Griffeys hit, Sinatras sing and Wentzes drill. Mom’s a periodontist. Dad’s an orthodontist. So’s his uncle. And his aunt. Grandpa was a dentist in the Army.
“To say it’s in the family is an understatement,” Abilene Christian guard Parker Wentz chuckled. “I can remember running around the office, having to study in my dad’s office, acting up and getting in trouble. That was really what kind of made me want to be a dentist. I got to see the impact my dad had made on different people, just throughout life.”
Turns out the sweetest shot in the Southland Conference — Wentz, whose Wildcats visit Sam Houston State Monday on ASN, leads the league in 3-point accuracy (46.4%) — has the sweetest smile, too, a product of nature and nurture. Floss was almost always within arm’s reach, and a giant toothbrush rested at the house as a totem and a reminder.
Although boys will be boys …
“Growing up, me and my brother weren’t the best at it,” said the senior from Lubbock, Texas, a biology/pre-med major who plans on attending dental school after his basketball adventure comes to a close. “So it would kind of embarrass my mom if we had a cavity or two.
“One thing my little brother would do, (when) he would tell my mom he brushed. She’d say, ‘Did you brush your teeth?’ And he’d turn around back to me and say, ‘Yesterday.’”
It’s any wonder she didn’t crown him on the spot.
Teammates kid, as teammates do. Chipped tooth? Swollen gums? Hey, Parker! Can you come here?
“That’s what’s kind of crazy,” Wentz said. “I know a little bit about it, just because I’ve been around it so long. You know, I haven’t been to dental school yet, so I can’t actually do anything. They’re like, ‘Hey, Parker, what’s going on with this?’ I want to be able to help them. I can direct them to my dad and my mom. We’ve been able to do that a couple times, which I enjoyed.”
Whether it’s bicuspids or crossovers, shortcuts won’t fly. Like the perfect choppers, the perfect jumper was crafted, layer upon layer, by careful rote. Growing up, Wentz’s goal was 500 3-pointers a day during the school year and a 1,000 during the day over the summer months. As a general rule, he chucks 100 attempts after each practice, or keeps count of how many treys he can drop over a 5-minute window.
“With the gun, it only takes two hours if you’re just standing there,” said Wentz, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc over the last three seasons on track to top the all-time ACU mark for 3-point accuracy (42 percent). “In college, I guess, I kind of feel like I know how to shoot it. Now it’s about getting open and reading screens.”
As a teen, Wentz was the all-time leading scorer (and senior class president) at Trinity Christian High, where his exploits once merited a blurb in Sports Illustrated. ACU is part of the family legacy, too — Parker got to know the campus through frequent visits to his older brother when the latter started attending, and little sister Breklyn is currently a freshman guard on the women’s basketball squad.
“I just want to play each and every (game) like it’s my last,” Parker said of the Wildcats, who transitioned from Division II to Division I for the 2013-’14 campaign. “It’s been my dream since I’ve been a kid to play Division I, and it’s been weird having it come to a close.”
A win at Huntsville, Texas, would be the Wildcats’ fourth in league play, tying the most they’ve posted in a single season over the previous two campaigns in the Southland.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Wentz said. “There’s definitely players that come in and out, and you make relationships with them and then they go somewhere else. I think that was the hardest part — losing those relationships that you have at the beginning.
“Style of play is a little bit different, (with) guys being bigger, stronger, more athletic, smarter. You’ve got to be better in other areas. It’s been a good transition. It’s definitely been a dream of mine (Division I), so I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to do that.”
And the blessings have been piling up as of late. A two-time academic All-Southland Conference selection, Wentz wed his longtime girlfriend Haley last year. Bonus: He’s already been accepted into a dental program in Houston, with more applications pending.
“I think it’s a rewarding profession that truly impacts people in a positive manner,” Parker said. “And that’s what I want to do with my life.”
After all, someone has to carry the torch — er, toothbrush.
“My brother is actually in optometry school,” Parker said. “He said he didn’t want anything to do with the mouth. None of us can see every well. We all have glasses, so that’s what he’s doing.”
Near-sighted dentists? Can’t make this stuff up.
“We don’t give it to him too bad,” Parker said. “He’s definitely one of the family. We mostly just laugh at him. He’s the rebel, yeah.”
The molar, the merrier.