Parsons' NBA career skyrocketing

Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons looks to pass against the San Antonio Spurs during the first quarter on Jan. 11, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.

In some ways, it makes no sense.

If you saw him play as a sophomore, it's baffling.

If you analyzed his chances based on the wacky and lengthy NBA offseason and his draft position, you would have mentally pushed him to the end of the bench.

And yet, there he is.

Chandler Parsons.

NBA starter.

Scoring 20 one night against Charlotte.

Holding Kevin Durant to 10-of-25 shooting another night.

The same guy who looked so lost during his first two years at Florida.

“After his freshman and sophomore years?” Billy Donovan said when I asked him if he could have seen Parsons as an NBA player a couple of years ago.

“No way he's a pro. No chance.”

And yet, there he is.

Parsons, the second-round pick of the Houston Rockets, moved into the starting lineup eight games into this shortened NBA season despite only having a week of training camp, the lockout robbing him of a chance to get NBA ready.

The old Chandler Parsons would have looked like a guy with a week of training camp. That Chandler Parsons lived in the dark.

This one had the light go on.

“I went into Florida with the wrong mindset,” he said. “I was cocky and arrogant. Coach Donovan taught me the benefits of working hard. I wanted to change. The light switched on. It just clicked.”

As Gator fans know, a rejuvenated and dedicated Parsons helped Florida get back to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and led them to the Elite Eight as the SEC's Player of the Year.

We've seen Donovan pull off amazing transformations with under-performing players before. Some of them take, some of them take off.

“He always had the skill level,” Donovan said of Parsons. “He didn't always have the right mental approach. He has grown up mentally.”

That showed during the lockout. Parsons worked on the things he knew he needed to improve on while the millionaires and billionaires argued. He spent two months in France playing pro ball to get ready.

“France was great,” he said. “It put me into game situations so I could be ready. It was obviously frustrating to have your lifelong dream put on hold, but it was actually great for me.”

They are raving about him in Houston. Parsons is only averaging 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, but has shown that he can play defense against point guards and big men. He's covered John Wall and Blake Griffin and Ben Gordon and Durant. Talk about different body types.

But it's that versatility that made Parsons the player of the year in the conference last year without the usual gaudy statistics that come with the award.

As Houston coach Kevin McHale said, “He just does things.”

Among those things — a penchant for put-back dunks that inevitably end up on YouTube or SportsCenter. One of them came over Griffin and Parsons was staring down the superstar as he went back down the court.

Or so it seemed.

“We're good friends,” he said. “To an outsider, it looked like I was talking trash to him. I'm just giving him a hard time because he's the best dunker in the league.

“My Twitter has been going crazy. All of my people back in Florida, all the Gators fans, different websites. It has been unbelievable.”

Kind of like his story.

From underachiever to overachiever. From backing up Dan Werner in the NIT to league MVP to NBA starter.

“It's kind of surreal,” Parsons said.

That it is.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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