Chandler Parsons: Playing For USA Basketball A 'Surreal' Experience
Las Vegas, Nevada
Chandler Parsons is unlikely to ever experience another day like July 13, 2014.
The mixed emotions of officially changing teams — from the Houston Rockets to the Dallas Mavericks — would have been enough, but it was that same night that Parsons was invited to compete in training camp for the USA Men’s National Team. With everything else going on, did Parsons need a minute to consider the opportunity?
“Less than half a second,” he said. “There was no way I was going to turn this down.”
While he didn’t necessarily plan on changing NBA teams, Parsons has planned on wearing a USA jersey for a long time. Like most Americans, Parsons has fond memories of the Dream Team. He also remembers Vince Carter’s defining dunk over 7-foot-2 Frederic Weis of France in 2000, and Parsons would like the chance to create his own red, white and blue highlights.
“Watching all those teams as a kid it’s still surreal to me that I’m here but hopefully I can take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
Parsons, a 6-9 small forward, is one of 19 players competing for 12 spots on the USA Basketball roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. The World Cup doesn’t start for another month but training camp got underway Monday with the National Team and a dozen Select Team players taking over the courts at the Mendenhall Center on UNLV’s campus.
If players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony had decided to compete this summer, there might not have been space for Parsons in camp. Their absence is his possible gain.
“The dynamic is always changing,” said head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “There is a dynamic for the Olympics and there is a dynamic for the World Cup because of how people want to be involved with it.”
One guy who committed himself to chasing a third straight gold medal is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. He emerged from a star-studded lineup to average a USA Team best 22.8 points per game and claim MVP honors at the World Championship in 2010. Now that he’s the leader and face of USA Basketball, Durant said he’s not worried about having to carry the load by himself because of the way Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo structure the teams.
“They make sure we have a plan four to six years ahead,” Durant said. “These guys have been here before and know the system.”
Parsons’ only previous USA Basketball experience was at mini-camp last summer. Still, he held his own going against Durant for much of Monday’s practices and had to pinch himself to make sure this experience was real.
“Playing for USA Basketball still gives me goose bumps, just saying that and putting on the jersey,” Parsons said. “It will never get old.”
Parsons’ best chance at making the 12-man roster is by utilizing his versatility. His outside shooting creates matchup problems on offense, but the key for a demanding, defensive-minded coaching staff will be how well he performs at the other end.
“He can stretch the floor and hopefully play defense on multiple positions,” Krzyzewski. “He wants to be here and he’s going to be in contention for one of those spots where he’s a complimentary player.”
To Parsons it doesn’t matter what kind of role he has on the World Cup roster, just so long as he has one. A lot changed for Parsons on July 13 and doing whatever he can to help USA Basketball win gold would go a long way in defining both that day and his future.
“This is a big summer for me,” Parsons said. “I have a lot to prove.”