Parsons lifts UF as starter

Published: Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 at 12:32 a.m.

The right spark might have been found for Florida's basketball team.

After coming off the bench during the first 16 games of the season, junior forward Chandler Parsons was inserted back into the starting lineup and has rejuvenated a Gators team that began SEC play with a two-game losing streak.

Since replacing senior Dan Werner against LSU on Jan. 17, the Gators (14-5, 3-2 SEC) have won three straight.

Parsons doesn't take all the credit for Florida's revival. Although his buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat South Carolina Saturday says otherwise.

To him, his 9.0 points and 8.7 rebounds he's averaging in the last three wins are only a small part of Florida's success. Still, that last-second shot was pretty sweet.

“I'm the most blessed player in this country,” Parsons said. “I swear to God.”

Parsons' has been in that situation before. He started off the month with a 75-foot buzzer-beater to shock North Carolina State. But Parsons admits he can't always put the game away with just one shot.

So, he's attempting to create just as big an impact by making the most of his opportunities earlier in games.

A year ago, Parsons started 28 of Florida's 36 games. He lost his starting spot this year, but said it didn't poison his mindset. It motivated him to play even harder whenever he entered a game. If he couldn't energize his team from the opening tip, he'd do it as soon as he left the scorers' table.

Now that he's returned to the starting lineup, Parsons said he's got a bit more intensity, but other than that, he hasn't changed much in what he does.

Starting or not, Parsons said just wants to contribute on the court.

“It doesn't really matter to me,” he said. “If you've watched our games (when he didn't start), I'm on the floor at the end of the games. Like Coach (Billy) Donovan says, once I come in the game, the game starts for me. Lights go out, starting lineups, they're cool and everything, but for our team to get these wins is bigger than me starting.”

Parsons doesn't have the sexiest stats, but his teammates appreciate the jolt he's given them since his return. Junior forward Alex Tyus said adding

Parsons has given Florida the much-needed size they need inside. With Parsons' 6-foot-9, 215-pound frame, Tyus said the Gators have become a better rebounding team.

“Him starting and playing more helps us out in the long run,” Tyus said.

Parsons' proved his worth on the glass with back-to-back double-figure rebounding efforts against Arkansas (11) and South Carolina (10). He

joked that it was his recent dedication to the weight room that's enhanced his down-low play.

But there's more that has Parsons' coach gushing over him. Donovan said it's the maturity and development he's seen from Parsons that truly makes him proud. Once he got the starting nod, Donovan's been able to see even more of that progress he covets from his players.

“He has grown up so much — his attitude, his disposition, everything for him from his freshman year to where he is now,” Donovan said. “I've seen more growth in him, and for me, as a coach, that's one of the great pleasures when you get a chance to see a guy really, really improve.

“None of (the media) may be able to see the growth, but it's astronomical and I'm so happy that he could have that.”

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