Growth, maturity make Parsons a Donovan favorite

By Adam Silverstein
October 27, 2010

When senior forward Chandler Parsons joined the Florida Gators in 2007, he became a part of a program that was expected to maintain prominence following back-to-back National Championships. Instead, he was the sixth man for a team that was in the midst of rebuilding itself after losing its six best players to the NBA Draft and graduation.

Like most freshmen, he entered college cocky and sure of himself, confident that he could dominate on the court the same way he did against his less talented high school competition. Coming to the realization that he was a small fish in a big pond – rather than the other way around – was something that took two years for Parsons to understand.

“I came in here with the wrong mindset, thinking I was going to be the man and I could just come out here and do what I did in high school against college guys,” Parsons said Tuesday. “That was proven wrong and, after the first two years, I really had a heart-to-heart with coach [Billy] Donovan. He really pushed me, and I realized that I’m going to have to buy into this system for me to be successful here and for us to win. That’s what’s most important.”

Donovan saw his struggles coming from a mile away. The team’s leading scorer off the bench as a freshman, Parsons expected his talent to carry him through his sophomore year and the rest of his college career.

“He was never in the right place mentally,” Donovan said of Parsons’ mindset after his first two years. “I saw it coming his freshman year and tried to talk to him about it. He was never in the right place mentally going into his sophomore year. He just wasn’t prepared to really deal with it. He dealt with it after his sophomore year and then I think he really started to become better.”

With a new mindset to go along with his physical gifts and abilities, Parsons has become one of Donovan’s favorite players, someone who listened to his instructions and proved that he could do exactly what his coach wanted.

“He has grown as a person, as a player, as much as any player I’ve ever coached,” Donovan said. “From where he was at to where he is now, a lot of it for Chandler was this image and this unrealistic perception of who he thought he was. The crossroads came for him where, after his freshman year, he really thought it was going to be pretty easy to play 18 minutes, ‘I’ve got a year under my belt. I’ve got this all figured out. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ And all of a sudden he got really, really humbled. He didn’t have a great sophomore year, he was really up-and-down. He was not a guy that we could really, really rely on.

“After that sophomore year he came to a crossroads of saying, ‘I really gotta take a deep look inside myself and find out where and how I got to get better.’ It wasn’t so much about his work ethic. Chandler’s work ethic has always been great. He’s always been a really good energy guy. I’ve never had him one time in practice where I’ve had to get on him for his effort – ever. He pushes himself, but it was his mind that was not in a realistic place. It was a mind to me that was in fantasy land a little bit. He now has a much, much better understanding of who he is and how to go out and prepare and get ready to play.”

When Donovan makes a concerted effort to compare you to a NBA lottery pick who recently signed a five-year, $60 million extension with the team that drafted him, you know you are on the right track.

“[Chicago Bulls center] Joakim Noah’s play from his freshman to sophomore year was pretty obvious to see the change. I can tell you that same exact change has gone on with Chandler, except you may not be able to see it as much on the floor,” Donovan said. “I’m so proud of him as a kid and what he’s done and the way he’s grown. It’s easy for guys when it gets hard to sit there and say, ‘You know what? I’m out of here, I’m not dealing with this, I’m going to go somewhere else.’ I give him credit that, when it got hard, he kept battling and fighting. That’s one of Chandler’s great qualities – when things get difficult and hard, he does try to battle and fight.

Parsons realizes he has changed significantly and sees the same qualities in himself that Donovan now points out with great enthusiasm and pride. All he hopes for now is that his improvements and adjustments turn into victories and success for the Gators, for whom he has become a leader.

“On and off the court, I’ve grown. As a player, I think my game is totally different, I’ve become very versatile and tried to work on every [aspect] of my game,” he said. “On the court now, being a senior, my leadership – I’ve been through some things. [Donovan’s] really put my back against the wall so I feel like I’m a good guy for these younger guys to look up to.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

OGGOA RELATED: Once a problem child, Parsons is now a leader


  1. Gatorbuc15 says:

    Chandler has really matured into the leader we hoped that he would.

  2. SC Gator says:

    I’ll admit, I didn’t think he’d ever get it together. Last year was a pleasant surprise and I can’t wait to see how handles this year.

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