LINCOLN — Perfect attendance in any endeavor these days is a chore.
Playing in every game through four years of college basketball eligibility would seem even harder considering injury, illness and competition for minutes. Especially for someone like Nebraska’s Benny Parker, optimistically listed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds.
But on Tuesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena, Parker is set to step on the court for the 126th time in 126 games as the Huskers (14-15, 6-10) host No. 15 Purdue (22-7, 10-6). Parker and fellow Kansas City product Shavon Shields are NU’s Senior Night honorees.
Surely Parker had some close calls on not playing at some point.
“Nah, I just suck it up and play no matter what,” he said Monday. “Unless somebody tells me I really cannot play. I definitely had some times I didn’t feel the best. But if Coach wants me on the floor, I’ll be on the floor.”
Parker will start for the 73rd time. He has played less than 10 minutes in a game just 12 times in his career.
Shields recently got ordered to the sidelines for four straight games after suffering a concussion Feb. 6 against Rutgers. His absence ended a string of 106 consecutive starts.
In his first interview since his injury, Shields responded to health questions Monday with, “I’m good.”
Was the 6-7 forward, who is the school’s No. 10 all-time scorer and 13th in rebounding, concerned the horrific fall that rendered him unconscious had ended his season?
“Not really,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t over yet.”
Sitting out, though, was difficult.
“At a time when my team needed me, I couldn’t be out there,” Shields said. “It was one of those things out of my control, and it stunk. But you deal with it and move on.”
Shields returned to play last Thursday at Penn State, starting and scoring a game-high 25 points in Nebraska’s 56-55 loss.
When Parker and Shields signed letters of intent in November 2011, Nebraska’s coach was Doc Sadler. When he was fired in March 2012, one of new coach Tim Miles’ first duties was to re-recruit them.
Miles already knew Parker and his high school coach from recruiting Parker some when Miles was at Colorado State.
“So I had been in touch with his coach,” Miles said Monday. “And his mom and dad are such high-quality people, when I met with them, (Benny) said, ‘I want to try this, Coach. I’m in.’ ”
The next home visit was to Will and Senia Shields. Will is a former Nebraska All-America offensive lineman and a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
“Shavon made it clear on the home visit — Will and Senia were there — and we had a great talk,” Miles said. “He’s like, ‘I’m a Nebraska guy. I want to be at Nebraska.’ So I felt great immediately following the visits.”
Both players Monday said they never waffled on their NU commitments.
“I just wanted to stick with my decision,” Parker said. “I didn’t want to back out late on Nebraska because of a coaching change. I liked what they were doing with the basketball program.”
Shields said after seeing Miles’ plans “it made me feel more comfortable about staying, so that’s what I did.”
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