SEC title a dream come true for UF’s seniors

By Adam Silverstein
March 2, 2011

“I couldn’t dream of a better way of finishing my career here.”

That is how Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons described the perfect storm of good fortune that his team encountered Tuesday night.

“This is a great feeling. I just feel honored right now.”

Emotional words coming from a 6’10” 240 lb. redshirt senior center named Vernon Macklin, who has shown flashes of dominance in only his second season as a starter after transferring from Georgetown.

“It means everything.”

The only way senior F Alex Tyus could verbalize the expression on his face as he walked off the court after the 78-51 beating Florida put on the Alabama Crimson Tide to capture at least a share of the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title.

His next thought?

“I don’t want to hear anything about ‘co-‘ or ‘share.’ I want to win it outright. Let’s get this win against Vandy.”

Just another thing he has in common with his classmates.

“The best thing about it is Saturday we have an opportunity to go and win on the road and be the only SEC champs, not just have a share of it,” Parsons said. “We did it tonight, but we want to win out and win against Vanderbilt. I’m glad we did it for Coach Donovan,” Macklin added.

So while the Gators have another obstacle in front of them Saturday, facing No. 20/21 Vanderbilt to earn more than a “share” of the SEC title but instead the whole thing, Tuesday was a day where dreams were reached and emotions were, well, shared. And it all started with head coach Billy Donovan.

“I couldn’t be any happier and more proud and more excited,” he said after his team’s dominant victory. “There hasn’t been a lot of SEC Championships in Florida’s basketball history. For Chandler and Alex and Vernon to have a piece of that, and not only have a piece of that but play the way they did tonight…because all three of them had a huge impact in the game…I’m just so happy for them. I didn’t know three or four years ago if a day like today was possible for some of these guys. Just the way they’ve grown, the way they’ve battled; for me as a coach, I was really happy just sitting there watching them.”

Parsons looked back on his career and appreciated the support of his younger teammates, family and all of the fans that came out to support him throughout his career.

“The atmosphere was great. Our younger guys really played hard for the seniors tonight. It was an unbelievable ending to my career here,” he said. “My four years here have been unbelievable. I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve become such a better player and a better person. I just want to thank the fans and my family for giving me this opportunity.”

Macklin was just pleased that he had the chance to shine on a big stage, something he did not believe would have been possible if he stayed at Georgetown.

“I’m glad to be a Gator, and I’m thankful for Coach Donovan and the coaching staff for taking a risk on me,” he said humbly.

Tyus was thrilled with his team’s performance and was so riled up by the experience that he simply never wanted it to end.

“When the game’s going like that, I was thinking, ‘Put 10 more minutes on the clock. Let’s keep going and going.’ I wasn’t tired,” he said. “I don’t think anybody was tired. We were just doing a great job with everything. Coach D always tells us to have that killer instinct, and we did it.”

For Donovan, Tuesday’s game could not have gone better. Not because he won another SEC title, his three seniors led the team to victory or he was responsible for athletic director Jeremy Foley’s 100th career championship. What touched Donovan the most was the fact that he was able to get redshirt junior F Adam Allen on the court one last time, putting him in with 25 seconds left to dribble out the clock.

“There were a lot of things that came to kind of a pinnacle tonight. One, Adam Allen’s injury and never being able to play. Just being able to throw him out there… We could have been in a dogfight game, comes down to the final minute or two. Just for him to be able to step on the floor and do that was very, very meaningful for me,” he said.

“That was a great thing because Adam has been a great kid. He’s kind of been a little bit of a lost player so to speak because he’s been injured and he’s never really played since his freshman year, but he’s at every single practice. He’s so encouraging to our guys. He’s great on the bench for home games. He wants to be a part of it.

“I couldn’t even imagine being a player and just going through three years of never being able to play and having three different knee operations to try to get yourself back to playing. Just for him, on this Senior Night, for me to be able to put him in there and to see his expression just to go on the floor. He came up to me about 10 times, ‘Coach, thanks so much. Coach, I appreciate it. Thanks so much.’ It meant so much to him.

“I don’t know if people really understand when you talk about a three-year injury and never really being able to play. That’s a hard thing for a kid to go through. And then never to miss a practice and be there every day and be encouraging to your teammates. He’s a special kid, and I’m glad I was able to do that for him tonight.”

The moment also touched Parsons, Allen’s good friend and roommate who has stuck by his side since the very beginning.

“That was the most exciting part [of the night] for me personally,” he said with a huge smile. “I know exactly what he’s been through. He’s been my best friend since I’ve been here; he’s been my roommate. So I know exactly what he feels like, and I bet that felt really good for him.”

Of course, the impact it had on Allen approaches unforgettable.

“I was stretching on the sidelines when the lead got big,” Allen told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley after the game. “I checked my jersey three or four times to make sure it was still on. I didn’t want to pull my warm-up off and not have a jersey on.”

With one more regular season game and two more tournaments to participate in before wrapping up the season, the Gators want to be sure to savor this moment but not let it affect their collective effort and attitude going forward. Parsons understands this and, as the de facto team leader, does not plan to let it be an issue.

“It feels really good,” he said of winning Tuesday. “It’s been a long time coming, but I hope this is just the beginning of me being a champion. I hope we can keep winning many more games.”

Photo Credits: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

One Comment

  1. Timmy T says:

    I feel great for the seniors. It couldn’t have been written much better than the way it all played out. And, I’ll tell you another thing. If the boys play like they did in the 2nd half last night, they’ll make a serious run.

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