Not only did Pearl install a sound game plan and make adept adjustments, he instilled confidence and convinced 12 players that had never played in an NCAA tournament game they were good enough to defeat the team that would win it.
Now he just has to convince one player that his basketball future would be best realized playing for his favorite team's new arch rival. Another daunting task for sure, and one made all the more difficult by the fact Parson's best friend, as well as, Lake Howell High School and Team Florida teammate, Nick Calathes, is already committed to the Gators' Class of 2007.
However, Pearl & Partners have already overcome the odds just making Parsons' short list of seven finalists, along with LSU, Notre Dame, Indiana, South Florida and, of course, Florida. Consider that Wake Forest, Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Boston College, Miami, West Virginia and Arizona State are among the schools that didn't make the cut. Ironically it was only a month ago that the Sun Devils were regarded as Parsons' leader. That was before his stock skyrocketed after an outstanding showing in the Peach Jam and AAU nationals this summer, after which, his options accrued dramatically.
That UT made Parsons' final seven is a testament to the persistence of its personable head coach as well as the full-throttle pace he deploys in competition.
"They came on late but Coach Bruce Pearl is a great guy and I like the way they play," Parsons told Franz Beard of GatorCountry.com. "Chris Lofton is one of the greatest shooters in the country and their offense is really designed for a shooter so that's something to really think about."
He might also think about the fact that, while Tennessee may have gotten in on Chandler Parsons late in the recruiting process, the Vols didn't hesitate to extend an offer. No doubt, that offer piqued Florida's interest in Parsons and preceded the Gators' scholarship offer to the 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward, who is rated No. 56 among all prospects by Scout.com and No. 12 among small forwards.
Although Parsons is close to Calathes, he may also like to escape his shadow, Furthermore, Tennessee is due a recruiting victory over Florida, which has signed such standout players as Corey Brewer and Lee Humphrey from the Volunteer State — much to the outrage of Big Orange fans.
Still defending your home turf in recruiting is decidedly different than raiding enemy territory, especially when that foe is the defending national champion. That's why the Vols have to make a strong impression when Parsons makes his official visit to Knoxville next month (Sept. 2-4), if they are to have any chance of landing the lean zone buster.
A home football victory over favored California would be a nice assist.