The middle-aged woman intensely watched as her hyper-active son raced up and down the basketball court at Nicolet High School.
After the boy, who was about 9 or so, stole the basketball near halfcourt and proceeded to score on a layup, the giddy mother excitedly pushed the middle-aged gentlemen standing next her and said, “Did you see that? This camp is great, isn’t it?’’
The gentleman smiled and nodded in agreement before they both returned to watching their respective children show off their skills at the Jabari Parker camp.
Indeed, all the parents in attendance were seemingly having a great time, not only watching their young ones but also realizing they didn’t have to pay a single penny for their enjoyment.
As Parker has now done every summer since joining the Milwaukee Bucks as the No. 2 overall selection in the 2014 draft, he paid the freight for more than 200 campers, ranging from first grade to high school.
The youngsters not only got to play games throughout the morning and early afternoon, but they were given a meal and individual attention by Parker, who played a full-court game with each of the age groups and sat down with them afterward, willingly and patiently giving them an autograph and some positive encouragement.
In an era where star players charge hundreds and even thousands of dollars to attend their camps – and then make only a brief appearance – Parker is truly unique as he embraces helping out in his community as often as he can.
“I make enough money,’’ Parker responded when asked why he provides these free camps. “And these are kids. Why should I charge them when I don’t have to? By doing this, I’m hopefully benefiting their future in some way.
“I always felt if you’re going to do something for charity, it’s got to be 100 percent. That’s just who I am.’’
Parker’s sense of caring and giving was instilled in him at an early age by his mother, Lola, and his father, Sonny. They have been heavily involved in many civic activities over the years.
For decades, Sonny has been actively involved in youth activities in his hometown of Chicago and started taking Jabari with him to those events when the latter was in grade school.
Lola was born in Tonga, one of 15 siblings. Lola’s parents adopted eight of their children – even though “We weren’t rich at all,’’ Lola points out — making sure they would have a loving and caring upbringing.
The extraordinary tightness of the Parker family was clearly on display at this camp. Lola and Sonny were both there, each helping out in some manner. And so were two his Jabari’s siblings: Tilah and Christian.
They were joined by several members of the Parker’s extended family, including friends from Chicago who made the trek to Milwaukee to assist.
“I got my family here, I got my coaches here, all of my best friends are here,’’ Jabari said. “I try to keep everybody close. I put family first because I wouldn’t be who I am without them.’’
I asked Parker if he’s surprised more professional athletes, one who have an abundance of money, don’t make more of an effort to become involved in the communities where they collect their paychecks.
“I’m not. No, because I was raised the right way,’’ Parker said. “And that’s not saying anything negative about others.
“But I understand where my blessings come from. God doesn’t charge me for my blessings, so why can’t I do this in return?’’
Speaking of return, that’s a word that’s on the mind of almost every Bucks fans regarding Parker’s playing status. He’s recovering from the second ACL surgery on his left knee and team officials have publicly stated he could return to action next February.
By the looks of things on Tuesday, he’s right on track. Parker casually ran the floor during several pickup games with the campers, taking the opportunity to work on his 3-point shot, which he shot effortlessly and effectively.
There was one moment, though, where Parker elicited a mixture of oohs and aahs. After seeing a clear path to the basket, he took a couple of steps before soaring for a one-handed throw-down.
Yet, while the 22-year-old Parker is progressing nicely, he made it abundantly clear he’s not going to rush the process. He’s coming back on his terms, when he’s healthy, totally healthy.
“Things are moving in the right direction with my life, with my attitude, with my growth and with my game,’’ Parker said. “That return time (in February) is more than enough time to come back, but if I need to take more time, I will.
“I won’t play unless I can be productive. I’m not going to play 12, 15 minutes when I come back. I’m not doing that. I got to be in tip-top shape.’’
Parker has been diligently working out this summer, usually about three times a week, with the exception being for a short getaway to Paris for a Jordan brand appearance.
Parker insists he doesn’t have any trepidation about possibly suffering another knee injury, that he’s more than prepared to handle any other adversity that might come his way.
“I look at this as a blessing because I love the struggles I’ve had in my life,’’ Parker said. “I have been put in a situation that puts a chip on my shoulder.
“I just love my life and the struggles that God gives me. I don’t have any fear. If I tear my ACLs four more times, I’m still going to keep coming back. That’s just my confidence. I’m going to get there eventually.’’
And while he doesn’t harbor any angst about his health, he isn’t overly concerned about his contract situation, either.
Parker is eligible for a lucrative contract extension this summer but said he hasn’t given it much thought. Instead, he’s placed his faith in his new agent, highly-respected Mark Bartelstein of Chicago.
“It’ll be interesting to see if they try want to re-sign me or keep me; we’ll see how that pans out,’’ Parker said. “Regardless, I’m happy where I’m at.’’
So were a lot of grateful campers and their parents.
Photo of Sonny, Lola and Jabari Parker by Gery Woelfel