Parker Bjorklund barely picked up a basketball his first two years of college at St. Thomas. He played some intramurals, but nothing too serious because he was busy running a successful social media business that he started in eighth grade.
He loved being an entrepreneur. The money was nice, too. He had become a little burned out on basketball after playing year-round at Chaska High, so he was fine without it.
Then the pandemic hit and Bjorklund moved back home for online classes. When the weather warmed up, he started shooting baskets in the driveway.
"After about two months of that, I said, 'What, are you going to try out for the basketball team?' " his dad, Bruce, recalled.
Hey, why not?
And there he was Thursday night, dominating the post, as St. Thomas played host to an Oral Roberts team that pulled off a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament last season.
The star of the evening was Max Abmas, college basketball's leading scorer last season who hung 38 points on the Tommies. Bjorklund put on a show as well against bigger, stronger Oral Roberts post players.
He scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the first half as the Tommies stayed within striking distance in an eventual 81-66 loss.
Bjorklund is a senior in school, a freshman in basketball eligibility and one of the unique stories in college basketball.
"He's been just a joy to coach," St. Thomas coach Johnny Tauer said.
Tauer recruited Bjorklund in high school but was told Bjorklund was so invested in his company that he would not play college basketball.
Bjorklund comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His dad operates a real estate business, and his three older siblings have started their own companies.
As a middle schooler, Bjorklund followed older brother Carter into a venture that involved creating niche Twitter accounts. Basically, they made parody accounts of popular TV shows, movies and characters that gained traction with fans.
Before long, Parker was operating 25 Twitter accounts with a combined 3 million followers. Advertisers took notice and paid him to promote their products. He had his own business as a high school student. Essentially, a social media influencer.
"He would have to be on his phone just about all day long," Carter Bjorklund said. "Every 15 or 20 minutes managing every account."
Keeping content fresh and engaging on two dozen accounts requires diligence. Sorry, Chaska faculty.
"I was sneaking on my phone during class," Parker Bjorklund said. "Probably doing stuff I shouldn't have been doing."
Eventually, that business venture ended. Bjorklund suddenly had more free time and started to miss basketball. He called Tauer in the summer of 2020 to ask if he could try out for the team.
Tauer was intrigued but unsure of what to expect because Bjorklund had not played in two years, COVID-19 had thrown everything into chaos and St. Thomas was moving to Division I.
"You're thinking, 'OK, how is this going to work?' " Tauer said. "But that's the beauty of sports."
Five minutes into the tryout, Bjorklund had made his case.
"He was dunking and cutting and moving," Tauer said. "We were like, this kid is the most athletic kid in the gym."
"I was throwing up bricks," he said.
He didn't just make the team, he became a starter and one of the Tommies' best players. In a season shortened to seven games, he averaged 13 points.
That was against D-III competition. He is playing even better this season against D-I teams, averaging 14 points and 7.4 rebounds in 10 games.
A late bloomer physically, he has added more muscle to his 6-6 frame and is explosive and crafty around the basket. Tauer calls him one of the most athletic and versatile post players the program has had in years.
Bjorklund is unsure if he will use more of his eligibility after this season. He is majoring in entrepreneurship. He doesn't have his next business idea in mind yet, but he's sure of one thing: "I definitely want to be my own boss."