Inside the last days of a college career

Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons gives us an inside look into his weekend at the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, and shares his emotions about what would be the final game of his college career.

Butler 74, Florida 71

The whole game I thought we were going to win. I was confident, knew we were going to win. We had the lead and even in overtime, I didn’t think we were ever going to lose the game.

Then it was over.

I saw Butler jumping around, celebrating after the game ended and I didn’t want to wait for them to stop celebrating, so I just went back to the locker room. I was pissed off after the loss. I wasn’t crying or anything like that, but was just mad. It hit me that we’re not going to the Final Four.

I’m a senior and I didn’t want to go out like this.

I thought I was going to play in Houston — and now it’s over.

Tuesday, March 22: The Gators check in

We landed in New Orleans around 8 p.m., had a police escort from the airport to our hotel in downtown Indianapolis. I roomed with Murph (sophomore Erik Murphy) and once we got into our rooms, we just relaxed, hung out and listened to music. Then we went down for a meal — it was really good, fried chicken — all the guys enjoyed it.

After dinner, we watched some film of BYU. They were showing some clips of our game last year — things we were doing right and wrong. Obviously, there were a lot of Jimmer (Fredette) highlights. Seeing some of them, I was just like, ‘Gosh.’ He was hitting some impressive shots.

Me and Murph and Josh Adel, our head manager, ordered The Dilemma with Vince Vaughn in our room. Murph loved it; I thought it was kind of stupid. I think they put all the funny parts in the previews.

We finished the movie and me and Murph went to sleep to Pandora and Boys to Men. We gotta fall asleep to nice R&B.

Wednesday, March 23: Meet the press

We got our wake-up call around 9:30 and went downstairs to eat breakfast. After breakfast, we went to the training room to get taped, then got on the bus to go to practice. We practiced at Tulane for about an hour and a half and it was a full-contact practice. It was good. We went hard.

This time of year Coach Donovan shortens it, but everyone was focused and going hard. One of the things I was looking at was Kenny (Boynton) and his ankle. He hurt it against UCLA, but he said he was 100 percent and he wasn’t limping at all.

We got to the arena and Alex (Tyus), Vern (Macklin) and me did the media stuff on the (interview) podium. One of the writers asked me a question that I wasn’t ready for: How shocked I was to hear that one of BYU’s player was kicked off the team for having premarital sex and how many guys on our team would be left if we had that rule?

I kinda laughed, and then said that rules are rules and he knew what he was doing when he went there. It’s really none of my business.

We went out for our public practice, which is basically just when we have a second practice and all the fans or whoever can watch. A lot of teams just go out and joke around, but I was all business. To me, we’re not going to be able to shoot around at the arena on game day, so I wanted to focus and take game shots to get used to the arena. After the shootaround, we had someone from the NCAA talk to us about gambling.

Thursday, March 24: Game day vs. BYU

We were very confident going into the game. I’m not sure if it was because we felt like we matched up well with them or what, but we were all very confident the entire time.

I was really anxious the entire day and focused. Just was thinking about what we needed to do during the game, how badly I wanted to win. We weren’t thinking of Jimmer at all, all the focus was on their entire team. We couldn’t get caught up and mesmerized by the stuff people said about him. We had to worry about our team. He’s a great player, but there’s more than that. They were a better team than last year, when they beat us in the first round. But so were we.

Everyone has music on heading over to the arena. I was listening to Eminem’s Despicable Freestyle. I try to get hyped, and it gets me going a little bit. When we got to the arena, there were people and cameras everywhere … we were already taped. We’re not allowed to go on the court and touch the balls until a certain amount of time is left on the clock, so we did some stretching until the clock started and we were able to shoot.

Then we went back in and Coach Donovan went over their offense and defense on film. It was the third time we had watched it. When the clock is at about 23 minutes left, we’re ready to go back out on the court. At that point, you’re ready to play. You want the game to start. They do the national anthem.

