NEW YORK – Neither Jonathan Isaac or Terance Mann claim New York City as their hometowns in their official biographies, but each has roots that run deep in the Big Apple.
Mann was born in Brooklyn, where he lived until he was 11 years old, while Isaac was born across the East River in the Bronx and lived there until age 10.
Both are having something of a homecoming this week, as the Florida State men’s basketball team visits Brooklyn for the ACC tournament at the Barclays Center.
Second-seeded FSU will meet either Wake Forest or Virginia Tech Thursday at 7 p.m. in the tournament quarterfinal.
“It’s definitely fun to come back,” said Mann, whose mother, Daynia La-Force, coached on the staff at LIU-Brooklyn when he was born.
La-Force later moved on to St. John’s University in Queens before eventually settling in as the head coach at Northeastern in Boston, where Mann finished middle and high schools. She’s now the head coach at Rhode Island.
Mann said he considers both Brooklyn and Lowell, Mass., to be his hometowns, although he first developed a passion for basketball on the playgrounds in Brooklyn.
“We played a lot after school,” Mann said. “I was always just in Brooklyn. I didn’t know much about Manhattan, Long Island, the Bronx – any of that.”
Mann also remembers hearing about plans for the Barclays Center during his time in Brooklyn. The arena was initially proposed in 2004 and it finally opened in 2012.
“When I was growing up here, they were always clearing space out for it,” Mann said. “There was a big talk of ‘Oh, this is coming to town,’ and everybody was happy for it.
“So it’s kind of cool being able to play there years later.”
Isaac, meanwhile, didn’t generate an interest in basketball until he left New York.
But he still has family in the area and, like Mann, expects to see some familiar faces in the crowd when Florida State hits the floor on Thursday.
Other Seminoles have picked up on the New York buzz as well.
FSU on Tuesday loaded up its team plane – complete with the Seminole Sound band, cheerleaders and golden girls – and flew to Newark, N.J.
The Seminoles then took a 45-minute bus ride to Manhattan that included evening views of the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Wednesday morning, the Seminoles held a shoot-around at the Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and one of the newest venues in professional basketball.
The ACC tournament marks FSU’s second visit to the Barclays Center this season – the Seminoles played two games there at the NIT Tip-off in November.
The Seminoles believe that their experience in the arena could come in handy this week.
“I think it definitely gives us a little bit of an advantage,” Isaac said. “Just like playing on our home court, we’ve been there before and a lot of other teams haven’t.”
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton is happy to have the tournament in Brooklyn and referred to New York as the “mecca” of college basketball.
And, to his point, the Big East is holding its tournament at Madison Square Garden this week as well.
But Hamilton also cautioned against getting too caught up in the city lights and forgetting to focus on what takes place on the floor.
“It’s part of their culture and to have the (tournament) here in New York is definitely great exposure for the ACC,” he said. “It’s exciting being in the ACC tournament. The fact that it’s in the mecca of college basketball, New York City, is also exciting.
“But the most important thing is you have to understand that you can’t allow any of that stuff to distract you.”