Forward Chandler Parsons went through a lot in his four years playing for the Florida Gators. From finding early success to being locked out of the gym by head coach Billy Donovan to becoming the first basketball player school history to win the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year award, Parsons reflects on his college career fondly but is equally excited looking ahead to his future playing in the NBA.
One of 54 players invited to the official 2011 NBA Combine in Chicago, IL from May 18-22, Parsons is currently in California working on refining his game and improving in any way he possibly can to get prepared for workouts, individual team meetings and the 2011 NBA Draft on June 23. After completing a rigorous day of workouts on Monday, Parsons sat down with OGGOA for an extensive interview about his future playing professionally and career in the orange and blue.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start off by talking about what is going on for you now that the season is over and you are preparing for the draft. What have you been doing recently to get ready and how is it going?
CHANDLER PARSONS: “I’ve been in L.A. [since May 1] working out at 360 Health Club with Don MacClean, who’s the all-time leading scorer at UCLA. It’s me, Jon Leuer from Wisconsin and Malcom Thomas from San Diego State. And then there’s some pros like David Lee comes here [Tuesday]. Paul George with the Pacers has been working out with us. J.R. Giddens, who was at Kansas, transferred to New Mexico and got drafted by the Celtics, he’s been working with us. It’s been a combination of two-to-six guys every day just working really hard. We work out on the court for about an hour and a half and then you lift for about an hour with the guys and Steve Campbell who is the strength coach here. The facilities are beautiful. It’s right up in the valley in Woodland Hills in Los Angeles. It’s a really good setup and we’re just working on all aspects of our game – two-on-two, pick-and-roll, offense, defense. The main thing is just getting in shape, being in the best condition of your life going forward for these NBA workouts.”
AS: What specifically are you working on and trying to showcase at the combine? Has your post game been a specific focus?
CP: “I’ve been working off the ball, catching the ball at the post when I get a smaller three or two on me. I measured at 6’10 1/2” in shoes, so I’m going to have a lot of mismatches at the next level. I’m going to be able to take some guys down on the block. I’ve been working on my post game, my handle, being able to create and still facilitate just like I did at Florida. And then there’s the difference with the NBA three-point line, which I’m very comfortable shooting with, but it’s about getting a lot of reps up, same form, becoming more of a consistent three-point shooter from that distance.”
AS: What have you heard from your agent in regards to a projection for the draft?
CP: “When I first signed with my agent, who is Mark Bartelstein, he told me anywhere from mid-first round to early second round. Now, after this week of working out, my trainer Don MacLean told Mark, ‘I don’t know what kind of workouts you’re scheduling, but you need to start scheduling Chandler with teams with picks in the teens.’ He sees me going a lot higher than people are projecting me with how good I’ve been doing out here – anywhere from the teens to mid-first round to early second round.”
Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chandler Parsons…after the break!
AS: ESPN’s Chad Ford had some high praise for you after watching you in workouts recently. When you read praise like that, do you block it out or do you use it to reinforce what you’re doing so you work harder?
CP: “It’s flattering. For a guy like Chad Ford, who has so much respect and power, to come in and watch me work out, it’s impressive and I like it. But at the same time, just because he saw me work out and thought I was really good, that’s not going to make me stop. I’m going to keep motivated. I’m trying to prove everybody wrong. I’m going to go in there, and I’m just trying to get drafted as high as possible. It was good from the standpoint that he came, he saw how far along I’ve come. He told my agent it was one of the best workouts he’s seen in five years. To hear those kinds of things from a guy with his power is great. At the same time, I’m not content with just one article. I want to keep going. I want to be drafted as high as possible.”
AS: Let’s go back to your senior season at Florida. You went through a rough patch in the beginning of the year and said your goal was just to stay confident and keep taking shots. How tough was that game against Central Florida for you seeing as you did not perform your best in front of friends and family in your hometown?
CP: “It was difficult. Obviously going back home, there’s a lot of family and friends that you grew up with at that city. You want to play well. Ultimately I was more heartbroken because we lost the game to a team I feel like we were a lot better than and we should have won the game. From a selfish standpoint, I obviously wanted to play better. I had a terrible shooting night, but if you look back I did some other things. I got some assists, I rebounded the ball; I just shot horrible. Everybody can have games like that, but it was definitely frustrating to do it in my hometown when I had hundreds of people there and ultimately we lost the game. It was definitely a frustrating point for me and honestly one of the lowest points of my career.”
AS: Once you were able to put some solid scoring efforts together in January, did the shooting hiccups just work themselves out?
CP: “I’m very competitive, so no matter who the game was against or where it was, if I played bad I’m not sleeping well that night. I’m going to the gym. I’m getting a lot of shots up. I’m watching film and looking at things I can do differently. I don’t think one game really can change my season. That was definitely a low point, and I never wanted to play like that again. From that point forward, we really grew as a team. Obviously we had the bad [Jacksonville] loss and the UCF loss but after those it really humbled us as a team. It definitely humbled me as a player playing the way that I did. We really took off from those two games.”
