MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - At 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Memphis Tigers forward Mike Parks Jr. is a big dude, so naturally Parks' smile is big.
Parks had his massive grin on display Tuesday, as he picked up 21 points and 11 rebounds in the Tigers 73-49 win over UConn at FedExForum--his first career double-double.
"I was happy man," Parks said. "You got to have fun playing the game. If you ain't having fun, I don't know what you're doing."
Parks' transition from Southwest Mississippi Community College to Division-I basketball hasn't been all that smooth though.
This is Parks' first year as a Memphis Tiger, and early in the season he had trouble finding the basket, and sometimes even seeing the floor in key moments.
But, over the last four games--all of which the Tigers have won--Parks has scored double-digit points and looks more comfortable on the floor.
"I just had to stay focused on the game plan," he said. "I was going through a lot, but I had to overcome that. Now it's just coming. I prayed to God, and just kept working hard, and now it's here and it keeps coming."
Parks has averaged 16.3 points per game over the last four wins--a big improvement from his season average of 6.7 points per game.
Tigers head coach Tubby Smith points to Parks making lifestyle changes for his recent success.
"He had to lose a lot of weight when he came here," Smith said. "Now he's eating properly. So I think it's helping him, and he's getting the treatment. He's been responsible about getting in the training room, getting ice and everything else done."
If the Tigers want to continue to their winning streak, they'll need Parks to continue to play a key role.
Memphis has a spark plug in point guard Jeremiah Martin, who's averaging a team-high 18.6 points per game, but he can't do it alone. Martin knows that, and the Tigers captain is encouraging Parks to play with effort.
"I be on him, though," Martin said. "I be yelling at him. Kind of fire him up, and it makes him play hard."
The Tigers return to action on Saturday, Jan. 20 on the road against Tulsa at 7 p.m.
Memphis started its four-game win streak against the Golden Hurricane in a 76-67 win at FedExForum two weeks ago. Parks scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Tulsa.