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Francis Parker Boys Basketball Poised for Big Year Under New Coach

By Matt McKinney | December 9, 2013 3:48pm
 Latin School vs. Francis Parker, Dec. 6, 2013, at DePaul University.
Latin vs. Parker Basketball
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LINCOLN PARK — When Francis W. Parker School freshman Marc Taylor makes a big play — whether it’s a block or and-one bucket — the crowd often chants a friendly reminder at the opposing team.    

“He's a freshman!” Parker fans howl in unison.

The chanting crowd might be the biggest difference this year for Taylor, 14, Parker’s youngest varsity boys basketball player.

The 6-foot-5 forward said his eighth-grade team at Parker drew only a fraction of the hundreds of Colonel fans at the varsity games.

“I was definitely nervous at first, but it’s ended up being cool,” said Taylor, who’s been at the school since fourth grade.

It's a "rush” to play in front of a sea of Parker supporters, he said, many of who wear mustache-emblazoned white T-shirts, a nod to the school’s mustachioed namesake.

Senior Zack Kupferberg also knows how it feels to join the varsity squad as a freshman. The 6-foot-7 forward has played varsity at Parker since 2010.   

So when the Colonels took on neighborhood rival Latin School of Chicago Friday night at DePaul’s McGrath Arena, he largely knew what to expect.

“There’s always a bigger crowd when we play Latin. And it’s always fun the beat them,” said Kupferberg, 18, who’s gone to Parker since he was 4.

It was fun again for Kupferberg on Friday, as Parker beat Latin 59-43.

It was the seventh time Kupferberg has played the Romans, so it felt like “just another conference game,” he said.

The senior said he was more impressed with playing at DePaul.

"It was a big honor. There are a ton of guys who’ve come through that school and represented the city," he said, citing several Chicago-native DePaul alumni who played in the NBA, including Terry Cummings and Mark Aguirre.

Kupferberg plans to play basketball in college next year and has received offers from several schools including Yale. He’s still undecided.

First-year Parker coach Matthew Muhammad said his team’s basketball acumen is one of its greatest assets.

He recalled one of the first games this season when his team snapped into a zone defense they hadn’t yet practiced.

"They executed it perfectly,” said Muhammad, 53, who has coached at seven Chicago-area schools since the early-80s. “These guys pick things up quickly and that’s not always the case with teams.”

Muhammad pointed to seniors Henry Peters, Cornell Jackson and Noah Wolff as other key players this season.

He said he's been impressed with the conditioning of the team, which features six soccer players and jumped out to a 5-0 start this year.

But above all, Muhammad said he's appreciated the support from the Parker administration, parents and fans.

"It's special. With some of my past teams," he said. "We didn't have that type of support."