AS: Had you ever played in a game before like that road contest at Auburn? How difficult was that for the team to fight through when nothing was falling for anyone?
CP: “It was difficult. There’s no easy games in the SEC. Obviously Auburn didn’t have the best record, didn’t have all these NBA guys, but it’s hard to go anywhere and beat a team on their home floor. That was one of those nights where nothing was falling for any team. They seemed to be hitting more shots than us, and I think it showed some resiliency of our team just how bad we played to still pull out a road win on someone else’s home floor against a SEC competitor. That was definitely frustrating. The games are going to be ugly like that. At the end of the day we look back and say we won the game.”
AS: You suffered a deep thigh bruise against Tennessee. Were you in a lot of pain the rest of the game or were you running on adrenaline and it hurt more after it was over?
CP: “It hurt. I had no lift. I couldn’t have that first step where I could get by my guy, get in the lane and facilitate. It happened like the third play of the game…and it hurt. I went back in the locker room and there was no way I’m not playing against Tennessee my senior year. There was no way I wasn’t playing. I had to do what I had to do to get back in the game. It was a grind; it hurt a lot. After the game, I rehabbed all week long. The trainer Dave Werner, who has been doing it for like 30 years, said it was the worst thigh contusion he has ever seen. It was terrible. I had never been hurt, and I had never had to miss a game. Thank God we had a week off to prepare for LSU, but I was unable to play against LSU which was real frustrating.”
AS: You only missed that one game and came back in the win against Georgia. How tough was it to play through the injury at that point as well as through rest of the year? I know it lingered for you at least through the beginning of March, right?
CP: “It was tough. Our trainer told me it’s not going to go away, the pain’s not going to go away. ‘You just have to grind it out this last month.’ The only way really to help it is to rest it and keep rehabbing it. I was in the training room more during this time period than I had ever been the last four years. I was doing everything I could to get back on the court. Ultimately he was saying how only rest was going to really stop it from hurting. The rest of the season I was playing, I wore those protective tights; I wore that huge shell over it just in case I got hit again. It was definitely uncomfortable, and I definitely was not at 100 percent the rest of the year. I’m a senior; I was willing to do whatever it took for our team to be successful. Once we got into the tournament, I think I was pretty close to 100 percent. Even right now I lift up my leg and I don’t feel it anymore. So it’s definitely gone by now.”
AS: You guys prevailed against Kentucky in the first meeting at home, had the hard-fought game on the road against them and then fell for the second time in the finals of the SEC Tournament. What did they do differently that allowed them to prevail in the latter two games?
CP: “They’re a great team. Obviously Kentucky has a tremendous amount of talent with all of their guys. They have guys that can score at all five positions. I think it was just us guarding their dribble-drive offense and obviously going into Rupp [Arena] is one of the hardest places to play in the country. Not a lot of people win games there. Looking back on it, we swept Tennessee, we swept Vandy, Kentucky we got one at our place. They’re just a really good team and their personnel is tough to match-up with.”
AS: Obviously you were happy to win SEC Player of the Year, but how did you and the team feel about being able to bring home the SEC Coach of the Year award that Billy Donovan had deserved numerous times but not yet received until this year?
CP: “It was huge. He deserved it. He’s deserved it in years past also. We don’t control the voting and the judging and stuff like that. All the expectations we had at the beginning of the year with the seniors and the team that we had coming in, he really brought the best out of us. We were really happy for him to get it. Me, on the other hand, I definitely couldn’t have done it without my teammates. Looking back, 92 years there’s never been a player at the University of Florida to win [SEC] Player of the Year. That was really impressive and something I’ll cherish the rest of my life.”
AS: As the NCAA Tournament came to a close, he was criticized for his strategy and some of his play calls when games were close or tied. A lot of people don’t take into consideration that just because a play is called or you want to do something on the court, it doesn’t mean the other team will let you accomplish your goal. Looking back on some of those situations, how much of it was coaching versus execution?
CP: “First of all, people who stand on the outside, they’re not in practice everyday. They don’t know what goes on between the lines and in the [practice] facility for four hours a day. We know our offense. We know our personnel. Looking back on it, I’m sure there have been a lot of possessions throughout the year where we wanted to get something different or we didn’t necessarily take the best shot we could get. Those shots you’re referring to… Erving Walker has hit a lot of those shots throughout the season. The one at Georgia he hit was unbelievable. Just because one of the shots or two of the shots doesn’t go down, you can’t blame a game [or a coach] for that. Although I’m sure that we would have liked a better look at the basket and get something driving to the hoop, it was just one shot that [Walker] felt comfortable taking and it just happened. You can’t do anything about it now, but he had been huge for us all year.”
AS: During the press conference after the tournament, the seniors were obviously depressed and it was quite visual in everyone’s mannerisms and expressions. Did the three of you ever get a chance to sit back and appreciate what you accomplished or is it one of those things where it just continues to hurt knowing what could have been?
