Star shooting guard welcomes being a role model for the youth

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- You never know who's looking up to you, you can be a role model to anyone. It's a bond that goes beyond sports and for Madi Hecox and Soraya Parker, it's about being part of a family.

"She just said to me, mom, I'm going to be on the news tonight, I put my hands behind my back just like Madi does," said Jessica Parker. "And that was so telling, to me, the impact that Madi has on Soraya."

A simple gesture with major significance. Madi Hecox has been in the Rockford sports spotlight since her time at East., but a tweet about being a role model is going viral.

"The way you perform on the court, in the classroom, you don't know who's watching you," said Hecox. "So it's important to kind of have the right mentality on the court because you can make an influence on anybody's life."

Hecox and the Parkers were once neighbors, but one night changed their relationship forever.

"And they're like where are you, we're coming to pick you up, our neighbors," said Hecox. "And I was like, I'm at Guilford. And they were like, you can't go home, so I knew it was about my mom."

Traci Hecox died after complications from surgery in October of 2014. Madi was at her sister's volleyball game. The first person she called was Jessica Parker.

"I kind of struggled with how to support her during that time of need. and I realized she just needed space, to feel her feelings and be angry or be sad or jealous of other relationships," said Parker. "And I learned that with Madi, when she was here, to just allow her to kind of be there and have those feelings."

"They took me under their wing like I was their own kid, there was no hesitation. They're really important," said Hecox.

Now Madi has a chance to have a big role in Soraya's life.

"Once she moved, I felt like I didn't see her as much," said Parker. "So I've been, like, talking to her way more. So when she comes, I get super excited that I'm with her."

"I knew, like, I'm a big sister to her, but that message, like, really pushed the point of the impact I have on her life," said Hecox. "Because I wasn't completely aware of how important I was, obviously in the family life, but just in general."

That bond has carried onto the basketball court.

"She told her coach that she would only play if she could be number three. So, it's super special. Obviously she's kind of watched me grow and I've had the opportunity to watch her grow."

"She is a part of our family. It's nothing special that she has set out to do, she just is a big sister to Soraya."