The 2007 class

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Forecasting recruits is a tricky science.

I have little doubt that the people at Scout.com and Rivals.com work hard at what they do. They’ve spawned a cottage industry that’s resulted in millions of web hits each year. People always want to know what’s next.

But P.T. Barnum also once said there’s a sucker born every minute. Which brings me to the 2007 Florida basketball recruiting class, one that Rivals.com and Scout.com both ranked as the best in the nation.

It’s why many (including me) were duped into thinking that Florida would rebuild quicker than expected following back-to-back national title seasons.

Mind you, no one was printing Florida three-peat shirts to start 2007-08. Instead,  I anticipated a scenario similar to North Carolina in 2005-06. That season, the Tar Heels, behind a top-ranked freshman class that included big man Tyler Hansbrough , made a respectable run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Like Florida, North Carolina had lost all of its starters from its national-title winning team the season before.

But so far, the 2007 class hasn’t lived up to its lofty billing. Other than the recently-departed Nick Calathes, it has yet to produce an impact player.

Here’s a look at the class and the Rivals.com 2007 ranking of each player:

No. 14 Nick Calathes — Led Florida twice in scoring and was the two-time school record-holder for assists in a season. But for as impressive an individual talent that Calathes was, he had a tendency to fade in clutch situations in February and March. Fatigue may have been a factor due to carrying the weight of the team in each of the previous two seasons. Off to a pro contract in Greece, Calathes no longer factors into Florida’s rebuilding plans.

No. 19 Chandler Parsons — Parsons has shown flashes of promise (27 points in a nationally-televised game against Vanderbilt) but has yet to reach his full potential. His shooting has been inconsistent and his lack of strength/lateral quickness has rendered him a liability on the defensive end of the floor. He’s a decent finisher on the break, but needs to continue to work on his game to become more well-rounded.

No. 43 Jai Lucas — Lucas was the second McDonald’s All-American (with Calathes) in the 2007 class, but it was clear he wasn’t comfortable playing in the same backcourt as Calathes. He was steady (1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio) but not spectacular (8.5 ppg) as a freshman. Had he stayed, Lucas would have inherited the sole starting point guard job this season. But he opted to transfer to Texas last November to be closer to home.

No. 50 Alex Tyus — Tyus was Florida’s most improved player last season. As an undersized center, he finished second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg) and led the team in rebounding (6.2 rpg.) At power forward, his more natural position, the 6-foot-8 Tyus could blossom further in 2009-10. He’s the best player of the class that’s left. Florida was fortunate he chose to return after his mysterious transfer announcement last April.

No. 74 Adam Allen — Knee problems forced Allen to sit out last season. A setback in May forced another knee surgery, which puts Allen in further limbo heading into 2009-10. The 6-foot-8 Allen showed decent shooting touch (42.1 percent from 3-point range) as a freshman but had too many turnovers (23) in limited minutes. Like Parsons, Allen needs to become a more well-rounded player to make a significant impact.

Who wasn’t in Rivals.com’s top 150 for 2007? Larry Sanders, a 6-foot-9, 205 pound power forward from Fort Pierce. That’s why former UF assistant and then Virginia Commonwealth coach Anthony Grant was able to scoop up Sanders from under the nose of the rest of the schools in the state.

Just think where Florida could have been with a player like Sanders, a lunch-pail throwback who plays bigger than his size and isn’t afraid to bang underneath. Maybe the NCAA Tournament, instead of the NIT the past two seasons?

Again, recruiting is a tricky science.