Most children in Canada find themselves in a pair of ice skates at some point.
In hockey’s motherland, basketball players are hard to come by. Freshman forward Dominic Parolin, hailing from Coquitlam, British Columbia, said all of his friends played hockey growing up. But for him, the choice was a no-brainer since his father played basketball.
When fellow Canadian James Karnik, Lehigh’s starting center last season, made his decision to transfer to Boston College, the opportunity fell into Parolin’s lap.
“James Karnik transferring is actually why there was a spot open for me to come to Lehigh,” Parolin said. “And he grew up fifteen minutes away from where I live.”
Parolin’s path to Bethlehem was far from ordinary.
Typically, when a highly sought-after recruit comes from so far away, the coaching staff makes a trip to see him or her play in person, to meet the player and the player’s family, and to try to sell them on coming to Lehigh.
One thing was impeding Parolin from being visited in-person: COVID-19. Because of the restrictions, Parolin had to do things a little differently.
“They did all the recruitment virtually,”Parolin said. “They saw my film online. I did Zoom calls talking with the coaches and my official visit was actually a FaceTime with my coach.”
While it wasn’t the recruitment process Parolin envisioned as he was garnering interest from different schools, he felt confident enough in Lehigh’s strong basketball program and equally competitive academics.
Parolin has been a welcome addition to the team and the university.
“As the recruiting process continued, we identified as a staff that we needed another big, and Dominic (Parolin) rose to the top of our list,” said assistant coach Noel Hightower. “We basically went all-in on him. I think he’s a phenomenal get for our program. He’s a great fit for Lehigh: phenomenal student, a great young man and a great student-athlete.”
Hightower complimented Parolin’s versatility on both sides of the floor. The 6-foot-8-inch power forward and center is averaging just under six points through 11 games.
Junior center Nic Lynch noted in particular Parolin’s ability to make his teammates better in practice.
“He’s one of the best offensive rebounders – if not the best – that I’ve ever played with,” Lynch said. “The guy just has a really high motor and not only does that help us in games, but he pushes me every day in practice. Rarely do I get to play against a guy who is that active on the glass.”
Parolin is one of six freshmen on the team this season. Due to a turbulent fall in which the team dealt with regular practice cancellations and mandatory quarantines, he said it wasn’t until November –when the team finally got into a normal practice routine– that he was able to build relationships with his teammates.
“Now it just feels like a regular team,” he said. “I’m close with all the guys.”
Hightower said beyond doing all of the little things so well, such as setting screens, rolling hard and grabbing rebounds, Parolin’s personality helped win his teammates over quickly.
“The guys love him,” Hightower said. “Off the floor, he has a great personality. He’s funny—he cracks jokes— very light-hearted. He does a great job of reading the room and knows what to say at the right time.”
Parolin’s Lehigh career is just getting started, and while circumstances haven’t allowed for an easy transition, he is looking forward to getting a full season under his belt.
For now, he’s not thinking about long-term goals. His focus is on this season, and he is taking things slow.
“It’s been difficult to set out goals for what I want to do throughout my whole career because this year has been so much different than what a regular year would be,” Parolin said. “I’m definitely playing it day by day and just doing what I think is right: trying to do my best in basketball, and obviously in academics, too.”
Parolin and his teammates are looking to notch their ticket to the Patriot League Tournament. They will have one last chance to do so, when they take on Lafayette on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28.