Aug. 27, 1997
The excitement surrounding the upcoming Florida State basketball season
is as high as it has been in recent memory.
A new coaching staff is eager to begin teaching. The players are anxious
to get to work. And Seminole fans have been talking FSU basketball throughout
And there is good reason for the excitement. One of the top young coaches
in the nation, Steve Robinson, takes over the program in 1997-98. Florida
State returns four starters and seven regulars, from last year’s 20-win team.
And the schedule – featuring back-to-back home games with Final Four teams in
December and the Preseason NIT – is stronger than it has been in recent years.
Robinson was hired as the Florida State program’s sixth head coach on
July 1. And while most of his summer as a resident of Tallahassee has been
spent on the road during the July recruiting period, he will hit the ground
running with a veteran squad for the 1997-98 campaign.
Leading the way for Florida State on the floor this season will be senior
point guard Kerry Thompson. Thompson emerged as one of the Atlantic Coast
Conference’s top newcomers and a go-to man for the Tribe last season. The New
York City native, who spent his first two years at nearby Tallahassee Community
College, won a pair of games with last-second shots and sent a third into
overtime (which the Seminoles eventually won) with a buzzer-beating
three-pointer. He finished second in the ACC in assists and steals and his
assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 2-to-1 was also among the league’s best.
Thompson, who averaged 8.8 points per game last season, should evolve
into more a scorer this season with the departure of backcourt mate James
Collins, who led FSU in scoring at 16.6 points per game last year.
Florida State will welcome the return of three starters, senior LaMarr
Greer and Corey Louis and junior Randell Jackson, back on the frontline
Greer, who started at point guard during his first two seasons at FSU,
adjusted well to his transition to the wing last season. He averaged 8.4
points and 3.9 rebounds per game while starting 20 games at small forward. The
Cape May, NJ native took his game to another level over the final third of the
season when he averaged 10.0 points, including a career-high 23 points in a
loss to Duke. Greer also starred in Florida State’s run to the NIT
Championship game, averaging 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and hitting 41 percent
from three-point range in the postseason.
Louis is also a vital cog in Coach Robinson’s first year plans. Louis
was plagued by injuries throughout the 1996-97 campaign but still managed to
average 11.0 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds per game. The Miami native
missed seven games during the season, four after left knee surgery and three
with a plantar fascitis injury, and was never really at 100 percent during the
ACC portion of the schedule.
Joining Louis in the frontcourt and giving the Seminoles one of the
league’s better big man combinations is Jackson. Jackson tied Louis for second
on the team in scoring last season at 11.0 points per game and added 6.3
rebounds per contest. He is another player on the Florida State roster that
took his game to another level in the postseason. Jackson averaged 14.8 points,
9.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots in FSU’s five NIT games. The Boston native
also posted four double-doubles in the final seven games of the season.
Also returning after contributing regularly in 1996-97 are junior Geoff
Brower and sophomores Ron Hale and Devonaire Deas.
Brower’s early season time will be limited after suffering a torn anterior
cruciate ligament in his right knee in Florida State’s second round NIT win
over Michigan State. His rehabilitation is proceeding well and he may be
available as early as December. When healthy, Brower can provide scoring punch
and three-point shooting off the bench. He matched a career-high with 17
points in last year’s season-opening win against Southwestern Louisiana and
scored 15 points off the bench twice a year ago.
Hale started 10 games during the middle portion of the season last year
at small forward and has a variety of skills. He can put the ball on the
floor, is a solid rebounder and may be the team’s best shooter. A thin frame
that needs more bulk is Hale’s only drawback. In his first collegiate start,
Hale responded with 10 points and seven rebounds at Seton Hale and three games
later, he scored a season-high tying 17 points in a 74-70 win over No. 5
Deas started the first three games at point guard last year before moving
into a reserve role behind Kerry Thompson. Deas is academically ineligible to
play until the end of the first semester.
The loss of Collins, a second round pick in last June’s NBA Draft and
Florida State’s third all-time leading scorer, leaves a scoring void in the
backcourt. While Thompson is expected to shoulder more of the scoring load in
his senior season, it is 6-6 junior college transfer Terrell Baker who may
replace Collins in the starting lineup. Baker comes to FSU with impressive
credentials from Champlain College in Burlington, VT. He was regarded as one
of the nation’s top junior college players in both his seasons there and earned
third-team All-American honors after both his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Last year, Baker led his team to a 31-2 record and an eighth place finish at
the national junior college tournament while averaging 21.0 points per game and
hitting 41.4 percent from three-point range.
Another backcourt newcomer, point guard Delvon Arrington from St. Anthony’s
High School in Jersey City, NJ, did not qualify academically and will sit out
his first season at FSU. He will practice with the team, however.
Three frontcourt newcomers – sophomore transfer Oliver Simmons, redshirt
freshman Ronald Thompson and true freshman Karim Shabazz – are expected to
contribute along the frontline in their first year at FSU.
Simmons, a 6-8 forward, transferred into the Seminole program from Kentucky
last January and will be eligible to play at Florida State at the end of the
fall semester. He was a member of the Wildcats’ 1995-96 national championship
team and should provide some depth at power forward.
Thompson sat out last season as a redshirt and will be in the mix for
playing time at small forward. The 6-7 Savannah, GA native is an excellent
athlete and has shooting range beyond the three-point line.
Shabazz is a highly acclaimed 7-2 center who prepped at Lawrence Woodmere
Academy on Long Island, NY. Shabazz was regarded as one of the nation’s top 10
centers and top 50 players a year ago. He was named the Most Valuable Player
of the Coca-Cola All-American Game in Indianapolis, IN last April after scoring
27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He could spell Louis and Jackson down low.
Florida State’s 1997-98 schedule should be its most challenging in years.
Along with the always tough ACC slate, which opens at home with 1997 Final Four
participant North Carolina on December 20, the Seminoles will host defending
national champion Arizona on December 23. Minnesota, another Final Four team
from a year ago, is a possible second round opponent in the Preseason NIT.
That means FSU could play three of last year’s Final Four teams prior to