Parsons could be key to season


Published: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 6:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 6:56 p.m.

His week is what makes college sports so great, a yin and yang of emotion, smiles and tears and little sleep. One day you're getting vile messages on your Facebook page and the next you could probably get students to carry you on their shoulders between classes.

This was Chandler Parsons' week.

Wednesday night's dud is Sunday's stud.

"It just shows you how everything can move so fast," Parsons said Monday. "I've never been through anything like that in my life. I felt like the whole world was on my shoulders."

Naw, Chandler, not the whole world. Just the Gator Nation. And it wasn't just you feeling the weight. There was plenty of blame to go around after the stunning loss to South Carolina.

But it was Parsons who missed the free throw that started the blurry-fast sequence of events that caused Florida to give the Gamecocks the gift win. So it was Parsons, who was in tears in the quiet locker room.

Asked if he'd ever seen his longtime friend weep before, Nick Calathes said, "Maybe ninth grade when we were wrestling and he hurt his leg."

But there are two ways one can react to that kind of kick to the stomach. You can feel bad for yourself or you can do something about it.

For Parsons, it was a matter of not wondering "why me?" and start wondering "why?"

That was the message sent on the solemn flight home by Billy Donovan. You know your shot. When you miss, why are you missing? Know why you're missing and you can correct it. Don't worry about results. Worry about the process.

"He was at a crossroads," Donovan said. "A lot of times guys try to figure it out mentally. Sometimes it's about the work."

The work came late at night after the loss, shooting free throws and 3s until 3 a.m. But it wasn't just the shooting. It was understanding why he missed when he did.

And he had been missing a lot. In a five-game stretch from North Carolina State to Arkansas, Parsons made only 2-of-20 3-point tries.

But why?

Figuring out why was the most important thing of all.

The extra shooting behind both lines helped. But understanding the reasons for the misses fueled what happened Sunday in Nashville when Parsons went Lee Humphrey on Vanderbilt.

"I looked at a lot of film before the South Carolina game with Coach Donovan," Parsons said. "I wasn't stepping into it. I was hopping into it. I wasn't holding my release. Sometimes I was fading away."

The process.

"People say, 'Enjoy the process.' The process can be overbearing," Donovan said. "Sometimes you have to go through some pain and suffering."

He has told the story before about Mike Miller, who had a terrible game in Tallahassee against FSU as a freshman and spent the night at the O'Connell Center practice court working on his game. Some day, he may tell the story of Chandler Parsons, who didn't wallow in his success but was in the practice facility gym late again as Sunday night became Monday morning.

Because once you figure it out, the only thing you know for sure is that you don't have it figured out.

"The natural thing after a game like that is to be relaxed and complacent and think you have it figured out," Donovan said. "That's the worst road you can go down."

There's another road out there for Parsons. He can see it. It ends in the same place, at the free throw line with a game on the line.

"I want to be that guy," he said.

And even after what happened on Wednesday night, you want him on that line.

It's funny because before the season I told people I thought Parsons was going to be a big-time player. I saw signs of it in his freshman year and figured the normal jump to his sophomore season would produce something special or at least something solid. And then, clank, clank, clank went the shots.

For one game, he proved me right. Where he goes from here will be the key to Florida's season.

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