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Gators basketball star Chandler Parsons finds peace after NBA, accident

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Chandler Parsons played for 4 different teams and made hundreds of thousands during a successful nine-year NBA profession.

Deep down, though, Parsons considers himself a Gator first.

Parsons was inducted within the Florida Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this month after a four-year profession at UF (2007-11) that ended with him becoming the primary SEC men’s basketball player of the 12 months at school history.

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“When you get to the professionals, it’s awesome but there’s politics and there’s money, people love you for various reasons, while you make it to the professionals,” Parsons said. “After they love you here, they love you because you’re employed hard, you play hard, you might have a foul game they’re still going to root for you. It’s just a special sort of love that you simply get at Florida than you do within the NBA.”

Now 33, Parsons has accepted the tip of his NBA profession, which occurred in 2020 in Atlanta after he was T-boned by a drunk driver in a serious automotive accident. Within the accident, Parsons suffered a concussion, torn labrum and other bodily injuries.

“You don’t wish to exit on the terms I did,” Parsons said. “I retired at 31 years old in a foul automotive accident. I had a whole lot of basketball to play but I’m not one among those bitter old guys watching that were … like considering ‘I can’t imagine this guy made that or this guy, I’m higher than him.’ I like the sport. I like still watching.”

The subsequent chapter for Parsons is to spend time with family. His fiancée, Haylee, attended the Hall of Fame induction ceremony with him. The 2 married per week later. The couple have a daughter, Rocket Rose, who will turn 1 on Oct. 30. They live in Malibu, Calif., not removed from the beach, with neighbors that include Will Smith and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Still, Parsons hasn’t forgotten his roots. Considered one of his Hall of Fame ceremony invitations went to Tom Topping, the AAU coach with Nike Team Florida who first discovered Parsons as a thin, tall 12-year-old from Casselberry who could shoot. Their friendship stays strong greater than 20 years later.

“He’s just a real, caring person,” Topping said. “He likes people and he’s very, very loyal. He probably gives me somewhat more credit than I deserve for locating him because he was a tall kid who could shoot the ball. That sometimes equates to basketball success.”

From doghouse to dominant player

At one point, Parsons wondered if he would even finish his college basketball profession wearing a Gator uniform.

During a sophomore season at UF wherein Parsons and the remaining of the Gators struggled to a second straight trip to the NIT, then head coach Billy Donovan called him into his office and asked him if he desired to transfer.

“After we were freshmen, we were the primary recruiting class.” Parsons said. “We had like me, Jai Lucas, Alex Tyus, Nick Calathes, and we went there considering … we were going to dominate. We had just won the back-to-back (national) championships and we stunk.

Chandler Parsons signed a four-year, $94 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2016 at a time when his knees started to fail him.

“We had been within the NIT two years in a row and through that second 12 months Billy D wouldn’t allow us to wear anything with a Gator head on it. We weren’t allowed to wear Gator gear, we practiced at like Buchholz (High) because he wouldn’t allow us to practice in the power, so we might must bring our own clothes, do our own laundry. We weren’t even allowed to drink Gatorade. Like, it was nuts.”

Parsons stuck it out, handled the tough love and emerged as probably the most improved players in Florida basketball history (behind, perhaps, only Joakim Noah). Donovan and the remaining of the Florida coaching staff pushed him.

“I assumed it was personal,” Parsons said. “I assumed he would attack me, I assumed he hated me, I assumed he was deflecting at me but then you definately realized that the higher we do, the higher he does, he’s attempting to make a living for his family like I’m attempting to get to the NBA with my family.”

The most important adjustment. Parsons admitted, was the physicality of school basketball. He hit the load room hard during his college profession and filled out, going from 6-foot-8, 170 kilos as a freshman to 6-10, 220 kilos as a senior.

“You’re a 17-year-old boy playing against a 21-year-old man,” Parsons said. “Everyone seems to be faster, everyone seems to be stronger, everyone has been lifting weights. I didn’t really lift weights in highschool in order that was really the largest adjustment to me.

“I used to be at all times long and athletic but once I put all of it together, I feel that’s when it began coming together for me.”