CP: “We did. After the season, obviously, we were heartbroken and we were crushed. It was hard to even watch the tournament continue on. We were proud; we were happy. We did some special things this year though it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end. We wanted to make a run; we wanted to go to the Final Four and compete for a national championship and we fell short. We were up 10 points with five minutes to go and we [should have been] cutting down the nets, going to Houston for the Final Four. It was definitely sad and it was definitely heartbreaking at the time, but as time went on we really looked back and realized we made history this year. No one has ever swept Vandy; no one has ever swept Tennessee. Coach has never got Coach of the Year; no one has ever got Player of the Year. We really did some special things as a team together this year, looking back on it and making it to the Elite Eight.”
AS: There is always talk about the close relationship the Oh Fours had at Florida and continue to have now that they have left. How close did the three of you get, and was bringing Vernon Macklin into the fold a natural fit?
CP: “It was. Vernon Macklin took his visit when no one was on campus and I had driven up from Orlando to host his visit. It was just me and him. Right off the bat, me and Vern got a great connection, he will be one of my best friends for the rest of my life. We really just bonded. Alex [Tyus], obviously he’s married and didn’t spend as much time with us off the court because he has a family. Us three, we’ve been through a lot together, especially me and Alex those first three years. Us three have done a lot together, and we’re still rooting for each other. Vern is in Boston right now working out for the draft. Alex is at Tampa working out at IMG. We’re all over the map right now, but we’re going to communicate for the rest of our lives.”
AS: Tyus has had good games in his career, but his performances in the tournament were inspired. How did he handle the success he had at such an important time?
CP: “You won’t see any facial expression differently on Alex whether he had two points or 15 points or six rebounds or 20 rebounds. His whole thing is just bringing energy, doing whatever he can. He is just a guy who was all about the team and just wanted to be successful.”
AS: Looking ahead to next year for the Gators, you won’t be there but Florida has plenty of young guys hoping to build on the success your team had last year. Can you talk a little bit about the team’s potential for the upcoming season?
CP: “Even though I’m not there, I’m going to be a Gator fan for the rest of my life, so I’m going to be watching those guys. It’s going to be interesting because obviously I’m not going to be there everyday, so sometimes I’ll be scratching my head like, ‘Why are they doing that?’ or ‘Why are they doing this?’ Coach Donovan is going to know what he’s doing. We’re going to have so many guards next year with Erv, Kenny [Boynton], [Mike] Rosario, Scottie [Wilbekin], Casey [Prather] and Brad Beal coming in. I can see us at times even going in a four-guard set. We’re going to score a lot of points. Those guys can really shoot the ball. From what I’m hearing about Brad Beal, I hear he’s an absolute monster. And I’ve seen Mike Rosario in practice absolutely light it up. Those guys really put the ball in the basket.
“Obviously Patric Young is getting better. Will [Yegeute], Casey [Prather], Erik [Murphy] are getting better. I can see them making some noise next year if they just stick together and worry about the defensive end. The biggest thing is, with all those guards, they still have to run the offense and get good shots. Coach Donovan is going to have them doing the right things.”
AS: Rosario is a player who some casual fans may not know about because all he’s been able to do is practice with you guys while he sat out this season [transferred from Rutgers]. What kind of role do you see him playing for Florida next season?
CP: “I’m never good at guessing who is going to start. I would be shocked if he’s not one of the leading scorers in the SEC. He can literally get it up and change the game. He’s one of the best scorer-shooters I’ve ever seen. He obviously played at Rutgers; they didn’t win a lot of games but he was their best player and every other team’s defense was designed to stop him and he still got 18 [points]-a-game as a freshman and 17 as a sophomore in the Big East. Now he’s coming to Florida. There’s a lot of freedom. Coach Donovan’s offense is set for guards to get a lot of looks. He’s going to be really successful here. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t one of the top scorers in the country.”
AS: As the regular season ended and you were heading into postseason action, Donovan lauded you with a lot of praise and couldn’t stop talking about your development over the last four years both as a player and teammate. How hard was he on you those first few years, and how has your relationship developed since then?
CP: “When I came in as a freshman, I had the total wrong mindset. I had everything figured out. This class just won two national championships; our class is going to come in and be just as good. And we weren’t. Coach made it clear that he was going to put our backs against the wall. He was going to challenge us and get the best out of us. The first two years were extremely tough. You know everything that happened – getting kicked out of the gym and all that. Never in a million years would we have thought the years would have went like that. On the same hand, we were I think 8-8 in conference and then 9-7 in conference and we were on the bubble every year for the tournament. Obviously that’s not the standard we want to have at Florida, but other schools have had a lot worse records and a lot worse years than we did my first two years. We still won a lot of games; we still beat some impressive teams.
“Looking back on it now, as a junior, he understood my role was going to change. I was going to be more of a leader. And then last season, I was the leader – me and Vern really were the vocal guys. It was like a trust relationship. The bond me and Coach Donovan have is great. He trusted me to talk to the younger guys, make sure they were doing the right things on- and off-the-court. And on the court, understanding what I can do, what our team needs. It was just different. It was night-and-day our relationship from my senior year to our freshman year.”
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Photo Credit: Associated Press