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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 24 2013

Jackie Parsley, dead at 42, 'bled the green,' says former Bison teammate

FARGO – Her email address more than 20 years later started with “tallgirl34/35,” which shows how much North Dakota State women’s basketball meant to Jackie Parsley. Players and coaches will forever remember a 6-foot-3 recruit from Kindred, N.D., blossoming into a starting center who played on a national championship team.

That was the 1991 group that began the first of five NCAA Division II titles. They’ve been sharing memories this week upon the news that Parsley died last weekend at the age of 42.

“Probably just one of the kindest people you could ever know,” said former head coach Amy Ruley. “Not a mean bone in her body. We actually had to make her more aggressive on the floor.”

Parsley was living in Milwaukee. It’s unclear how she died.

She enrolled at NDSU in 1989 and teamed with fellow freshmen Nadine Schmidt and Jody Buck to bring the Bison to an even a higher level of play that started in the 1980s. The three formed an immediate bond as teammates, friends and roommates.

“Been on the phone non-stop with Jody this whole week,” Schmidt said. “A lot of memories, a lot of pain through this and questions. When I think of Jackie, I think of laughter and jokes.”

The three finished their careers with two national championships having also won in 1993, a year that saw Parsley start all 33 games, averaging 13.8 points and 6.6 rebounds. All three were named to the Fab Four all-tournament team.

It marked the final step in a career growth pattern that saw Parsley go from an unheralded recruit to an inside force. Schmidt first met her at a North Dakota all-star game the summer before college.

“She went from being very unsure of herself to being very much a confident player,” she said. “The drive came out of her and we weren’t sure it would.”

It came out to the point where she still holds the school career field-goal percentage record at 54 percent. She hit 495 of 913 attempts and finished with 1,162 career points.

Her field-goal percentage, in fact, was just .001 higher than Buck. Parsley finished at .542 to Buck’s .541. One made field goal by Buck and the two would have essentially been tied.

She’s one of only four players in NDSU history to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game, recording 21 points and 20 rebounds against Augustana in 1993. She’s currently eighth in career blocked shots with 134.

Parsley spent most of her post-college career in coaching and education. She was the head high school girls coach at Kindred, Central Cass, Cromwell-Wright (Minn.) and Paynesville (Minn.), the latter from 2003-07. She went from there to an assistant position at Wisconsin-Platteville.

Parsley was back in Fargo in the fall of 2011 when the ’91 team was inducted into the Bison Hall of Fame.

“She was born and raised in North Dakota and bred to be a Bison,” Schmidt said. “She bled the green just like I do. She was very proud of that.”

A scholarship in her name has been established at NDSU, Ruley said.

A service will be held May 4 at 10 a.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in north Fargo. It will be officiated by her cousin, Jaime Parsley, the priest at St. Stephen’s who called Jackie “a very bright person.”

“When you look in her eyes, there was a brightness, a full of life,” he said. “She was genuinely a good person. She was kind of shy growing up, but when she was playing, she was just shining.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia