Sydney Parrish doesn’t like to lose.
Another who’s heard her speak postgame, or seen her play for more than a minute or two knows this to be true. The homegrown Hoosier is tenacious, always doing whatever it takes to help the team.
Given that competitive drive, it comes as no surprise that Parrish is using Indiana’s 2023 NCAA Tournament early exit as motivation heading into this year.
“For me at least, I’m not over it. People still mention it a lot and it kind of hurts. I think that’ll just be another thing that drives us through the season,” said Parrish, when asked about the No. 1-seed Hoosiers’ 70-68 second round loss to No. 9-seed Miami at Media Day last month.
The loss stung for all parties involved, but perhaps for Parrish more than most, as it came a year after her No. 5-seed Oregon Ducks were bounced from the tourney by No. 12-seed Belmont 73-70 (OT) in 2022. That’s back-to-back upsets by a combined five points for Parrish.
Luckily for the Hamilton County all-time leading scorer, however, she and her collegiate teammates will have a chance to make amends in 2023-24. They return nearly every piece from a Big Ten title-winning roster and are gaining reinforcements from the recruiting trail and transfer portal.
They’ll get another shot, and the chip on Parrish’s shoulder could be what tips the scale this time around.
On the court
After spending two years at the University of Oregon, last season was the former Indiana Miss Basketball’s first as a Hoosier. It didn’t look that way, though.
Parrish gelled with her new teammates immediately, developing quick chemistry up and down the roster.
She started the year coming off the bench. A high-motor, physical guard, Parrish excelled in a “super sub” role in Indiana’s first six games.
Whether it was a score, steal, or foul drawn, Parrish seemed to have a knack for “juice” plays, and often sparked Indiana runs by going the extra mile. She played the Sixth Player role extremely well.
Injuries promoted Parrish to the starting lineup on November 26 versus Memphis and she never looked back, starting all 25 remaining tilts.
She averaged 12 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game on the year.
Parrish was at her best a season ago when acting as a spot shooter within Indiana’s offense. She ranked second on the team in 3-pointers made (55) and third in 3-point percentage (.367).
What makes Parrish so valuable as a shooter is that her threes truly come from deep, often being hit from at least two full steps beyond the arc:
Parrish’s range is essential to Indiana’s scheme because it’s what forces overextensions.
Those couple extra feet are usually enough to spread defenses (who are already in Hell, trying to cover three lethal shooters and an All-American post) too thin, leaving swathes of open floor available for Mackenzie Holmes beneath the basket. The Hoosiers do not finish Top-6 in scoring offense without Parrish’s willingness to play without the ball.
She does more than just shoot threes though. Never scared of contact, Parrish got to the line (70-98, 71%) more than any Indiana guard aside from Chloe Moore-McNeil and is a capable slasher given her length at 6-2. She’s also known to push the pace, and can serve as both an initiator and finisher in transition.
Bonus note: Parrish was the best player on the floor during Indiana’s overseas exhibitions this summer. She absolutely took over at times Greece, leading the team in scoring while going a blistering 10-19 (53%) from deep over both games.
Parrish’s competitive nature and dedication to her teammates really shine through on the defensive end. In an effort to make a play, she’s always looking to take a charge or hit the deck for a loose ball.
This defensive exuberance can land Parrish in foul trouble at times though. She amassed a team-high 103 personals in 2022-23 and fouled out of six games, but did so while simultaneously leading Indiana in steals with 50.
Most fans, and coaches, will take that tradeoff in a heartbeat. #33 will be all gas, no brakes as usual this season.
With face of the program Grace Berger having moved on to the WNBA, Indiana needs more leaders to emerge alongside Mackenzie Holmes and Chloe Moore-McNeil.
Parrish will be one of them, and an important one at that given her ability to relate to IU’s freshmen and transfer as a newer player.
She knows what it’s like to learn what being a Hoosier is because she just did it, and that recent experience will make getting IU’s newbie trio of Beaumont, Currie-Jelks, and LaMendola up to speed much easier.
Given her drive, talent, and persistence, the impact Parrish has on Indiana’s culture will be great, and consistent with what past Moren-era greats like Berger, Buss, Patberg spent years building. Few things will stand between Parrish and her goals in 2023-24.