(See Chandler Parsons profile)
"I know that somewhere out there there's someone doing it and I'm not going to be happy unless I feel like I've worked harder than anyone else," said Parsons, the 6-8 do-it-all junior who averages 20 points and nine rebounds for 25-4 Winter Park (FL) Lake Howell. Parsons teams with Nick Calathes (Florida commit) and Joey Rodriguez (UMass commit) to form the nucleus of a team on a mission to return to Lakeland for a third straight Final Four appearance in Class 5A. Lake Howell hosts Lake Region (20-8) Saturday night in the regional final with the winner advancing to Lakeland.
"This time we think it's our year," said Parsons.
The Silver Hawks were the state runner-up when Parsons, Calathes and Rodriguez were freshmen and in the semi-finals last year. Both times the last loss of the season has come at the hands of Palm Beach Dwyer. With a win against Lake Region, the stage could be set for a third time's the charm rematch with Dwyer, which will face Port St. Lucie in its regional final Saturday night.
"It would definitely be special to get them [Dwyer] one more time," said Parsons. "They've beaten us the last two years and it would be great if we could finally beat them but really, we don't care who we play as long as we get there. Our goal is nothing less than a state championship this year. We've been so close the last two years. We hope this is our year …and we have four starters back next year so if we win this year we could have a chance to go back-to-back."
At the same time Lake Howell has been on this rather special three-year run, Parsons has been on a growth spurt of his own. He's grown four inches in the past couple of years and doctors think he's not finished growing for another 18 months to two years.
"I broke my finger during the summer and when they X-rayed me there was a gap between every knuckle," he said. "The doctors took a look at that and said I've got another year and a half or maybe even two years on this growth spurt so maybe I'll reach my goal."
His goal is to reach 6-11, which he says is "the perfect height for a three (small forward). To be 6-11 would be great! That would be perfect! Can you imagine a 6-11 three that can put the ball on the floor or pull up and shoot the three?"
The idea of such a tall, talented small forward obviously is catching on with college recruiters. On the national scale Notre Dame, West Virginia, South Carolina and Iowa call regularly and Creighton, Virginia Tech and UMass have already offered scholarships.
Then there are the state schools. FSU, South Florida, Central Florida and Miami all call regularly but so does Florida and if you ask Chandler Parsons where he wants to go to school, he answers Florida without hesitation.
"I love Florida," he said. "I love Coach (Billy) Donovan and the way the Gators play. I love playing with Nick (Calathes) and I would love for us to continue to play together. We've been together a long time and I think I bring out the best in him and I know he brings out the best in me. I think it would be great if we could play together at Florida."
The ties to the Gators run deep. His brother just finished graduate school at UF and still lives in Gainesville. His brother's fiancée has applied to dental school at UF. Calathes is already committed. The list goes on and on.
"They [Florida] talk to me a lot," he said. "I've come up to a lot of games this year and I talk to Coach (Donnie) Jones a lot. Hopefully, they'll offer me a scholarship and if they do, I'll be a Gator."
He will camp at Florida during the summer and he will be playing along with Calathes for Nike Team Florida in the AAU ranks. He will also be attending the Nike All-American Camp. He said he's keeping his options open about other camps.
Parsons sees both strengths and weaknesses in his game. He thinks he could get better in every phase and he has some areas of his game that he knows must improve for him to be a factor at the next level.
"I think my main strength is that I can shoot the ball with some range," he said. "I can come off the dribble and pull up or I come off a screen and go straight up. I've been working on my post game with my back to the basket and that's an area that is going to be better as I get stronger physically. I jump pretty well and we've added some lobs that I've dunked. That's fun and I think that will become a bigger part of my game. I can finish on the break.
"As for my weaknesses, I can get my shot but I don't just blow by people. I've sprouted up four inches in this growth spurt so hopefully the strength and quickness will catch up to me. I'm working every day at getting physically stronger and that's an area that I'll keep working on. I've got to work on my ball handling and get comfortable going left. I need a better inside game and I've got to get better playing defense, too."
Meanwhile, the goal is to get that state championship ring for his teammates and for Coach Reggie Kohn. Kohn is just 25 years old and a mere three years removed from an outstanding college career at South Florida. Winning one for the coach would be an added plus.
"It's fun playing for him," said Parsons. "He's a real positive, humble guy and it wasn't all that long ago that he was out there doing it himself so he really does know what we need to do to get ready for the next level. He still gets out there and plays with us, too. He won't take it easy on us either.
"We really do want to win a state championship for him. We've been real close the last two years and we're very positive and confident about this year."
Parsons has a 3.5 GPA. He's already taken and passed the FCAT and he scored 1160 on his PSAT. He will take the SAT April 8.