Parsons earned a starting position as a junior. Two buzzer-beating shots boosted his confidence. One was pure luck, however it made national headlines. Off a missed North Carolina State free throw, Parsons heaved a 70-footer that swished through the online to guide Florida to a 62-61 additional time win over the Wolfpack in Raleigh, N.C., on Jan. 3, 2010.

Then, in a nationally televised game on ESPN later that month, Parsons hit a game-winning 3-pointer on the O’Connell Center to provide the Gators a 58-56 win over South Carolina.

“The one at home per week later was probably sweeter, just doing it in front of the fans and doing it in SEC play,” Parsons said.

Parsons finished his junior 12 months averaging 12.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and a pair of.6 assists, displaying his versatile skillset. Sometimes, Donovan even let Parsons run the purpose.

“There are guys like Chandler which are just very creative thinkers of the sport,” Topping said. “Chandler understood the sport like a coach but he was also super-skilled.”

After the breakout junior season, Parsons mulled entering the NBA Draft.

“I probably would have been the next draft pick if I left my junior 12 months but I wanted to return back so bad and I loved college a lot,” Parsons said.

Florida's Chandler Parsons is guarded by Alabama's Chris Hines (44) and JaMyhal Green (1)  as he drives the lane during an SEC game in Gainesville in March 2011.

The feedback from NBA scouts was that Parsons still needed to hone his 3-point shot. He began his senior 12 months pressing, going 1 for 9 from the ground in a Florida loss to UCF at Amway Arena in Orlando. Shortly after, Topping made the two-hour drive from St. Petersburg as much as Gainesville to provide Parsons a pep talk.

“I told him ‘When was the last time you had a tip dunk, when was the last time you had a double-double,’ ” Topping said. “How cool would it not be to get a triple-double, and permit the 3-point stuff to return out of the offense, and he was receptive.”

Parsons wound up shooting 36.8 percent from 3-point range in his senior season, averaging 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and three.8 assists to earn SEC Player of the 12 months honors. Florida reached the Elite Eight before falling to Butler 74-71 in additional time in a game that pitted two future NBA coaches against one another – Donovan and Butler’s Brad Stevens.

“I wish we might have won somewhat bit more,” Parsons said. “I wish I had been to the Final 4 and won a national championship, but I had an excellent time, the relationships I met here and the coaches I played for, the teammates I had, the bonds I had with the fans and with the university and the staff. It’s really a special place.”

Life after basketball for Parsons

Parsons is financially secure after making greater than $127 million in his NBA profession. He signed a four-year, $94 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2016 at a time when his knees began to fail him. Five different knee surgeries in three years, including microfracture surgery, took away his explosiveness driving to the basket.

Then got here the trade to the Atlanta Hawks, the accident and the premature end to his NBA profession.

“He was looking forward to being a robust veteran within the locker room contributing on the court when and where he could,” Topping said. “That was the understanding getting in there and I feel he was enthusiastic about that, sort of possibly taking a special role.”

Parsons stays involved in the sport on the grassroots level. He began his own travel-league team near a decade ago, now called Southeast Elite. Considered one of its recent products is current Gator sophomore forward Alex Fudge, who transferred from LSU throughout the offseason.

“He’s gotten loads higher,” Parsons said. “He’s big, taller than me. He’s grown, he’s bouncy.”

He’s also re-connected with the Gator basketball program, visiting with head coach Todd Golden and attending a recent practice. He’s involved with the Gator Collective, a Name, Image and Likeness arm aimed to assist current Florida athletes.

“Being a Gator fan, I’ll do whatever it takes to compete on this tough market,” Parsons said. “I’m here for anybody I could help out.”

Some envision Parsons as a future NBA executive, based on his intelligence and affable personality. Parsons said he’s near starting a media enterprise, but couldn’t disclose all of the main points.

“I’d still like to do something within the front office but just with the newborn and every little thing that’s occurring I’m probably not ready to depart home yet,” Parsons said.

Topping expects Parsons to search out success in whatever path he chooses, but he said the front office could possibly be a great fit

“Imagine that sort of savvy, and professionalism and charm in running knowledgeable sports franchise,” Topping said. “He’s got all of it, I feel.”

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