Mahkeal Parris, 16 years old, is a confident young man but not arrogant – despite being named the best nine-ball pool player in the world in his age group.
Parris competed in Russia Oct. 30 and came home the winner of the Ball Championship Juniors by overcoming 22 competitors from 17 countries. He said his last matches leading up to the win were against 15 and 16 year olds from Hong Kong, Russia, Denmark, Iran and the United States. This was his second appearance in the international competition.
“There was more pressure but I was not intimidated,” he said.
When it was over, he said he felt a sense of relief rather than excitement.
Tournaments are not new for Parris, he has been competing nationally for years and first began playing pool, or billiards as it is also called, when he was four years old.
“At the age of six, I started getting serious about the game,” said Parris, unpretentiously.
His mother, Debra Parris, said he spent time in a barbershop while she was working next door and after a while, the barber said Parris had picked up a pool stick and started playing. His father played pool so he learned the basics from him. He also watched pool on YouTube so often that he dreamed about the game.
A customer of the barbershop eventually introduced him to a coach, who stressed academics as well as techniques of the game. Parris, a good student, attended Church of God elementary school and now is a student at St. Croix Central High School.
For the last five years, Jerome Anthony has been Parris’s coach. The teenager plays three times a week – sometimes alone and sometimes against other players. As the coach and the pupil practice, they seem to be friends as much as mentor and student. Their practice session was relaxed, with frequent laughter.
Anthony said the most amazing thing about Parris is that he practices on an eight-foot pool table but the tournaments are played on a nine-foot table. The coach has developed specific drills to make up for the difference in the table size.
Parris has played other sports over the years, especially basketball, but is afraid if he gets injured he won’t be able to play pool. He plans to go to college, preferably a college that also teaches pool, so he can also study to become a computer engineer. He is hoping for a scholarship.
In the meanwhile, Parris will continue to play pool with the V.I. Billiards Association and compete in national tournaments. He likes the high-level playing and says he’s as good as his opponents but he doesn’t say he’s a better player.
He says his secret to success is simple – “I love competition.”