As an Atlanta Hawks fan living mostly in Tallahassee, I’ve never really felt the need to get NBA League Pass. What was the point? To watch the Hawks lose and chase a lottery pick? It seemed like a waste of time.
But I went ahead and bough the League Pass this year. And it wasn’t because I thought the Hawks were about to make a championship run (the playoffs would be nice, though!).
It’s because I want to watch all the guys we’ve covered at Florida State play in the NBA. That’s a really neat perk of this job, to see a young man you first met when he was 18 years old, getting to be on the biggest stage in the world.
And man, the way things are looking, I’ll be re-upping my League Pass for years and years to come.
It’s not just that Florida State currently has eight players on NBA rosters — which has to be the most at one time in school history — but it’s because they are starting to shine in their respective roles. They’re fun to watch. And more are on their way.
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These are heady times for the Florida State men’s basketball program.
And while none of us can watch the fruit of Leonard Hamilton’s labors on a college court right now because of a COVID pause, we can watch them on NBA courts around the country.
Take, for instance, this past weekend.
Patrick Williams, you guys remember him, became the youngest player in Chicago Bulls history to score 20 points in a game on Friday. He followed that up the very next night with his first double -double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in a win over the Magic.
He’s 19 years old, and he’s now averaging double-figures in the NBA.
If he continues at this current pace, I see no reason why he can’t become the best player in Chicago Bulls history.
In that same game Saturday, Dwayne Bacon started and scored 16 points.
And while those two were battling each other, Malik Beasley was scoring 17 points for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Beasley is actually averaging 20.1 points per game and shooting 38 percent from 3-point range. He’s become one of the best young scorers in the league.
And, oh yeah, while Beasley was doing that for Minnesota, Devin Vassell was doing this for San Antonio:
This was all in one night!
And then on Sunday afternoon, Terance Mann had a very Terance Mann type of game. In 26 minutes, he scored six points, grabbed six rebounds, delivered three assists and recorded two steals while playing his typical tough-nosed defense. He’s become a legitimate rotation player for the Los Angeles Clippers, who are one of the best teams in the NBA.
I just can’t imagine how much fun this must for Leonard Hamilton and his staff.
Obviously, the current players are their biggest priority. Trying to get back on the court this weekend and win games is Job No. 1. But this has to be so gratifying.
You get to watch your former pupils not only carve out nice careers for themselves, but potentially turn into star NBA players. Which, in turn, helps the brand of the program you’ve spent two decades trying to build.
Florida State is a name now. A big one.
Every time Williams makes history or Vassell throws down a hammer dunk or Mann pulls down a rebound or Beasley buries a 3, Florida State and Hamilton are talked about.
And the brand is only getting bigger.
Wait until Jonathan Isaac comes back from injury. Wait until Patrick Williams gets old enough to drink. Wait until Scottie Barnes gets there. And the next guy after him. And the next guy after him.
This train doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
And what’s coolest about that, other than watching these guys develop into NBA starters and potentially stars, is what it says about Hamilton’s program.
The Seminoles pride themselves on being 18 strong, of being selfless, of embracing a role, of buying into the greater good for the team. That spirit and mindset has produced a lot of wins in recent years.
Well, it’s starting to produce NBA players, too. Proving to every big-time recruit and his parents (and his friends and even advisers) that you don’t have to shoot 20 times a game in college to go get paid.
Think about this: Patrick Williams is averaging more points now, as a 19-year-old rookie in the NBA, than he did in his one year at Florida State.
Of the eight players currently on an NBA roster — Trent Forrest, Mfiondu Kabengele, Bacon, Beasley, Mann, Isaac, Williams and Vassell — only Bacon and Beasley averaged more than 13 points in any season for the Seminoles.
Barnes is going to join them in the league whenever he wants to, and he’s averaging 10.3 points per game this season.
And it’s not as if the Seminoles don’t play an exciting brand of basketball, score a lot of points and record a lot of wins. It’s just an incredible selling point to recruits and a wonderful teaching tool for Hamilton and his assistants.
“Oh, you’re upset you’re not getting enough shots? You think that’s costing you in the draft? Patrick Williams was picked No. 4 overall by the Bulls, and he never scored more than 19 in a college game. Anything else you want to discuss?”
By the way, while I was joking about Williams being the best Chicago Bull ever (I think that title is pretty secure), he really does have a chance to be an incredible player. He’s so good at both ends of the court. Already. And the Bulls don’t even run any plays for him. I know because I watch NBA League Pass. He sometimes shoots just five or six times a game.
Just wait until he develops and they start gearing their offense toward him. He has a chance, with his size, athleticism, touch and IQ, to be one of the best in the league in the next decade.
And Vassell, even in limited minutes, has made a strong impression on legendary San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich, the entire Spurs organization and the fan base.
And that’s what I wanted to leave you with.
Because neither Williams nor Vassell were super-duper stars coming out of Florida State, fans for those respective teams weren’t all that familiar with them on draft night. Many of them were more than a little apprehensive.
After all, how could a lottery pick not even average 14 points a game in college?
How could the No. 4 pick in the draft not even start a single game at Florida State?
It’s simple, though. Most of these NBA fans don’t get the beauty of FSU basketball. They don’t understand what Hamilton has built and what the fan base has embraced.
They’re starting to, though. Just read some of the following fan tweets and smile.
And if you haven’t already, go ahead and purchase that NBA League Pass. If you’re a Florida State basketball fan, I promise it’s worth it.