FARGO — Parker Fox had a myriad of options on where to continue his men’s basketball career, but heading home felt right for the former Northern State star forward.
From Mahtomedi, Minn., the NCAA Division II All-American recently announced he was committing to the Minnesota Gophers after playing three seasons with the Wolves in Aberdeen, S.D.
“Definitely being home was a high priority for me, not that it was my only option,” Fox said. “I would have gone anywhere in terms of furthering my career, but Minnesota is an extremely special place and the hiring of coach (Ben) Johnson really did it for me. He was a man that probably believed in me the most through this process. I fully trusted what he had to say about me and my future.”
The 6-foot-8, 210-pound Fox averaged 22.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game, while shooting 64% from the field in his final season at Northern State. He entered the transfer portal on March 19 and said he drew interest from around 50 Division I programs. Fox said he narrowed his final list to nine schools, including Ohio State, Florida State, Texas Tech and San Diego State, before choosing the Gophers.
“It definitely gives you a boost,” Fox said of the interest from multiple high-level Division I programs. “I’m a confident guy and I work really hard at this sport and it’s important to me. It’s something I love to do.”
Fox said it wasn’t easy to leave Northern State, spending four seasons in that program including one as a redshirt. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining with Minnesota due to an NCAA eligibility waiver for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wolves had a 19-2 record this past season, losing to eventual Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State in overtime in the Central Region championship game. Northern State’s only other loss came against Minnesota State Moorhead in the final game of the regular season.
“Not only is it hard to walk away from that team, it’s harder to walk away from the university,” Fox said of Northern State. “I’m forever grateful for this place and allowing me to show my talents at their level. I’ll have this place in my heart for a very long time.”
Fox is the third player of that Northern State squad to transfer to a Division I program since the season ended. Andrew Kallman committed to North Dakota State, while Mason Stark is heading to Northern Arizona. A fourth Wolves starter, Tommy Chatman, is also in the transfer portal and is also likely to land with a Division I program.
“I’m excited to see what they do with their future because all of them are going to be extremely successful,” Fox said of his former Northern State teammates.
A 6-foot-4 guard, Kallman averaged 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists in his final season with Northern State.
“Andrew is one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with, I’d argue the best teammate I’ve ever played with,” Fox said. “He’s one of the best passers I’ve ever played with and he’s an extremely unselfish guy that looks to get others open and looks to get others involved. … (NDSU) got an absolute stud, a stud on and off the court and he’s going to help that program win and hopefully get that program back to another NCAA tournament.”
Fox has aspirations to pursue a pro career after college with a goal to play in the NBA. He said Minnesota gives him a chance to chase those dreams.
“I want to be a pro at the highest level, I want to play in the NBA,” Fox said. “I wanted to go to a program that allowed me the opportunity to excel at a high major school and a high major level.”
Fox said Johnson, who the Gophers hired about a month ago, was another key reason on his decision to play for Minnesota in the Big Ten Conference.
“Everybody in Minnesota should be excited about this program and where its future is going,” Fox said. “Coach Johnson is an absolute stud of a coach and of a guy, and that’s why I chose to be a part of this program.”
Fox played his final two seasons at Northern State for head coach Saul Phillips, who is a former NDSU head coach.
“Saul allowed me to fall deeply in love with basketball and just be myself on the court,” Fox said. “Saul allows you to be you and puts it on your shoulders. If you want to be great, you’ve got to put the work in to be great.”
Fox said he wanted to play for the Gophers coming out of Mahtomedi High School, but signed with Northern State and saw that as an opportunity to prove himself.
“I decided to put my head down and work,” Fox said of his aspirations to play Division I basketball. “My goal is to make everybody regret not wanting me to be a part of their program.”
Fox said his “chip-on-your-shoulder mentality” remains.
“It starts all over again,” Fox said. “I’m coming from a Division II.”