Chandler Parsons is not your typical, everyday NBA basketball player.
What is it that makes him stand out? The fact that he is 6-foot-9 doesn’t hurt, of course, but there is just so much more to it than that.
However, despite the nuances you are going to read about here, there is really only one thing, at the very core of it all, that makes Chandler so instrumental in the legacy of Florida Gators basketball.
Chandler is a home-grown talent that has represented the Orange and Blue with style and aplomb. He has balled with Obama and he has ordered late night pizza from Five-Star (if you don’t know Five-Star, you just don’t know Gainesville, I’m sorry). He has hit clutch game-winning shots and he has cheered his friends on to gold medals. He has been coached by a Florida icon in Billy Donovan and a Boston legend in Kevin McHale.
Beyond it all, however, Parsons was a student at the University of Florida. He enjoyed his game days just as much as any other student.
Now an up-and-coming member of the Houston Rockets, Parsons is entering his second year in the league.
[CP Video: Chandler Parsons NBA All-Rookie Campaign Mixtape]
He took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us here at Gamedayr and talk about what it felt like to be a part of a University of Florida tradition that extends far beyond the athletes themselves.
Are you familiar at all with what Gamedayr is about?
A little bit, yeah I know a little bit about it.
Sweet. As an athlete, what did you think of Florida’s game day atmosphere? Have you been able to get back since heading to the NBA?
Florida was honestly the best four years of my life. It was incredible on and off the court. The relationships I developed there I’m going to have for the rest of my life.
Just being a student-athlete there, especially being there for two national championships, and the Rowdy Reptiles, playing in the O-Dome, playing in the SEC. My entire four years there….Honestly, every game I was excited for and I really do miss that.
So how does Gamedayr’s boy, Adam Allen, fit into that lifestyle and that environment? I know you’re boys with him but unfortunately he couldn’t escape his injuries. Can you kind of describe what he was going through with all that stuff?
Yeah, Adam is one of my best friends, so every time we go and work out, he comes out there and works out. I’m really impressed with what he’s been doing and getting back in shape, getting his knee right.
He’s been working really hard. We’ll play pick up, lift, and we’ll do some training together. He’s always a part of that.
Nice, dude. I know you and Nick Calathes, you guys won in HS and came out here, how much communication was there between you two when you decided where to go to school?
We were really cool in HS, we had a great relationship and he had committed early to Florida his sophomore year. I was kind of a late bloomer. I didn’t really start getting recruited until junior, senior year. Like I said earlier, Florida was coming off two national championships, it was an hour and half away, it was a great academic school, and growing up I’d always loved the Gators and my whole family is Florida fans. On top of that, my best friend was already committed to play there so it was a no-brainer for me, and the Gators were my first official visit.
You have really strong connections to UF through family, friends and national championship teams. With every player that has come through the program, however, you’re the only Gator that was ever selected as the SEC player of the year. Pretty impressive.
Yeah it’s a huge honor. Especially if you look at the amount of talent that’s come out of there … There are so many good players. I think they really just respected what I did with my all-around game; our team won, we won the SEC regular season that year, and they just appreciated the little things I did. I didn’t go out there and score 20-25 points per game, I averaged 12 points with six rebounds and four assists, so that was real special to me to win that award
That team-oriented, winning mindset has translated to your NBA career. Do you have any special pregame rituals? Do you eat a bucket of fried chicken or anything weird?
Nothing really crazy (laughs). I kind of just do a pregame meal; I’m a big nap guy, so I take a big nap before a game, get a good night’s sleep. Wake up, go shoot around, go back to my apartment, take a little nap, eat again. Nothing too serious.
I can relate, I took a nap before this.
Yeah, dude I’m a big nap guy, I’m gonna nap right after this (laughs).
Let’s change the subject for a little bit. Did you do anything specific before football games in Gainesville?
