Florida St continues rise with another good season
Leonard Hamilton has achieved in rebuilding Florida State. Now
he’s trying to make the Seminoles a perennial fixture on the
collegiate basketball scene.
The Seminoles have won 20 or more games in five of the last six
years, including the past three seasons. They capped that run by
advancing to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament before
losing to upstart VCU in overtime last Friday.
”We’re not surprised that we were in a position to go to the
Elite Eight,” Hamilton said in summarizing the season. ”Over the
last six years we’ve consistently gotten better, and that’s one
reason we are where we are.”
During that time, Florida State is 131-69. In the last three
seasons they’re 70-31, including 31-17 in the ACC, trailing only
traditional powerhouses Duke and North Carolina. The Seminoles have
earned a bye in first round ACC tournament in each of the last
It’s paid off in attendance that has swelled by an average of
more than 4,000 fans a game since Steve Robinson’s last season in
2001-02. The average of 9,327 this season also surpassed the
previous high of the 1992-93 team that reached the Elite Eight.
With a veteran team returning, Hamilton is confident that better
times are ahead.
”We’re not going to be satisfied just going to the Sweet 16,”
Hamilton said. ”The future is bright for us.”
And with more fans, expectations are also heightened.
Tallahassee attorney Brian Bibeau, a season ticket-holder since
1979, was thrilled with the season in spite of the heartbreaking
loss to VCU.
”We’re on the way up,” said Bibeau, who noted that it was only
a few years ago when the Seminoles were ”the laughingstock of the
Indeed, Hamilton inherited a program in shambles in 2002. The
Seminoles were 46-72 the previous four years and 21-43 in league
Bibeau, who went to law school at Duke, is rabid about ACC hoops
and glad to see the Seminoles competitive again.
”Those teams don’t want to see us come into their house
anymore,” he said. ”Thy don’t want any part of us. We’ve got a
senior team next year. Let’s lay it on some people.”
The Seminoles lose one senior, Derwin Kitchen, although junior
forward Chris Singleton – the team’s top scorer and rebounder – is
expected to leave early for the NFL draft.
Everyone else returns, starting with a giant front line made up
of 6-foot-10 Bernard James, 6-11 Xavier Gibson and 7-footer Jon
Kreft. They’ll be joined by guards Deividas Dulkys and Luke Loucks
in next season’s senior class.
Rising sophomores Okaro White and Ian Miller, and juniors
Terrance Shannon and Michael Snaer, provide the remainder of the
All eight returners played extensively during the season.
Hamilton’s recruiting class includes the North Carolina high
school Player of the Year, Terry Whisnant, an outside shooter who
averaged 31.7 points this season. He also signed forward Antwan
Space from DeSoto, Texas, guard Aaron Thomas from Cincinnati and
junior college center Kiel Turpin, son of the late Kentucky great,
After three straight trips to the NCAA tournament, Hamilton
believes the Seminoles are on the precipice of becoming a perennial
factor in the ACC and nationally.
But it’s getting to that top step that’s difficult.
Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden had good teams
– really good teams – for several years and seemed to fall just
short of winning a national championship before finally breaking
through. Now, Hamilton is in a similar position.
”Our goal is to reach our potential,” he said. ”Then we will
accept what happens.”
Bowden’s patience paid off in 1993 when he won the first of two
national championships in the wake of a half dozen near misses.
That came in his 18th season at Florida State. He added another
national title six years later.
It’ll be 40 years next season since the Seminoles made it to a
Final Four, when they lost to UCLA in the 1972 national
Could Florida State do it again?
”We still have a lot more in the tank,” Hamilton said. ”We
can be an improved basketball team.”