Parsons, Tyus, Macklin celebrating Senior Day

By Adam Silverstein
March 1, 2011

The No. 14/14 Florida Gators (22-6, 11-3 SEC) hope the conclusion of Tuesday’s game against the Alabama Crimson Tide (19-9, 11-3 SEC) brings the same smiles that three seniors and one junior will have on their faces before the contest even begins, as the University of Florida celebrates the achievements of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus, and redshirt junior F Adam Allen on Senior Day. All three players, along with head coach Billy Donovan, spoke about the special occasion on Monday.

LOOKING BACK ON FOUR YEARS OF GROWTH

Refraining from referring to ego or a sense of entitlement, Donovan discussed the trials and tribulations his graduating class went through over the course of their Florida careers – especially early on.

“I don’t think you can really be successful unless your heart really gets broken in something that’s competitive,” he said. “I did not feel, when those guys were freshmen and sophomores, that their hearts were broken. Their hearts got broken after their sophomore year. When they came in here after those two National Championships, there was no doubt in their mind they were cruising right to the same thing in 2008 and 2009. It was just very, very immature. It was not their fault. There was no one there to show them.

“They walked into the most difficult situation you could possibly walk into as a young group, and it was not their fault. If anybody, it was my fault. When I say it was my fault, I did not have enough depth or enough people around those guys that when [the Oh Fours] left, that there was enough there for those guys. They came in as freshmen not knowing anything and really got put into a very difficult situation. I give them credit because they were resilient. They did battle and they did fight and they did try to figure things out. They could have felt sorry for themselves. They could have left and gone somewhere else, but they kept battling. Where they are today from where they were as freshmen is two totally different ends of the spectrum.”

Parsons remembers Donovan locking the team out of the beautiful practice facility and taking away their official team clothes after a tough first season that resulted in a NIT berth. “That was unbelievable. That was a rough time for everybody,” he said. “Having to practice at Florida Gym with no shirt, our own shorts, having to do our laundry, come back three times a day, practicing at P.K. Yonge. That was definitely different. Those experiences have helped our upperclassmen get to where they are today.”

EMOTIONAL YET REWARDING

Like most coaches, Donovan will probably show plenty of emotion and stick his chest out with pride as his four oldest players celebrate their final game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “It’s always a hard thing. It’s emotional for anybody. When guys step into the arena and know it’s their last game, that’s significant,” he said. “They’re never going to play there again. When they’re young, they act like it’s never going to end. Now they realize, ‘Wow, this is coming to an end.’”

That being said, he also realizes what it took for them to get to where they are now both as players and individuals. “It’s been very rewarding, fulfilling just to see them to get to this point. Sometimes, two-to-three years ago, you don’t know if you’re ever going to get to that point in time,” Donovan noted. “They have worked hard. They have figured some things out. They still know there is a lot left of this season to be played.

“Those three guys deserve a lot of credit in terms of trying to get better, trying to improve and dealing with the adversity and growing pains of trying to be successful.”

Macklin in particular realizes he has made huge strides since first joining the team as a transfer from Georgetown. “I came a long way. I was mentally and physically weak when I got here,” he said. “It was tough for me to realize that coaches and these players actually care about me. Me sitting out, these guys treated me like I was actually playing that year. That made me feel like those guys really wanted me to be here. That helped me out a lot, and I think I’ve grown a lot from there.”

Read more from the mouths of Parsons, Allen and Macklin…after the break!

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Parsons, who could very well be the 2011 SEC Player of the Year considering the impact he has had on the Gators, sees Tuesday’s game as a chance to do something special in the O’Dome. “It’s very emotional. I’ve spent a lot of time in there, had a lot of games and a lot of memories in there. It’s crazy. Flew by really fast,” he said. “I’m excited to get out there and I’m excited to play there. What’s at stake in the game, I couldn’t ask for a better ending than to get the win tomorrow night on Senior Night, my last game ever at the O’Dome, and get a share of the SEC Championship.

“It means everything. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs – a lot of good games at the O’Dome, a lot of bad games at the O’Dome. It would be really special to me if I can end it with a bang and end it with us cutting down the nets.”

On track to graduate, Parsons has seemingly been the glue that kept the team together over the last two years, a fact that Donovan has not missed whatsoever.

