A mixed blessing: Multiethnic Parisian features multifaceted game for Vulcans

Alex Parisian has never missed a match for UH-Hilo, and this season the senior right-side hitter is second among the starters in kills, fourth in digs and tied for second in blocks. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

There is more to Alex Parisian than meets the eye, the big-game right-side hitter for the UH-Hilo volleyball team, who qualifies as the most interesting Vulcan.

For starters, let’s begin with her last name, Parisian. How many times does she get asked if that’s French?


“I get that question very often,” she said. “My last name is French.”

There’s a twist, though.

“It used to be ‘En’ Parisien,” she said. “My family came from Canada and changed it to ‘An’ Parisian.”

So we know Parisian is French. But what else?

“I’m Korean, French, Irish, and Blackfoot Indian, a lot of mixture,” she said. “My dad is from Montana and my mom is from Korea. I come from a lot of different cultures. The Blackfoot Indian culture is a huge part of who I am.

“I always visit family members whenever I can, especially my mom’s side. Korean is my favorite food to eat. Blackfoot Indians are known more for their culture. Our family did a lot of camping. We had a Teepee on land my grandpa owned. I remember the celebrations, the gathering of singing and dancing, honoring old ancestors. A lot of native Americans would get together and come together to celebrate the culture. It’s an awesome culture.”

According to Britannica, the Blackfoot lived in Alberta, Canada and Montana, where they remain on a reservation. At the height of their power in the first half of the 19th century, they held a vast territory extending from northern Saskatchewan to the southernmost headwaters of the Missouri River, about 1,477 miles.

Early 21st century population estimates indicated some 90,000 individuals of Blackfoot descent in Canada and the United States.

Her parents, Donnie (basketball) and Sheila (volleyball), both played at Montana State University-Northern, an NAIA school, where they met.

No surprise, Parisian, a 6-foot-1 senior, played basketball for two years at Apple Valley High in California, which made her dad happy, and also played for her mom before dropping hoops to concentrate on volleyball.

If you’re following along, there’s a question of how did Parisian’s parents wind up in Apple Valley, which is out in the boonies between California and Las Vegas.

Well, there’s an interesting movie-theme backstory to that, too.

“My grandpa (Stephen Loftus) was in the Air Force, traveling a lot when he met my grandma (Pokhee),” Parisian said. “The family moved to California and both my parents attended college, where they met. My grandpa worked on one of the bases close to Apple Valley and decided to settle down there.

“My dad works for a cement plant, Cemex, and my mom started teaching there and is a program specialist in curriculum and behavior. There’s a lot to do in the desert. I formed the most amazing friendships, and the town has supportive people.”

Here’s a fun fact: Apple Valley, with a population of 69,000, was home to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the husband and wife singing and acting duo, whose museum was established in 1967.

UHH coach Chris Leonard has described Parisian as a student of the game, someone who watches film on opponents. But there’s more to her than just that.

“She’s a very caring person, intense on the court, and a competitor,” he said. “One of the things I liked about her when I first saw her as a freshman was when the game was on the line, she wanted to take that swing. That’s one of the things that stood out about her. The bigger the moment, the more she wanted to take a swing in pressure situations.”

Parisian is the Cal Ripken Jr. of UHH, never missing a game, for the Vulcans (4-2, 1-1 PacWest), who hit the road for a four-match journey, starting with Dominican on Monday.

“I can’t believe I’m a senior. It feels like I got here yesterday,” she said. ‘“It’s an amazing feeling when you look back at the number of people you played with and against. I continue to work hard and am grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given.”

The southpaw opposite has 74.5 points, second to fellow senior Bria Beale and just ahead of another senior Ashton Jessee, a 6-3 senior middle blocker and part of the Vulcan Trio Core.

Parisian is hitting .208, second among the starters. Jessee has a superb .375 attack percentage. But Parisian shows her versatility on defense. She’s fourth in digs and tied for second in blocks, a tough assignment as the opposite who defends the opponent’s best hitter.

But the satisfaction of her achievements takes a backseat to the camaraderie she shares with Beale, who’s from Eastvale, Calif., and Jessee, who’s from Alaska.

“They’re my two closest friends,” Parisian said. “Ash will finish her degree and go to law school, and Bria is a graduate student. I’m proud of their accomplishments.”

Like Beale and Jessee, who both work at Short N Sweet, Parisian has a part-time job at Starbucks.

“I’m active, a busy person and love to keep myself busy,” said Parisian, a communications and sociology major. “I’m trying to prepare myself for the future. I have a 5-year-old little brother (Donnievan), and he’s starting to play sports. It’s awesome to watch him learn sports and see what he’ll get into.

“I played basketball my first two years of high school and made my dad proud. I was going back and forth between sports. I’m interested in being a guidance counselor or an academic advisor. Whatever happens, happens.”

Whenever she has free time, Parisian hangs out with her boyfriend, Tom Power, a 6-8 senior from New Zealand, the No. 1 spot to visit on her bucket list.

When they shoot hoops, Parisian can offer tips on improving his jump hook or blocking out. Her basketball footwork can be seen in the way she closes on blocks or soars to call down the thunder on pressure-packed shots.

“My favorite part is being a leader on the team, that person they can count on,” she said. “I like the feeling of a kill in the close moments of a game, a block or ace, being relied on to put a ball down.”

And here’s one last move-theme subplot on how she found a home in Hilo.

“I put out film and former coach Gene Krieger found me. I worked the summer camps at UHH with the younger keiki,” Parisian said. “It was my first time in Hawaii. I heard volleyball was a huge part of Hilo, and I was inspired to dive into the culture.

“Tom and I have cooking days, but we love to go out. Spam musubi is one of my favorites. I like to go to Vernas. I like spicy Hawaiian poke at Sack N Save. But my grandma is a huge chef. Her tofu soup is my favorite food in the whole world.”

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