Nov. 1, 2003
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Leonard Hamilton has not only begun to build one of the top men’s basketball programs in the nation on the court, but he has begun to build one of the nations top programs away from the court. Continuing a tradition of emphasizing academic achievement by his players, Hamilton has the Seminoles working hard in the classroom with improved grade point averages and graduation rates.
After graduating 28 of his 31players (90.3 percent) during his 10-year tenure at the University of Miami, Hamilton has his Seminoles sailing a similar course since his arrival in Tallahassee. During his first season at Florida State, all three of his seniors who were eligible to earn their undergraduate degrees accomplished their academic goals. Entering his second season, Hamilton has five seniors on the roster and all five are on track to receive their degrees at the end of the academic year.
“I have always stressed academics to each and every one of our players,” said Hamilton. “Helping our players do well in the classroom and assisting them in earning a degree is a large part of our mission as coaches at the collegiate level. We are fortunate as coaches to work at one of the finest academic institutions in America that allows our players to receive a top-rate education. The educators at Florida State University make our jobs as coaches very easy.”
Earlier this fall, four members of Florida State’s 2002-03 men’s basketball team – guards Todd Galloway, Marcell Haywood and Andrew Wilson and center Mike Mathews – were been named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Academic Team. The Seminoles were the only team in the league with more than two players named as five of the nine conference schools had at least one player named to the 10-man team.
The Seminoles’ success in the naming of the ACC All-Academic men’s basketball team continued a strong academic trend under Hamilton. In addition to the Seminoles’ success on the All-Academic men’s basketball team, the Seminoles had six players named to the 2003 ACC Honor Roll – more than any other team in the ACC. The Seminoles ranked first in the ACC among basketball teams with their six honorees. The six honorees — Orenn Fells, Galloway, Haywood, Mathews, Will Wightman and Wilson – established a program record for Seminole men’s basketball players being named to the ACC Honor Roll.
Florida State’s six ACC Academic Honor Roll honorees in 2003 were more than Duke, North Carolina, and Maryland combined. In addition, while the Seminoles had six honorees, the remaining eight ACC men’s basketball teams had a total of 15 players named to the Honor Roll.
Fells, a sport management major, earned the Golden Torch Award for men’s basketball at the annual Golden Torch Gala in October as the player on the team with the highest grade point average. He also completed an internship at a public relations firm thus past summer and is thinking about a career in that field when he earns his degree in 2004.
One of Hamilton’s top academic stories has been that of Mathews who earned his undergraduate degree is sports management in August and is currently taking advanced classes in the same subject while he plays his fourth year as a member of the men’s basketball team. He became only the second men’s basketball player in Florida State and ACC history to enter school as a partial qualifier, graduate in four years and earn back his fourth year of playing eligibility. Because he did not meet NCAA regulations as a full academic qualifier when he first arrived at Florida State as a freshman, he had to sit out his first competitive season. Now that he has earned his undergraduate degree, he will play as one of five seniors on the Seminole men’s basketball team during the 2003-04 season.
“I knew that I could accomplish the goal of graduating in four years that I had set for myself when I first came to Florida State,” said Mathews. “I didn’t realize how hard I had to work when I was a freshman. As the years went on I realized I had to buckle down to graduate on time. Coach Hamilton and his staff helped me get through my fourth year – which really was the toughest year of my academic career. The helped me understand that the success I achieved in the classroom would help me become more confident on the basketball court. They were right because now I have a college degree and I feel like I am improving as a player on the court.”
As the victories begin to pile up for Hamilton’s Seminoles, so too will the grade point averages and graduation rates.