Parsons Playing at an All-SEC Level

Four years ago, many thought Florida was taking Chandler Parsons in its recruiting class in order to please his highly recruited Lake Howell High School teammate Nick Calathes. Parsons averaged 8.1 points and four rebounds a game as a freshman and improved in both categories as a sophomore and a junior. However, early in his senior year, the 6-9 Parsons was not playing up to his abilities.

That play included a miserable 0-for-6 night at the free throw line in Florida's 57-54 loss to UCF. In fact, a few weeks back I wrote that Gator seniors Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus were letting this Florida team down and that the Gators would not be any better than the last three years unless that changed.

Things have certainly changed.

The senior forward is playing the best basketball of his Gator career and is putting himself in position to earn All-Conference recognition at this rate. Parsons has averaged 13.4 points and 12 rebounds over the last five games including consecutive double-doubles in wins over Vanderbilt (18/11) and Kentucky (17/12).

Florida coach Billy Donovan said Parsons ranks with the most improved players he's ever had in his 15 years with the Gators.

"The greatest growth I've ever seen from a player that I coached here at Florida is Joakim Noah," Donovan said. "Going from a total enigma, who is this guy playing eight minutes a game to potentially being the first player taken in the NBA draft, winning a national championship and being the finals MVP. I would say that Chandler has made the same kinds of jumps and steps in terms of understanding what this is all about."

Donovan said to fully appreciate the player Parsons is now you have to realize what he was like three years ago.

"I think he came in with really a very poor understanding of competition, work ethic and all that goes into this," Donovan pointed out. "Where he was from the first day he arrived on campus to where he is now, is as great of a jump as I've seen from a guy in terms of just changing in every possible way and I'm very proud of him. I'm starting to see there's a presence there with him where he, as a player is giving me as a coach a confidence of him being very reliable."

Parsons needs 13 points to become the 26th Gator to score 1,300 points. He's also 43 rebounds from 800 and 15 assists shy of 300. If he reaches all three milestones he'll be the first player in Gator history to do so.

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Parsons and the Gators are now 18-5 on the year with a 7-2 record in SEC play. The Gators appear on the verge of wrapping up a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. Florida has played in just one NCAA game during Parson's years with the Gators; a 99-92 double overtime loss to Jimmer Fredette and Brigham Young.

The Gators play at South Carolina (13-8, 4-4) Wednesday night before returning to the O'Dome for a 6:00 Saturday game against Bruce Pearl and Tennessee (15-8, 5-3).

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