I felt loose going into the game. We knew they were going to go on runs — especially when they had a guy like Jimmer. As a senior, I wanted to keep my teammates together and make sure to get everyone in the huddle.

The game came down to the end. Erv (Walker) got a rebound at the end of regulation and we called timeout with 20 seconds left and a tie game. I definitely wanted the final shot and Coach Donovan called the play for me, coming off a double-screen. I was anxious — and ready for it. He said to go with six seconds left. I made my move and the defense collapsed and I just didn’t get off a good shot. We were headed to overtime.

Obviously, for a second or two, I was frustrated. I could have ended it right there. But I couldn’t dwell on it — I had to move on and focus because we were headed to overtime. We ended up playing well in overtime and when the game was over, it was a great feeling — knowing you’re going to the Elite Eight. It really hit me.

It was tough to sleep because I was so amped up from the game. I had so many emotions going on.

Friday, March 25: Time to regroup

We celebrated a little the night before, but at the same time, we were on a mission. Coach Donovan said that he was glad we were happy, but he was also glad we weren’t going crazy. We wanted more. It was a great feeling that we were going to have an opportunity to play for a Final Four.

Today was a day of relaxing and getting ready for Butler. We have a team massage guy that we did rehab with and we watched tons of film with Butler. Easy practice. We walked through most of their stuff.

I was feeling sore, but knew I’d be ready to go come game time.

Saturday, March 26: Game day vs. Butler

I was amped. It’s now or never. It’s set in that if we lose, my career is over. If we win, we cut down the nets and get this program back to the Final Four.

It’s ridiculous how far I’ve come. I had some rough times early in my career. I had plenty of talks with Coach Donovan and Coach (Larry) Shyatt and there were times when they wanted to get rid of me because of my attitude, but I wouldn’t let them.

I woke up at 9:30, grabbed a quick breakfast, and then we went to the shootaround at the arena. We focused mostly on their stuff since it was such a quick turnaround. I got some shots up and then we came back to the hotel.

We didn’t have much down time because the game was at 3:30, so we relaxed and took a quick nap. By then, it was time for the pre-game meal. Then we got taped, got on the bus and headed to the arena.

We definitely didn’t go into the game underestimating Butler. We knew they were a great team and we knew how physical they were — and they lived up to that.

For me personally, it was frustrating early because I missed a few shots I usually make. But we were going down low to Vernon (Macklin) and he was doing well. My first shot, I should have dunked it, but I laid it in and left it short. Then I had a couple of post-ups on Shelvin Mack and left them short. I felt like I couldn’t get into a rhythm, but we were still winning.

We went into halftime with a lead, but felt like we weren’t playing well. We were getting outrebounded by a smaller team and were losing on the hustle plays.

When we were up 11 midway through the second half, we were excited. We were jumping around and feeling good. But then everything started to go Butler’s way. We knew they weren’t going to go away. Mack had some big shots and that one kid, the freshman (Chrishawn Hopkins), hit the 3 and had a nice assist. We didn’t even have him on the scouting report because he hadn’t played in so long.

It was frustrating for me down the stretch. I felt like I wanted to be involved more, but it’s not really my game to break out of the offense. We wound up taking some 3’s that we probably shouldn’t have, and then they were able to get out in transition and get some momentum back.

At first, I think I was just shocked when the game was over and realized we had lost. I was mad, upset – everything, realizing that I would never play with these guys again and that my season and career was over.

It hurt. A lot. We had come so far as a team and we all thought we had a chance, not just to win that game. But to win it all.

Coach Donovan told us in the locker room after the game that in time we’d realize what we accomplished. But that it’s hard to put into perspective when it’s so fresh and everyone is so upset.

It was pretty quiet on the flight back to Gainesville. Guys were frustrated, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point. It’s not like guys were laughing or anything, but we weren’t hanging our heads, either.

It was a terrific season. It just still hasn’t quite hit me that it’s over.