Donovan Lands Impressive Recruiting Class

Florida’s basketball recruiting class of 2007 took on a top ten look Wednesday morning when Coach Billy Donovan received the faxed letters of intent from four outstanding high school seniors, headlined by point guard Nick Calathes, the number 14 player in the nation as ranked by rated Florida’s class best in the Southeastern Conference and number nine nationally.

Calathes, from Winter Park Lake Howell, is joined in the class by 6-9 Lake Howell teammate Chandler Parsons (ranked number 56 by 6-9 Alex Tyus of Cincinnati Harmony Christian (ranked number 61) and 6-7 Adam Allen of Milton, Florida (tied at number 150).

“Certainly we feel like we got a good solid class,” said Donovan. “One of the focuses for us with out team right now are front court players. They’re hard to come by and we’re trying to do the best job we can to improve in that area.”

The ranking could rise for the Gators in the spring if they are able to land 6-8 Patrick Patterson of Huntington, West Virginia. Patterson, according to his father, will wait until April to sign. The final five for Patterson are Florida, Kentucky, Duke, Wake Forest and Virginia.

“We’ve got a top five that we may narrow down to a top three or four,” said Big Pat Patterson Wednesday morning. “We will finish up the official visits — we’ve got our last one this weekend at Virginia — and then we’ll do an unofficial to the schools that are still in it during the season so we can see how things are on campus on game day. We’re not in any hurry to make the choice.”

If the Gators were to land Patterson, it would almost certainly vault UF to the number one or number two position. Even without Patterson Florida’s class is impressive.

Calathes was Mr. Basketball in 2006 when he averaged 26.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game for Lake Howell. Calathes committed to the Gators last spring. His stock and rating soared during a brilliant summer of AAU basketball playing for Nike Team Florida.

Calathes is so good passing the ball that most project him as a point guard but he won several three-point shooting contests at camps and AAU tournaments. Against All Ohio Red in the Sweet 16 round at the AAU National Tournament back in July, he and Parsons brought Team Florida from 12 points down in the fourth quarter when they combined to hit seven straight three-pointers.

“He passes it, shoots it, handles it and has got a great feel for how to play,” said Donovan. “He’s a guy who can play a variety of positions for us.”

Parsons averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for Lake Howell last year. No player improved his stock more than Parsons during the summer AAU circuit however. He averaged 27 points per game at the Nike Peach Jam in Augusta where he was named the MVP of the tournament over such stars as Derrick Rose (Memphis bound, number six player in the nation by ), Eric Gordon (signed with Indiana, number two player in the nation by and Kyle Singler (signed with Duke, number four player in the nation by

“He’s a great, great three point shooter that has great offensive skill for his size,” said Donovan. “He needs to put on some size and strength.”

Tyus was a summer star for D-1 Greyhounds, the team that won the AAU national championship. His teammates included O.J. Mayo (number one player in the nation by and Bill Walker (Kansas State, number eight in the nation). Tyus had several 20-plus points, 10-plus rebound games for D-1 in the national tournament in Orlando. At Harmony Christian, he averaged 18 points and nine rebounds per game as a junior.

Donovan said that Tyus is a “terrific athlete, terrific runner and jumper who we think will be great in the front of our press. He’s got some offensive skill and really adds athleticism to our front court.”

Allen is a 6-7 wing and a deadly three-point shooter. He averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last year for Milton. On the AAU circuit he played with the Tallahassee Wildcats. Also a gifted pitcher, he’s expected to do double duty for the Gators and help Coach Pat McMahon with the Florida baseball team.

“His dad was a great player, played at Florida State,” said Donovan. “Randy Allen played in the NBA and overseas for awhile. He [Adam] is a 6-7 wing player. He’s got good athleticism, he can shoot it, he’s tough. We need some help on the perimeter and at the wing spot we think he can do that.”

Only South Carolina (18) and LSU (22) cracked the top 25 classes from the Southeastern Conference. Florida State broke the top 20, earning a number 19 ranking.

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.