Football games were great. We tried to go to as many athletic events – we were really cool with the volleyball team, we’d go to baseball games, the football games were nuts. We’d go to the frat houses and just bounce around to tailgates. We’d always have a group of friends. Florida games, and all the traditions, were like no other.
I imagine you had a cocktail or two?
(laughs) Maybe one.
Good boy, gotta keep that diet going.
Since we’re on the subject, I’ve got to ask about Erving Walker. Man, what do you think about his little taco situation?
(laughs) I didn’t really get all the details. I saw it on the internet, but everyone makes mistakes, I’m sure he learned from it, he’ll put that in the past.
He must have been hungry though.
Not like you would ever do late night food.
I don’t do taco stands, maybe some Five Star delivered to the crib, or something like that.
I love Five Star Pizza. Tell me something about you or Nick getting yourselves into trouble.
Everybody had the scooters, and I had never seen one before and we were like, ‘What the hell are these things?’ Me, Nick, Jay Lucas, Adam, we literally all go and buy scooters. In the first week of summer we’re chasing each other and playing tag on scooters, just absolutely going nuts around campus.
Tell me Donovan never found out about that one.
No he never found out about that, so I could be in trouble now.
You’ll be all right, your secret’s safe – relatively safe. What’s your transition into the NBA been like? What are you doing in Houston, taking over the city yet?
Houston’s a great city, they’ve really embraced me. I get out and do some events, do some appearances. I’m young in my career, I’m trying to make a name for myself for basketball right now, I’m just trying to be the best player that I can become and help win games. There’s a whole bunch to do in Houston, and it’s awesome playing for that city.
What was your best basketball memory? Or buzzer beater memory, I know you nailed two against South Carolina and NC State.
Yeah the NC State one, that was pure luck, that was honestly ridiculous and incredible, that was unbelievable and a great feeling, that was such a big game. We were making the Tournament push – that was a huge win for us.
My best memory at Florida was senior year, our last home game against Alabama. We just came in there and just blasted them. It meant a lot to me to just get the championship, it was special.
Can you tell me about how you might fit in with the Gator Nation lifestyle? It seems like a big family
It’s all a huge family. Everybody supports everybody: Riley, Tebow, watching Lochte at the Olympics, it’s crazy that a university can produce that much, and they do it year in and year out, no matter what sport they play. They’re the best in the country.
Did you have any friends in the Olmypics this year?
I’m cool with Lochte, and I know Connor.
Dude, do you have any favorite places to eat?
706 is by far the best restaurant, definitely go by Cantina and Midtown; go to Dragonfly.
What would you tell the fans in Gainesville? Something that is pretty important to you about your time here?
Florida will always have a special spot in my heart. It’s an amazing place to go back there and use their facilities. They’re always so welcoming. We’re Gator fans at the end of the day, so we go back there. It’s awesome to be able to go back and see old friends, go to Midtown and get weird.
Do you think you push the new guys to get better?
It’s a little bit of both. I want those guys to get better. It’s fun to go there and play with those guys. I think when we go back there, they see it as a tool to get better by going up against NBA guys.
Your rookie year was a smooth transition; tell me a little bit about that.
It was a heck of a year. I think my success in my first year had to go to Florida, and the coaching staff, just teaching me. I just used all of that going into my NBA career; I went in there and did everything the coaching staff wanted me to do and what they thought would be best for the team.
Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders. What do you expect for yourself out of year two?
I expect to have a big year. I’m not going have any let up at all. Trying to get into really good shape, work on my ball handling, really same mindset next year.
No one’s going to out-work me; no one’s taking my spot. I’m going to go in there and doing whatever coach McHale wants me to do for us to win games.
What is it like playing for a Hall of Famer in Coach McHale?
It’s awesome, he’s literally one of my best friends. The guy is incredible – my relationship with him off the court really helps us on the court. I can call him at any time. How can you not respect the guy? It’s an honor playing for him. I’m happy to be playing for him, I hope to play for him for a long time.
Chandler, that’s it man, you’re free!
Ha, thanks man.