TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Dwayne Bacon is sure this time.
Florida State’s sophomore guard and leading scorer, Bacon declared for the NBA draft on Wednesday afternoon, and, as he discussed his decision, he did so with the confidence and calmness of someone who knows that he made the right choice.
And Bacon admitted that those feelings were in stark contrast to the ones he felt a year ago, when he announced his intentions to go pro, only to change his mind and come back to FSU a few days later.
“I just was shaking when I made the decision last year,” Bacon said. “…Last year, I didn’t feel like I was ready. I had a lot of doubt in me. And I’m usually not that type of player. And this year, I feel like I’m much more mature, got a lot better as far as my game has come along.
“So, this year, I’m excited. I feel like this is the best way to go for me. I feel like a lot of blessings are coming my way.”
When Bacon opted to return for his sophomore season, he did so with a checklist of things he hoped to achieve.
First and foremost, as a 6-foot-7 shooting guard, he wanted to improve his shooting.
He also wanted to refine his mechanics while becoming a more reliable and more vocal leader.
And Bacon wanted to be sure not to leave college without playing in the NCAA tournament.
With his sophomore season now in the books, Bacon can say he checked every box.
His shooting percentage increased from .447 in Year 1 to .452 in Year 2 and, more importantly, he increased his 3-point percentage from .281 to .333.
And Bacon served as part of a core of veterans who helped bring along a handful of younger players, which helped FSU amass the second-highest win total in school history (26).
Finally, Bacon made his Big Dance debut last week, where he led the Seminoles in scoring in each of their two NCAA tournament games.
His college basketball goals achieved, Bacon felt it only natural to take the leap to the next level.
“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Bacon said. “But coming about this decision was just (the result of) discussing with my parents, discussing with the coaching staff.
“They felt like it was time for me to leave. I came back and got better in every aspect. So it was the best decision that I had to make for me.”
Bacon’s decision to come to Florida State rates perhaps as one of the most significant developments in the program’s recent history.
A former five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American from Lakeland, Bacon picked FSU over offers from a host of college-hoops heavyweights and, along with fellow prep star Malik Beasley, ushered in a new wave of talented players at Florida State.
That wave continued a year later with the signing of fellow high-school All-American Jonathan Isaac, who combined with Bacon to form a star tandem that helped lead the Seminoles to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.
“Getting back to the tournament is also something that’s just a dream come true,” Bacon said.
Along the way, Bacon provided more than his share of memorable moments.
There was his mid-range jumper with five seconds left that helped the Seminoles beat Florida in Gainesville for the first time in four tries.
And there was his game-winning 3-pointer – part of a 29-point performance – that lifted FSU to a win at Virginia and helped spark a 6-1 start in ACC play and a No. 6 national ranking.
And, just last week, there was the thunderous, one-handed dunk that turned the momentum in FSU’s win over Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
All of that has Bacon feeling confident that he’ll be happy come draft day. Most analysts project him to be selected from the middle of the first round to the early second.
“Once (my name) gets called, it’s just excitement,” Bacon said. “It’s a dream that, like I said, a lot of guys don’t live out. Once I hear it get called, it will be a lot of joy, a lot of tears. But it’s just more work that comes from that.”
Bacon is sure of his decision, but that doesn’t mean it came easily.
The conversation with FSU’s coaches – especially head coach Leonard Hamilton and assistant Charlton Young – was difficult.
As was making the rounds to his teammates to let them know that he wouldn’t be with them next year.
“He’s my closest friend,” said FSU sophomore Terance Mann, who signed with Bacon and Beasley in the same 2015 recruiting class. “He taught me a lot, a lot about the game offensively. He gave me that competitive spirit. He challenged me a lot.”
The next challenge for Bacon is choosing an agent – he confirmed Wednesday that he will sign with an agent and thus forfeit his remaining eligibility – and then preparing for the NBA draft combine in May.
When he does, he’ll go to Chicago with the confidence that comes from having a solid foundation built during two years in Tallahassee, as well as with the memories and friendships forged during a meaningful career at FSU.
“The coaches, I love them,” Bacon said. “They treated me like I was their son, their own blood. The teammates I had were just amazing. … I will definitely remember this team – because it will never be the same team – because we did so much to turn this program around and we made a lot of things happen.”