Walking around the Niagara campus as a high school recruit, Angel Parker was drawn to the school’s small size, proximity to home and community feel. The Lewiston, N.Y., campus with 3,300 undergraduates had a familial feel to the 5-foot, 5-inch guard from Cheektowaga, a half hour away.
That familial feel became an actuality when her younger sister Aaliyah joined her with the Purple Eagles two years later.
“It means everything,” Aaliyah said. “Not many people get this opportunity. So, to be able to grow with her, to even play with her basically my whole life, and then also come to college, it’s just a great opportunity.”
They have each blazed their way into the record books and established themselves as elite players as they received two of the five spots on the All-MAAC First Team a season ago.
Aaliyah led the league in scoring at 16.9 and steals with 3.7. Angel was second in the conference with steals with 3.1 and placed second on the team in scoring at 15.7, which was fourth in the MAAC.
For Angel, it was her second straight unanimous first team selection. For Aaliyah, it was her first time on the first team, just one season after claiming the Rookie of the Year honor unanimously. The now junior was tabbed as the preseason player of the year heading into this season.
“Being able to watch my sister grow as a player, I think is amazing,” Angel said. “I was there when she was in diapers, so being able to watch her do all these amazing things on the court and being able to help her and she also helps me out is beautiful.”
The two Parkers were the only two unanimous selections to the preseason first team.
But their success stems beyond individual accolades. They led Niagara to the program’s first postseason berth last year as they participated in the WNIT after finishing tied for second with a program-record 16 conference wins.
Looking for the Purple Eagles’ first conference crown, they were named the preseason favorite this year.
“[Playing alongside one another] plays a huge advantage,” Aaliyah said. “I feel like we’ve played together so long that we already know what each other are going to do. So, I feel like that plays to our advantage a lot. Like it’s just an instinct basically.”
The Parkers’ instincts on the defensive end of the floor rank among the best in the country. Over the last two seasons they each finished second in the country in steals. Aaliyah registered 3.7 last season, while Angel tallied 4.9 in 2022.
“[My coaches] always just harped on defense, playing hard and never giving up,” Angel said. “That really is what defense is. So, just giving my all and getting those steals brings satisfaction to me.”
The Purple Eagles sit at 5-6 on the season and faced tough competition in No. 2 UCLA, No. 7 and defending national champion LSU and Maryland. They opened MAAC play with a pair of wins at Iona and Saint Peter’s.
Niagara completes non-conference play at West Virginia before hitting the conference portion of the schedule in the new year.