Artsiom Parakhouski’s presence on the Nizhny Novgorod frontline has been a key reason for the team’s success in its first Euroleague campaign. The Euroleague leader in blocked shots and one of its best rebounders, Parakhouski exudes confidence that might make you think he was born for these situations. The truth, however, is quite different.
While it’s true Parakhouski was bred to be great at sports, but basketball was not on anyone’s radar in the Parakhouski household. “My father coached track and field, athletics. His event was the heptathlon,” Parakhouski said. “My mom is a swimming coach and the general manager for the national swimming team.”
Naturally both parents tried to pull their son towards their sports of choice. “My mom started me in swimming when I was like four years old,” Parakhouski recalled. “She put me right in the swimming pool to get stronger. After that, when I was like seven years old, football was so big. Every kid when they’re young goes to play football… My father wanted [me to go into track], but I decided not to do it because I wanted a team sport, so I stayed with football.”
The idea of playing basketball had never even entered the young Parakhouski’s mind. “I didn’t know anything about basketball. In our country, hockey is the main sport,” he said. “Every person in Belarus loves hockey. Even our president plays hockey. When I was young I didn’t know anything about basketball or Euroleague.“
He stuck with football until he got too big for the game. Simply put, Parakhouski outgrew football. “I was tall and stopped improving as a football player. I was behind all my teammates and at age 15, close to 16, you have to move on to be a professional football player or you basically finish your career. So at that moment I didn’t have a chance to be a professional player; I was tall, I was heavy,” he said. But instead of letting that get him down, Parakhouski moved on quickly. “I decided to try a new sport. I tried to play basketball to see how it would go. And in two years I was in the Unites States. I was lucky.”
Parakhouski’s experience with basketball to that point was virtually non-existent. “I had played before in physical education classes in middle school, but nothing big.”
With a strong frame to his 2.03-meter body, there was potential. And that was necessary because Parakhouski did not have much else going for him. “I was new to the sport, basically. No shooting, no dribbling, no understanding the game. It was a totally new sport to me.”
Quickly he realized that he had made a good choice. “I started to love basketball right away,” Parakhouski said. “I knew then I would play basketball and no other sport.”
Parakhouski dedicated himself to the game and it did not take long for the Belarussian basketball establishment to take notice. “In two years I made a lot of progress and then I made the under 20 national team for the European championship.”
He not only made the team for the tournament in Russia, but Parakhouski was Belarus’s top rebounder, despite ranking just seventh in minutes played and going up against some of Europe’s best big man prospects, including Marc Gasol of Spain and Mirza Begic of Slovenia. A year later, he was second on the team in scoring (11.1 ppg.) and 11th in the tournament in rebounding (7.0 rpg.) while holding his own against future Euroleague stars Ante Tomic of Croatia, Nikola Pekovic of Serbia & Montenegro, Carlos Suarez of Spain and Andrey Vorontsevich of Russia.
At those two tournaments, the rest of the basketball world got their first glimpses of Belarus’s emerging talent. Parakhouski’s size, strength and nose for rebounds attracted some attention from scouts and the rest is history. “And after that I ended up in the United States and now I’m playing professionally,” Parakhouski summed up his journey. “Honestly, I’ve been a little bit lucky.”
At first Parakhouski spent two seasons playing junior college basketball at the College of Southern Idaho. Then he joined Radford University, where he became just the fourth player ever to win back-to-back Big South Conference Player of the Year awards. Then he came back to Europe, where he has spent time with VEF Riga in Latvia, Cantu in Italy, Budivelnik Kiev in Ukraine, Olin Edirne in Turkey, Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel and now Nizhny in Russia. He has made his mark at every stop. Two years ago he led the Turkish League in blocked shots (1.6 bpg.) with Olin and last season he was the Eurocup’s best shot blocker (1.7 bpg.) with Jerusalem.
Now Parakhouski is on a much bigger stage, but still getting the job done on a nightly basis. He already ranks among the Euroleague’s top five centers in rebounding (6.8 rpg.) and performance index rating (16.7 per game) and seemingly gets better on a weekly basis.
For a guy who barely knew what to do with a basketball on his 16th birthday, Parakhouski’s accomplishments to date are simply remarkable. And at age 27, his best is likely still to come.