To begin, I want to point out that I am indeed a Florida State fan(atic) and either way this season goes, I will still support my Seminoles as I have all of my 32 years.
No, I wasn’t born in Tallahassee, yet I favored Garnet and Gold everything as a baby (blankets, footballs, etc).
No my parents aren’t big sports fans either, but my aunt was and lived in Killearn for years. It didn’t take too long until I was warchantin’ and tomahawkin.’ But I digress…
Okay, I think the point stands I am full-fledged bias for my Noles. I've been to ‘Nole basketball games through the years at the Tallahassee Civic Center that were just terrible to watch (and I would just point out that I was at the Georgia Tech game while I was on R&R leave.)
Florida State has not been to the big show since 1998, and many fellow fans will always say that for the past few years, FSU has not been national public eye worthy.
My point is I’ve seen only four stars rise from the FSU basketball program (Sam Casell, Bob Sura, and Charlie Ward—all from the same squad—and FSU Hall of Famer Ron King) and only one NBA great, Dave Cowens and honestly, I want to see more. (Yes, I am aware under Leonard Hamilton’s lead, FSU has had four NBA draft choices in his first four years at Florida State; this team is composed of mostly freshmen, and they are still rising…)
This year's difference?
Toney Douglas: plain and simple.
Here are just a few little tiny tidbits about this man that you may have known or forgotten about...
- Douglas was rated as one of the top ten players nationally by PrepStars recruiting magazine as a prep high school senior.
- Toney didn't start his collegiate career at FSU. He was actually in the SEC as an Auburn Tiger.
- In his freshman year with Auburn, he was one of only three players to start all 31 games. He was named on the freshman All-American team and finished with averages of 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals, not easily performed by most freshmen.
- The only reason he left Auburn was because he declared for the NBA Draft (after ONE collegiate year) but then withdrew his name. At that point, he was given his release by Auburn. He began summer classes at FSU that year and sat out the season under NCAA transfer guidelines. He practiced with the 2004-5 team and waited for the upcoming sophomore year.
- As Douglas's second home, FSU welcomed him into a struggling program that was destined annually to the NIT. In his sophomore year, he began the season on fire as he scored in double figures in 10 of his first 12 game, assisting now Los Angeles Clipper Al Thornton in FSU's climb. He was out for five games due to a broken wrist, (75.7 ppg with Douglas as compared to 65.4 ppg without Douglas), and the Seminoles were 5-7 against top-50 teams in the RPI with a healthy Douglas on the floor and 0-5 against top-50 RPI teams without him.
- His junior year was much of the same; however, the program lost rising star Isaiah Swann with a career ending ACL tear five games in the season, and the Seminoles struggled to fill his place.
- This year he is dominating the scoreboards, dropping 30 percent of the total team points into the net, including 37 percent of all three-pointers on the team. He is also the team leader in steals and assists.
This year, several ACC rival coaches have noticed this solid guard.
- Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, after the then No. 2 Blue Devils won the ACC Opener in Tallahassee. "Douglas? Come on, wrap him up, I want to take him home, man. Jiminy Christmas, that kid's good. He's really good. I love that kid. He's a really good player." He went on to say he thought Douglas deserved to be nominated for national defensive player of the year.
- North Carolina’s Roy Williams, after the then No. 6 Tar Heels won on a buzzer-shot three-pointer."How lucky we were," Roy Williams said. "That's the bottom line. Toney Douglas is a wrecking crew for them."
- Virginia’s Dave Leitao: "He has confidence, he's got strength and he has worked on his game; he's in another place than most players."
- Wake Forest’s Dino Gaudio: "He's a guy who, if you don't watch, can take over a game."
- Miami’s Frank Haith: “He is one of the best guards in this league, which is as an all-around guard, because he does it on both ends. I think his leadership qualities show this year and his ability to just take over the game, particularly late in the game.”
Even journalists are encountering the "Toney Douglas experience"…
- Jim Young, ACC Sports Journal: Could Toney Douglas Be ACC Player of the Year?
Overall, Douglas is the support the others lean on; however, other players are shaping the team statistics as well with their own contributions to the team.
Fellow Senior Uche Echefu averages 8.8 points a game this season and Junior Ryan Reid helps recover the ball with almost 15 percent of the team’s offensive rebounds.
Sophomore Derwin Kitchen is the team leader in defensive rebounds. Upcoming freshmen Chris Singleton, Luke Loucks, and Solomon Alabi delivers an average of almost 20 percent of the team’s steals, contributes almost 19 percent of the his team’s assists and leads the team in over 35 percent in blocked shots, respectively.
Most of the Nation is starting to see Garnet and Gold in their nightmares. With last night’s win over No. 13 Clemson and with two games left in regular season, (re-match at Duke on 3/3 and a home finale against Virginia Tech), added to a record of 22-7 (9-5 and tied for third place in conference), and a possible rising in the polls, the Florida State Seminoles should be a higher seed in the Conference Tournament and a real contender in the NCAA Tournament.
Having close game experience with teams such as then No. 3 (now No. 1) Pittsburgh, Duke, North Carolina, (and some wins against California, Clemson, Miami, and Florida) will definitely help in the long run against other teams in the March bubble.
Look for Hamilton, Douglas, and the rest of the crew to concrete their playing style, bringing their hard-earned efforts a reward this year, a long-awaited basketball National Championship.