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Tuesday December 6, 2011 5:30 PM

The Rookie And The Vet

Chandler Parsons and Luis Scola linked by excitement for season to come

Jason Friedman

HOUSTON - On the surface, it doesn’t appear as if Luis Scola and Chandler Parsons have much in common from a basketball perspective.

At the age of 31, Scola is now a grizzled vet at both the NBA and international level; the owner of numerous titles and Olympic gold collected while representing his homeland of Argentina.

Parsons, meanwhile, is only just beginning his pro career, having recently completed a short stint with Cholet in the French Pro A League. He is the very definition of a fresh-faced rookie.

Yet the wide gulf separating these two players from an experience standpoint does nothing to diminish the common bond shared in terms of their enthusiasm for the game and the outright giddiness they feel to be back in Houston. From that particular vantage point, in fact, they are practically twins, identical in the perma-smiles perpetually gracing their faces these days.

“It feels great,” said a euphoric Scola Tuesday afternoon. “I was driving through the (Toyota Center) tunnel and thinking, ‘Wow, I missed this.’ I wanted to come back to play and feel part of a team and an organization and competition and all that and I was really missing it. I am ready to play.”

So, too, is Parsons, who has taken to the Toyota Center practice court the past two days to start preparing for the start of training camp. The 23-year-old University of Florida product is anxious for the opportunity to get started and eager for a chance to show the growth gained during his time in France.

“It was a great experience,” Parsons said of his Cholet experience. “Just to go over there and have that experience and just to be playing in games. It’s tough competition; I played against Tony Parker, Hilton Armstrong, Nicolas Batum – so it’s playing against really good players. Just to be able to go there and play defense in game situations, run, condition – we practiced twice a day. It was really humbling to go over there. I’m thankful for Cholet giving me that opportunity.

“I think I did really well. My teammates liked me, my coach was really happy with the way I played. I did a little bit of everything just like I did in college: I rebounded the ball, lot of assists, didn’t turn it over and was just solid. I showed my versatility over there. It’s a different game over there with the hand-checking and the traveling and goaltending – it took a little time to get adjusted to it – but I think it definitely helped me.”

Scola stayed active internationally during the offseason as well, helping Argentina qualify for the Olympics in September, then regularly working out with one of the big clubs teams in Buenos Aires thereafter. But as someone who thrives on playing basketball practically everyday, Scola has been dying to get back to work with the Rockets and build on the momentum the team generated during the final few months of last season.

“It’s the first day so you’re always optimistic,” he said when asked for his feelings about Houston’s postseason aspirations. “You always come here with a lot of energy and see everything positively.

“Now we need to find a way to play. We need to find a way to win basketball games. It’s all about competing and being a winning team and making the playoffs and growing, constantly growing until you get to a point where you can fight for a championship the last week of the (playoffs).”

To that end, the Rockets are hoping new head coach Kevin McHale can provide the team with the push it needs and Parsons, for one, believes the Hall of Famer can do exactly that.

“It’s unbelievable just to be able to play for a guy like Coach McHale,” Parsons said. “He’s a legend and I’m going to literally soak in everything he says to me and just listen to him. I wouldn’t want another coach. Just to have the opportunity to play for him is going to be special. He’s going to put me in the best situation and do whatever he can to help us win and I look forward to playing for him.”

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