Florida Gators basketball: Major Parker dies unexpectedly at 44 of heart-related issue
Major Parker, a starter on Florida's 2000 Final Four team and member of former head coach Billy Donovan's first recruiting class, died last week at the age of 44.
Parker died of a heart-related issue, according to a social media post. He had a serious heart attack a few years ago that left him in a coma for three weeks and limited his heart function. A memorial service is planned for next weekend in his native Fort Lauderdale.
"He had some health stuff a few years ago, but he pulled through, gave everybody a scare but he seemed to be doing great," said Teddy Dupay, a former teammate and star guard on UF's 2000 Final Four team. "Everybody is really sad."
A 6-foot-4 swingman, Parker played at UF from 1997-2001, serving as a team captain in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. He started 50 games in his Florida career, averaging 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds on teams that included future NBA standouts Mike Miller and Matt Bonner. Parker served as a glue player on those teams, not afraid to take a charge or draw a hard foul when warranted.
Florida's 2000 team reached the NCAA Tournament Finals before falling to Mateen-Cleaves led Michigan State.
"Everybody had to make sacrifice for the team to do well," Dupay said. "I think Major probably made more in total, and more uncomfortable sacrifices than anybody. And we all appreciated it."
Parker battled some demons in his post-UF career. After college ended, Parker played two seasons of minor-league basketball before joining Donovan's staff in 2003. But in 2004, Parker was involved in a drug bust that resulted in him being fired at UF. In 2006, Parker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months house arrest.
"I made a mistake," Parker said at his sentencing hearing. "I apologize to the Gainesville community, the University of Florida, everybody who cares about me deeply and everyone who has respect for me."
In recent years, Parker was involved in grassroots basketball efforts in Fort Lauderdale.