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After sitting out last season with a knee injury, Parker will make her long-awaited college debut next month. She's coming off a "miserable" year; in addition to being sidelined, Parker says, within her first two weeks on campus someone called her by the N word. She gamely brushed aside the slur, but the inaction was unbearable. "[Sitting out] tested my faith a little bit," says Parker, a devout Christian (she keeps copies of 25 Basic Bible Studies and God's Game Plan on the nightstand of her dorm bedroom, which measures 149 sq. ft., not much bigger than LeBron James' Hummer). She poured her emotions into journals: "The taste remains, distinct and bitter," she wrote, "guilt, because I was unable ... to put my team on my back." But she took care of business, hitting the books (she made dean's list) and doing physical therapy, which added 10 lbs. of muscle to her Olive Oyl frame and 2 in. to her leap.
If Parker is about to become a hero to many women, she's happy to embrace the cause. She has plenty to say about what she views as the second-class treatment female athletes receive. A few weeks ago, the Tennessee football team returned to Knoxville at 4 a.m. after a victory over Louisiana State; the players, plus the band and cheerleaders, were excused from class the next day. Parker notes a similar situation last season when, while traveling with the women's basketball team, she got home in the middle of the night but had to be in class by 8. Parker calls the discrepancy "horrible."
The outspoken young woman says female athletes are "more disciplined" than men and disses Elvis in the heart of Tennessee ("He was a copycat"), yet she stays tight-lipped about the victim of her dunk. To his credit, Ryan Childress, a 6-ft. 9-in. freshman, is willing to fess up (yes, Parker slammed on a man 5 in. taller). Childress insists the tale has been exaggerated--"I was in the area," he says, laughing--but four eyewitnesses confirm Parker's account. No need to be ashamed, Ryan. You won't be the last person Parker dominates.