During senior forward Cheyenne Parker’s short career at Middle Tennessee, she has racked up multiple awards and record-breaking statistics.
On Jan. 31, during a match against UAB, Parker became the first Blue Raider in MTSU women’s basketball history to record a triple-double.
Along with her scoring and rebounding ability, Parker set the MTSU single-game and single-season block records.
Entering what was eventually her final game in a Blue Raider uniform against long-time rival Western Kentucky, Parker ranked in the top 20 of six NCAA Division I categories: offensive rebounds (first), triple-doubles (second), field goal percentage (seventh), blocked shots (sixth), rebounds (16th) and double-doubles (20th).
Even with her nationally ranked stats and numerous accomplishments in her nearly mistake-free run, Parker made one error that cost the star forward her collegiate career.
On Feb. 27th, the Middle Tennessee athletic department released a statement saying Parker was dismissed from the team for violations of athletic department policy.
The next day, Parker received a letter that confirmed her release from Middle Tennessee’s women’s basketball program.
“It was Friday morning and I was called in to meet with the athletic director (Chris Massaro) and coach (Rick Insell),” Parker said. “The athletic director actually suspended me at first, and then that Saturday I received a letter. Enclosed, it said that I’m dismissed from the team for good.”
The reasoning behind her dismissal?
“It was for a failed drug test,” Parker said of her removal from the team. “It was marijuana.”
Parker had been suspended for the first five games of this season for the same offense.
“It leads you to think that I don’t care about my career, and I do because it’s what I want to do with my future,” Parker said about her second failed test. “I don’t really have a reason as to why I risked it. I’ve been getting counseling and trying to figure that out myself. I’m just trying to move forward from it.”
Although Parker’s two failed drug tests were at MTSU, it wasn’t anything new, her initial exposure coming earlier in her life.
Parker grew up in Queens, New York, in the borough’s Far Rockaway neighborhood. Far Rockaway was one of the better areas to live in Queens, but right down the street was Parker’s family, who lived in Jamaica.
Jamaica was an impoverished borough of Queens and was notorious for its drug activity in the 1980s. Since then, the crime rate has dwindled down.
“It was a lot of poverty,” Parker said of growing up in Queens. “Where I lived it wasn’t terrible, but right down the street was horrific. Going outside to play wasn’t always the best thing that I could do growing up as a child. That was probably the biggest struggle, just not knowing what people were thinking of doing.”
Parker eventually moved to High Point, North Carolina, which afforded her more opportunities to play basketball since leagues in Queens were scarce at the time.
“I played for fun growing up and my mom and dad tried to get me involved in a lot of leagues, but there wasn’t very much offered,” she said. “I really didn’t get very involved with organized basketball until I moved to the south.”
Parker attended Southwest Guilford High School, where she was a two-year letter winner and helped lead her team to the Piedmont Triad 4-A Conference Championship.
Her senior year, Parker started to receive interest from High Point University, located in the same town as her high school. During her first visit there, the only visit she took, Parker immediately signed with them.
The 6-foot-4 forward played up to her junior season at High Point, averaging 10.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
In the end, however, High Point turned out to be exactly that: a high point.
“One thing I can say is that I’m a college student first, and it’s always around,” Parker said of her marijuana usage at the university. “At High Point, it had become a norm. I’m going to keep it completely honest, it was something that I did and it wasn’t a big deal at High Point. And so, when I came here it was just a complete different outlook on the subject of marijuana.”
“I guess I just took it a little too lightly and thought that I could get away with it…and I didn’t.”
After three seasons at High Point, Parker chose to transfer to Middle Tennessee after seeing the success of its Mass Communications program, as well as that of MTSU coach Rick Insell and the Blue Raiders.
When Parker officially transferred, she had to sit out the 2013-14 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
“I came to MTSU because I wanted more exposure,” Parker said. “The university, for one, has a great (electronic media communication) program. On the athletics side, it has a great coach and a great program. I looked at that as an opportunity to get more exposure for the next level.”
Even with her transfer to Middle Tennessee, old habits remained the same.
“It sucks that it happened,” Parker said about her eventual dismissal. “At the same time, I feel like it had to happen. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I had to have a serious wake-up call before I do enter into the real world.”
Parker’s dismissal from Middle Tennessee comes at a critical time for the Blue Raiders as they prepare for the C-USA tournament next week in Birmingham.
The Blue Raiders’ first game without Parker was a 62-57 loss against UAB on Feb. 28th, the day she received her letter of dismissal.
Parker has been in contact with her former teammates since being kicked off the team, and that communication seemed to have made an impact after the Blue Raiders dismantled Florida International, 79-30, on Thursday night.
“I told the whole team it’s time to move forward and you can’t dwell on it,” Parker said. “You can’t think about anything regarding me. We’re a team so everybody just has to step up and play their hearts out.”
One person who has not communicated with the transfer forward is Coach Rick Insell.
“I would assume I’m not his favorite person,” Parker said of her former coach. “I’ve let him down so many times I doubt that he wants anything to do with me, and I don’t blame him. But like I said, this happened for a reason.”
The Blue Raiders close out their regular season this Saturday against Florida Atlantic, which was supposed to be senior night for Parker.
Instead, she had to call her parents and tell them she was no longer with the team.
“It was hard to have to break it to them, especially since they were coming for senior night,” Parker said. “That was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do.”
Despite her recent string of failed drug tests, Parker is still in good academic standing at MTSU, and is looking to reach a goal that is still within reach.
Parker hopes to make a WNBA roster.
“It looks bad, but I think that if I take action and bust my butt and work really hard, I think I can get it done,” she said. “Nobody’s perfect, everybody has been down a road, if not that road a different road. It’s just about overcoming it and moving forward from it.”
For more Blue Raider sports, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.
To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.