SPIRITED PARRA'S BASKETBALL TALENT BEGAN IN BACK YARD.
Alicia Parra is right at home on the hardwood basketball floor at Paraclete High School.
With hardwood floors throughout her Lake Elizabeth home - and a mother who never said, ``Don't play ball in the house'' - she grew up preparing to drive the lane by dribbling down the hallway.
``I used to get mad at her because I couldn't concentrate on my homework while she was dribbling in the house,'' said brother Daniel, a guard on Paraclete's boys' team.
On the court, the only ones frustrated with the junior girls' basketball guard have been opponents.
Parra has managed to gain attention this season despite playing in the considerable shadow of 6-foot-4-inch All-Southern Section center Kim Whisler.
She is averaging 10 points and 5.1 assists for the Spirits (8-2), who are favored to win this year's High Desert League title.
The 5-foot-7-inch Parra already has captured all-tournament honors while helping lead Paraclete to championships in the High Desert Classic and L.A. Baptist tournament.
``This has been a really good year for me,'' she said. ``But I want to win CIF really bad. That's what I really want.''
Paraclete certainly could do a lot worse than leaning on Parra as it drives toward the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
``She can be very impressive, especially on defense,'' coach Susan Hervey said. ``Her anticipation is great.''
Indeed. Parra is averaging an impressive 6.4 steals a game and has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses.
Last week at the L.A. Baptist tournament, she was so dominant defensively that the crowd dubbed her ``The Thief.''
Parra has taken the recent accolades with grace and an easy smile. But the recent spotlight has had to feel good.
``All kids who play care about basketball, but the game is her life,'' Hervey said.
The daughter of a 17-year basketball coach, Parra and her brother would trek out to her father Jon's games as small children.
``They weren't even out of diapers and they were out there,'' said Jon Parra, now an assistant at Paraclete.
Daniel jumped at the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his father, himself a former Paraclete player.
Alicia opted to participate in gymnastics and dance.
A gymnastics accident - she landed on her head and injured her back- and a family built around basketball finally led her to the large basketball court Jon Parra built in the family's back yard.
We're not talking your everyday hoop and net over the garage here.
The Parras' back yard features half of a full-size regulation court and is usually filled with neighborhood boys and girls.
``I can still remember painting the key on that court,'' she said.
It was that back yard that became Parra's first proving ground, a place where shot after shot was stuffed by her older brother until she quickened her release. An area where she was pushed around and stripped of the ball until she toughened up and learned to dribble with both hands.
The girl who until the age of 12 was fully committed to gymnastics and dance now has a bedroom filled with posters of NBA stars Grant Hill, Scottie Pippen and Mugsey Bogues. She owns a collection of professional-model jerseys, warm-ups and basketball shoes.
Come playoff time, it may just be Southern Section Division IV-AA opponents who are worn out by Parra's enthusiasm and hustle.
It may just get the Spirits to the championship.
Knock on wood.