At Audenried, Senaya Parker and Shayla Smith have teamed up to ‘take over the world together’

By Aaron Carter January 12, 2024

Transferring to a new school often is a challenge, but the Rockets welcomed Parker with open arms, she said.

Audenried’s Senaya Parker (1) is surrounded by teammates after scoring her 1,000th point during a home game against Mastery North on Wednesday.Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer

With a nickname derived from her ability to score in bunches, it’s no wonder Senaya Parker struggled early to fit in on the court at Universal Audenried High School.

Parker, now a junior guard, scored more than 40 points per game, and scored 50-plus points eight times, last season at Samuel Fels High School.

In fact, that’s why, Audenried coach Kevin Slaughter says, students began calling Parker “Fifty” shortly after she arrived on Audenried’s South Philly campus in April, a couple months after the Rockets won their first Public League title.

The Rockets, however, already had a dominant scoring presence: Shayla Smith, who, as a sophomore last season, became the fastest player in Pub history to reach 1,000 points.

Two dominant scorers sharing one ball may have caused early issues, but not in the way some might expect.

Those problems have since resolved.

Parker’s 24-point performance Wednesday evening in a 75-38 win against visiting Mastery North put her at 1,000 for her career, with Smith leading the in-game celebration.

“The best part of today and why I’m so proud is that Shayla went out of her way to make sure [Senaya] got the ball today,” said Slaughter, who’s in his 11th season at Audenried.

“She said, ‘She’s getting it today,’ ” he continued. “I said, ‘Nah, maybe next game.’ She said, ‘Naw, she’s getting it today.’

“I was proud. I was happy to see my kids’ [faces]. They really wanted her to get it.”

Get in, fit in

At Fels, Parker wasn’t just the straw that stirred the drink.

She was the glass, the liquid, and the ice cubes. She even once scored 55 of Fels’ 56 points in a Pub playoff win against Tacony Charter last season.

This year, however, it seems more like there is one drink with 14 straws.

“They’ve been real welcoming,” Parker said postgame. “Coming from a team where I had to do a lot, they’ve just made me feel like this is a family, and I just love this environment.”

For someone accustomed to putting up gaudy point totals, sharing the spotlight could be difficult. But Slaughter said Parker’s early issue was that she might not have been aggressive enough.This season, she averages about 12 points for Audenried (12-4, 5-0).

“It was hard at first,” Parker said. “I went through so many struggles trying to find myself, trying to find where I fit in. But they were welcoming the whole time, so I was able to find my place.”

Slaughter’s remedy was simple: focus on defense first and the offense will follow.

“If you want to get in where you fit in,” Slaughter said, “pick up full court. Your game will come.”

On Wednesday, Mastery North (7-7, 2-1), which had been undefeated in Pub play, succumbed to Parker’s full-court pressure. She finished the first frame with four steals, which led to to 14 points. She scored 20 points in the first half.

Audenried’s Senaya Parker (right) dribbles around Mastery North’s Janiyah Brown during Wednesday’s game.Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer

Two aces

Parker transferred to Audenried in the spring, in part, Slaughter said, to get a jump on classes that would help her become a nurse.

Perhaps as a result, she also got the early struggles out of the way in the summer.

Now, it appears Audenried once again will contend for the Pub title. Slaughter is optimistic that they also can compete for a PIAA title.

Last season, the Rockets lost to District 3′s Trinity in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.

Parker’s ability to drive to the basket, shoot from the perimeter, and play tenacious defense combined with Smith’s ability to score with ease and rebound down low should make Audenried formidable.

It also could help that the duo genuinely seems to enjoy playing together.

Smith seemed most excited Wednesday after Parker scored. Parker’s 1,000 point came on a foul shot with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter. The game stopped briefly as teammates, fans, and friends celebrated with Parker on the court.

“It feels better watching a teammate do it, honestly,” Smith said of scoring 1,000 points. “When you know people around you are doing well too, it just makes it feel so much better.”

Parker smiled when asked what it was like to play with Smith.

“She’s a dog,” Parker said. “It’s great having a dog on my team. When I’m down she can help or if she’s down I can help. We play together. We always say that we’re going to take over the world together.”

Audenried’s Shayla Smith (left) congratulates teammate Senaya Parker after a three-pointer by Parker on Wednesday. Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer