BRISTOL - Elijah Parent made plenty of memories as a basketball player at Bristol Eastern. He graduates as the school’s all-time leader in three-pointers and threes in a season and will be remembered by all who played with him as a competitor and a leader.
As Parent moves on to play basketball and serve his country at the United States Coast Guard Academy, there are many memorable moments his friends and family could look back on to explain how he arrived here. For Eastern boys basketball and boys soccer coach Bunty Ray, that memory exists on the soccer field in a postseason game against Farmington where Parent ran nearly the length of the pitch to chase down an opposing player and stop a goal.
“We were playing Farmington at the end of year and Farmington is really good at soccer,” Parent said. “It was something like the 78th minute in the game, we were down 2-1 and I’m the closest guy and I see they’re going down the sideline. I know I have to get back there so I [made] a dead sprint.”
For Ray, this moment displays exactly why Parent is able to earn the opportunity to play college basketball and take on the challenge of entering the military, which will test him in ways far different than sports.
“Of all the things I’ve seen [him] do, that 70-yard recovery run in the tournament game is what sticks out in my mind,” Ray said. “[He’s] had so much success because he’s willing to make those runs, willing to make those things happen for [himself] and for everyone else.”
The coast guard academy was not a path Parent envisioned for himself as he pursued a chance to play college basketball. Upon looking deeper into the opportunity, he found it more enticing than he originally anticipated. He decided to study electrical engineering for his major.
“It never crossed my mind and then coach [Bob] Bono reached out to me and I started looking into it, doing some research, and it really opened my eyes,” Parent said. “All the opportunities they provide for you, it’s just amazing.”
Getting accepted to the Coast Guard Academy is an accomplishment more reflective of Parent’s work in the classroom than the basketball court. The United States’ military academies are some of the most selective schools in the country, setting him up well for his life after basketball regardless of whether or not he makes his career in the Coast Guard.
“It wasn’t even expected, this wouldn’t have even been on our radar a few years ago,” Elijah’s mother Bevin Parent said. “Learning more about the program and how prestigious it is, knowing that he’s going to be preparing himself for life and a career all while serving the country is incredible. He’s worked so hard his whole life and we’ve pushed him to always work hard and be the best.”
The Coast Guard basketball program only played one official game in 2021, but reached the Division III NCAA Tournament the season prior by winning seven straight games to close out the season and win a conference championship. Parent will have to find his place among an experienced and well-coached team and he seems plenty excited about getting started.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Parent said. “I get to serve my country, I get to build bonds with people that will last a lifetime. A little bonus [is] I get to play basketball all along the way. I get paid, I get a job, it’s basically setting me up for my whole life.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.