Two brothers known for their skills on the baseball diamond are taking their athletic abilities indoors, playing varsity basketball for the first time – and playing it together.
Parker and Mitchell Dean are Division 1 baseball players at Western. Parker, a junior, has committed to Purdue and Mitchell, a sophomore, to Louisville. Though not new to basketball, it will be the first time either brother has played varsity, and the brothers hope to make a splash for the Panthers to help continue the success of the program in recent years.
“College coaches love multi-sport athletes, so it’s always good to switch it up from baseball. We play tennis in the fall, so it’s always nice to play something different when we’re not playing baseball,” Parker said. “Hopefully we’re able to play and that more than 25 percent of people are able to watch.”
Parker took a year off from basketball last season after struggling to acclimate to the conditioning required in a bigger high school program. After going to the games and watching the team all season, he regretted his decision and wished he had played, which sparked his return to the court this year.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You can’t go back and play high school basketball. You get four years, and that’s it. So I need to make the most of the time now that I’m back,” Parker said.
Mitchell, on the other hand, played on the freshmen team last season, and after hitting a growth spurt over the summer, he stands around 6’6” or 6’7” now and is anxious to make the varsity jump.
“I think it’ll be pretty good. Last year, I started freshman for, like, halfway through the season, and then Coach brought me up to JV. Then our last regular-season game, he decided to let me dress varsity, so I think it’ll be a great year,” Mitchell said.
After a 17-7 year last season, Head Coach Michael Lewis said it’s important to stay the course this season, maintain the Panthers’ identity, and have fun on the court while they can.
Following a graduated senior class that led the Panthers to its first sectional title last season, Lewis said there are big shoes to fill, and he’s looking for leaders to step up, which provides the Dean brothers with a unique opportunity despite being newcomers to the varsity team.
Mitchell said the goal is always a sectional title. The Panthers got a taste of it last season and are hungry for more. Parker added that although Lewis demands hard work and toughness from his players constantly, another important factor for the team’s success is staying positive and having fun.
“If we’re having fun as a team, I think we’ll win a lot of games,” Parker said. “If we’re negative in the locker room, we’re going to have negative results on the court. If we’re positive in the locker room, we’re going to win a lot of games, and we’re going to have a lot of fun during practices and in games as well.”
Though varsity basketball is a new adventure for the brothers, being on the same team is not. That’s been the case for Mitchell and Parker for years, and it means the world to both of them to be able to share that experience, they said.
“I love Mitch to death. We’re always here working for each other, whether it be hitting baseballs out in the garage, playing basketball outside, going to hit tennis balls at the tennis court. He’s always been here for me. He pushes me whether it be in the weight room, on the court, or on the baseball field. So to see him grow as a player, and I’m able to be a part of that, it means a lot to me,” Parker said.
They feed off of each other. Parker is a guiding light for Mitchell, and Mitchell motivates Parker to keep improving. The Dean brothers attributed their athletic success to their great-grandfather who played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Keeping that competitive spirit within their house helps fuel them, especially in a time where facilities are shut down and seasons are in jeopardy. The brothers have each other to lean on to stay sharp.
“Yeah, I mean, Parker is always someone I can go to and talk to,” Mitchell said. “He can help me, and that’s why we’re good, successful baseball players. We always push each other to the limit.”
While baseball has been Parker and his brother’s number-one sport, he said all sports help people grow, learn, build skills, and become better-rounded.
“Baseball’s our number one sport, but I feel like tennis and basketball still should be high up there and shouldn’t be taken lightly because tennis and basketball both help create competitiveness which can help transfer to the baseball field,” he said.
If Mitchell is aggressive, he said he will find ways to get heavily involved with the team and rack up minutes, and Parker said he’s a distributor who prides himself on getting his teammates involved and being unselfish.
But it’s all talk until they show it on the court. Based on their competitive backgrounds, it’s a safe bet the Dean brothers will leave it all out there this season as they step into a new spotlight.