McALLEN, TEXAS - Sometimes the best partnerships are the ones we never see coming.
Chandler Parsons came into training camp on a mission, but surely nothing about that game plan contained a chapter in which he would form an instant on-court connection with Toney Douglas.
Prior to this summer, Parsons’ only hoops run-in with the fourth-year guard had taken place during his freshman year at the University of Florida, when Parsons’ youthful Gator squad was on the business end of a 14-point thrashing at the hands of Douglas and the hated Florida State Seminoles.
Yet there they were Thursday night, teaming up time and time again to deliver a collective thrashing of their own during the Rockets’ latest intrasquad scrimmage. There was Douglas, darting into the lane and drawing defenders before dishing to Parsons for an and-1 bucket. And there was Douglas once more, striking in a similar fashion, only this time finding Parsons for a corner trey.
Over and over again, the unlikely duo combined to slice and dice the opposition, ultimately leading their side to a comfortable 15-point win. The stamp they put on the game was so emphatic, in fact, that one day later Parsons couldn’t help but cop to the undeniable chemistry he seems to have rapidly forged with his former rival.
“It’s weird to think because I absolutely hate Florida State,” said Parsons. “So I thought I wouldn’t play well with him. This is the first Florida State guy I’ve played with and yesterday in that scrimmage, you saw our team win by (15).
“He’s smart. He doesn’t over-press, he doesn’t take bad shots. We had a couple backdoor plays just reading off each other and he’s just an intelligent basketball player who’s fun to play with and he’s been real good all camp long.”
When told of Parsons’ playful reticence over warming up to a product of Tallahassee, Douglas was only too happy to play along.
“He actually committed to Florida State before he went to Florida,” Douglas revealed. “He’s a traitor to tell you the truth (laughs)”
Douglas then made clear that any remaining grudges had been put aside once and for all.
“Chandler is a very versatile, smart basketball player,” he said. “I love playing with guys like him because he can guard multiple positions, bring it up and he’s smart about the game. I feel like, with me and him on the floor we can do a lot of damage.”
That much has been abundantly clear from day one of camp. Right from the outset, Parsons has showcased a drive, determination and, most importantly, an ability to build upon the foundation he laid during a debut season that made him perhaps the biggest and best surprise of the 2011 rookie class. The 23-year-old Swiss army knife of a forward is playing with the poise and know-how of a six-year vet, consistently making plays on both ends of the floor.
“I think it’s just I’ve taken the next step in my game,” replied Parsons, when asked about his strong start to camp. “I’ve worked really hard all summer long, getting stronger, working on my shot, working on my ball-handling. I think I’ve noticed that the game is just coming to me easier this summer.
“I’m making all my free throws. I’m making the majority of my 3s. I just feel more comfortable out there, especially with the ball in my hands. When I get the rebound this year I’m going to get it and go. I put a big emphasis on that this summer: getting rebounds and taking the ball up the court, making decisions out of the pick-and-roll or drags or just different offensive sets where I’ve got the ball in my hands.
“I feel like I’m in more control out there. It’s just coming easier to me. I’m picking and choosing the right spots, I’m shooting with great confidence and I just feel much stronger and faster.”
Parsons has never lacked for confidence, but his self-belief in both his skill-set and ability to impact the game has never been higher. Not surprisingly, that sort of self-assurance is manifesting itself in a leadership role, too, as Parsons has quite clearly assumed a significant portion of that mantle.
“It’s not going to be one or two guys (leading) this year,” he explains, “but me and Pat and K-Mart have been here and understand the coaching staff and what they want and style of play. We’re vocal. I know I’m vocal for sure. If I see something I don’t like, I’m going to speak up and speak my mind about it and I think every team needs guys like that.”
Indeed they do. Every club needs a do-it-all playmaker; someone whip-smart and willing to set the tone with either a great pass or lockdown D. And they also need someone with an uncanny ability to click with teammates – no matter how unlikely those partnerships might be.