Preaching the gospel of coach Billy Donovan, Florida signee Chandler Parsons was quoting Billy D chapter and verse on Thursday as he put into context what he has already done for the greater good of the Gators.
"I got a text message from Coach Donovan this morning," said Parsons, standing in the seventh-floor gym of The Sports Club/LA while 20 Jordan All-Americans milled about. "He said good luck and work hard this week, and to bring home Jai [Lucas] and Patrick [Patterson] for him."
These days, Patterson and Lucas, the nation's top two unsigned recruits, have been the object of Donovan's desire and the coach will be watching intently on Saturday when they play in Jordan game at Madison Square Garden. Refusing to rest on the recruiting trail, Donovan and his assistants are still sending their electronic missives out in what may be the last days of the text message. With the recruiting class of 2004 (Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Al Hordford, and Corey Brewer) jumping to the NBA, Donovan has been filling out his latest class, which may be the nation's best by the time all is said and done. "I told this big fella over here that he's got to come on down [to Florida]," Parsons said, pointing to Patterson, a 6-foot-8, 228-pound power forward from Huntington (W.Va.), sitting nearby. "I've been giving him the pitches, whispering to him, and, man if we get them then we'll be the No. 1 recruiting class."
A man of few words and many texts, Patterson is still weighing his options, which also include Duke, Kentucky, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. "Chandler's been telling me everything about the fans, football, the school, and the girls," said Patterson who does not plan on announcing until sometime in May. Lucas, the son of former NBA coach John Lucas, took his official visit to Florida last week. Originally not one of Donovan's targeted players, the two had agreed earlier in the recruiting process that Florida was not the school for him if Green was going to stay. Once Green departed, though, Lucas was back in the mix. "I think it would be great to play there, coming off success, and this class is going to be a good one for them," Lucas said. "There could be a youth movement if we all go."
Accompanying Parsons to New York this week is Lake Howell (Winter Park, Fla.) teammate and fellow Florida recruit Nick Calathes, a 6-foot-5, 165-pound wing, who edged Duke recruit Kyle Singler by one basket in the three-point shooting contest Thursday night at the Gauchos gym in the South Bronx, N.Y. "We're here to let the Gator fans know what they're getting," Calathes said. "And there are only a certain number of times that coach can get in contact with recruits, so we're helping him out this week."
Committed to the Gators since his sophomore season, Calathes showed in winning the three-point contest that he may be the perfect replacement for the graduating Lee Humphrey. Three weeks ago, while Calathes and Parsons were enjoying their time as McDonald's All Americans in Louisville, Ky., the Gators recruits were concerned -- albeit only slightly -- as Kentucky courted Donovan. Staying in contact over the course of that week, Donovan put their fears to rest and apologized for the distraction. "We knew he wasn't going anywhere," Calathes said. "He built what he has now in Gainesville. He was in contact with us."
Donovan would have been proud to see his future players perform Thursday night. Participating in the dunk contest, Parsons had Calathes rise up to the second story balcony in the gym and throw an alley-oop bounce pass. It failed twice and Parsons scrambled to complete a simple dunk to save face. Still Calathes knew just how quickly word would travel to Gainesville. "Between my winning [the three-point contest] and that dunk attempt," he said, "I think we'll be getting a call or text tonight or tomorrow."
Natives of the South Bronx may have been confused by the flow of visitors to the Gerard Avenue gym for the dunk contest, three-point competition, and celebrity basketball game. Lining the quiet street, typically not frequented by many passersby, were 33 black SUVs that would have trumped most presidential motorcades. The attention and extra security were due to rappers Fabolous, DMC, and Jada Kiss playing in the game and serving as special guest judges in the dunk contest. "The guys didn't know how much I knew about them, I'm a hoops fan, I knew which ones were undecided and everything," said Jada Kiss, who knocked down five three-pointers in the game in which his team lost 39-35.