“I would say this about Chandler, and I think this is the greatest compliment you can ever give any player… Chandler Parsons has never, ever had a bad day of practice or game, in my opinion. He maybe hasn’t always shot the ball well or played well or done everything I’ve asked him to do, but he has always given me 1,000 percent of himself all the time,” he said.

“I never worried about him, from his freshman year even until now. I don’t worry about him coming to practice and working hard. I don’t worry about him giving a great effort. His approach to the game has changed over the last three years from where it was his freshman year. He has given me incredible effort all the time and really plays his heart out. He plays as hard as he can.”

UNFORTUNATE PATIENT

A lot of athletes suffer knee injuries but for all of those who recover in full there are a handful of others who never play their respective sport again. Unfortunately for Allen, he fit into the latter category. Even though he has not played since 2007-08 and has decided to move in a different direction with his career, he is pumped for Tuesday’s festivities. “It means a lot to me. Even though I have not been able to compete for the past three seasons, I still feel like I’m a huge part of this team,” he said. “Thanks to all the coaches and players that have kept me around and made me feel like a part of the team. It’s going to be a good experience.”

HUGE TRANSFER

It took a huge leap for Macklin to leave Georgetown for Florida. Three years later, it is a choice that Macklin is pleased that he made and excited to see to fruition.

“I think it was a great decision,” he said. “It was a tough one, but I’m here now and it don’t matter how this whole year plays out, I just think it was a great decision to be able to play with Coach Donovan and some of the players I’ve been able to play with.

“[The players] talked to me a lot. They realized how mentally frustrated I was the year I had to sit out. Those guys stuck by my side and talked to me and let me know everything would be alright.”

Asked to convey his best memory of his time in the orange and blue, Macklin went back to the beginning. “The chance they took on me leaving Georgetown,” he said with a smile. “Some guys said some things about me when I left Georgetown that I was going to be an uncoachable kid or whatever. I’m glad Coach Donovan took a chance on me, and I’m thankful for that.”

QUOTES

Donovan on favorite memory including Parsons: “Probably after his freshman year, when he told me that he was going to be a defensive stopper and the best defender in the league.”

Parsons on not playing well the last time his whole family was at a game: “[Sarcastically] Appreciate that. [Genuinely] My family comes to every game.”

Parsons on being injured for the first time: “The injury was definitely a setback. I’ve never had to go through anything like that. I’ve never missed a game – high school, AAU or college – until the LSU game. That was definitely a frustrating time not being able to practice with my team and play with my team on the road.”

Parsons on Selection Sunday his freshman season: “We’re all sitting there not knowing. Even up to the point last year, we were all in the film room as a team and had no idea whether we were in or not. We were sitting there, fingers crossed, just praying we would make the tournament. It’s a little different, a little easier this year knowing we’re in. At the same time, we want to keep winning for a higher seed.”

Allen on not being able to play his final three seasons: “What else can you do? Take it in stride. I wasn’t able to get back and get healthy, but I can’t do anything about it. I got my feet wet, I got a free education out of it, and I got a chance to be a part of the Florida Gators basketball team. That says a lot.”

Allen on staying on the team knowing he was hurt: “I didn’t know after my third surgery, going into it, if I would be able to play or not. I was actually going to walk on, because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play or not, instead of taking a medical scholarship. Kenny Kadji transferred, so I was able to take his scholarship. I just didn’t know if I was going to be able to play.”

Allen on his reward for sticking around this season: “This season has been the best season since I’ve been here. We’re winning and doing good. We got a chance to win the SEC Tournament, get a high seed and hopefully make a run in the NCAAs. That’s rewarding enough for me.”

Macklin on his worst memory: “The conditioning…6 a.m. is pretty tough. That’s a tough memory, but it helped me out in the long run.”

Macklin on when everything coming to an end hit him: “It happens so fast. Like I tell the freshmen, this stuff goes by fast. This is my fifth year in college and it goes by like a blur. Last year seems like it was just year. I’m just glad I’m here, and I’m ready to play tomorrow.”

Macklin on how he’ll be remembered: “Probably the jump hook, I guess. That’s what a lot of people on campus talk about. Some people I know don’t really know basketball, they hit me up and say, ‘I bet I can block your jump hook.’ It’s kind of funny. That’s probably what they’ll remember me as.”

2 Comments

  1. John S says:

    Very nice post thank you. Big game tonight, come on fellas get this one, you’ve earned it.

    Go Gators

  2. Gatorbuc15 says:

    Good post Adam. I’m gonna miss these guys when they’re gone.

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