If you’re interested in football, let me know.’”

Whatever happens in college, Hovey has the work ethic and book smarts (3.6 GPA) to find success.

He most certainly has willpower. During his sophomore year, Hovey tipped the scales around 280 pounds, but he committed to making a serious transformation with his body.

Don’t be surprised if Hovey’s basketball future leads him to the coaching bench. That’s also in his blood and he’s been showing that aptitude in the way of leadership this season.

“(In a recent game) he grabbed my clipboard and started talking to the guys on the bench like a coach,” Bronsema said.

“My father-in-law (Russ Doane) has been coaching for many years. I have yet to hear him talk as highly about a former player as he does about Parker Hovey.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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