By Chuck Walsh, Deputy Director of Sports Information
Anthony Polite speaks three languages fluently: Italian, French and English.
He has lived in two countries: Switzerland and the United States.
But he came home to Florida State to play college basketball.
Anthony’s father, Michael, was one of the top players in a golden era of Florida State basketball (1988-91) that saw the Seminoles play in three NCAA Tournaments and win the 1991 Metro Conference Championship. Michael Polite averaged 10.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and is still ranked among the top scorers in Florida State history.
Michael’s son, Anthony, is one of the leaders in the current golden era of Florida State basketball that has so far seen the Seminoles play in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and win the 2020 ACC Championship. Anthony averaged a career-high 5.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in leading the Seminoles to their highest ranking in nearly 50 years and to the first regular season ACC title in school history.
Together, Anthony and Michael Polite have played on five NCAA Tournament teams and two conference championships teams at Florid State. Until the coronavirus cut the Seminoles’ 2020 season short, Anthony and Michael had helped lead Florida State into the NCAA Tournament in a combined five of seven seasons as Seminoles.
“It’s awesome that I can keep the legacy of the Polite family growing at Florida state,” said Anthony. “It was always my dad’s goal, and now it’s my goal to bring as many banners to Tallahassee as possible.”
Anthony was born in Lugano, Switzerland, in 1997 while Michael was enjoying an outstanding 10-year career there. Following his time at Florida State, Michael was a star in both Spain and Switzerland. Michael would meet his wife, Maddalena, while playing professionally, and their son Anthony spent the first 15 years of his life in Switzerland.
Michael and Maddalena supported Anthony’s athletic aspirations, first as a striker on the soccer field then as a guard on the basketball court. He became an advanced soccer player in Switzerland, where the sport is popular among young athletes.
Anthony continued to grow one day simply realized that he enjoyed playing basketball more than he did soccer.
Because he had continued to hone his basketball skills while playing soccer, his transition back to the game was easy. He was named to the U16 and U18 Swiss National Teams and represented his country as one of its top players.
Anthony also eventually realized that his path to playing major college basketball would require a move to the United States.
“I thought if I had a chance to play at a high level in high school in the United States, that would give me an easier path to playing in college,” said Anthony. “So, with the full support of my family, I made the move to the United States.”
Anthony made his way to Boca Raton, Fla., where he began his high school career at Saint Andrew’s Christian School. He was on his own for the first year of his high school career (Sant Andrews is a nationally recognized boarding school) before Michael moved back to the U.S. to live with him.
Anthony’s mother, grandmother, brother Michael and sister Alice all still live in Switzerland.
“I talk to my mom almost every day but only get to see her two or three times a year,” said Anthony. “They always watch our games which usually come on at about 3 a.m. since Switzerland is six hours ahead of us.”
“When I went to Florida State, I just felt at home.”FLORIDA STATE REDSHIRT JUNIOR ANTHONY POLITE
Michael can be found at nearly every Seminole game, home and away, cheering on his son’s success with each trip up the court.
“Our decision to allow Anthony to pursue his basketball career in the U.S. was somewhat difficult,” said Michael. “The fact that Anthony would be away from his mother, his brother, his sister and his grandmother is certainly challenging. We supported him because we knew his dream was to play in the United States gave him the best opportunity to play at the college level.”
Anthony was a star in the making, one destined for greatness as soon as he stepped on the court at Saint Andrews.
While serving as the Scots’ team captain as a senior, Anthony averaged 19.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. During his junior and senior seasons, St. Andrew’s posted a combined record of 51-5.
He had become a household name in basketball circles, with Florida State, Duke, Pittsburgh, Miami and Southern California all among the college hoops heavyweights to come calling.
Polite’s decision came down to Florida State and Miami. In the end, and with Michael sitting to his right and his high school coach sitting to his left, Anthony proudly pulled out a garnet and gold hat and proclaimed his allegiance to the Seminoles.
“When I went to Florida State,” Anthony said, “I just felt at home.”
Though Michael never pushed or steered Anthony to pick Florida State, he was nonetheless thrilled when his son chose to follow his footsteps to Tallahassee.
“I was super excited for my son to pick my alma mater,” said Michael. “With all of the schools interested in him, it was a dream come true for my son to attend the same school and play for the same program I did.”
Anthony’s arrival at Florida State in 2017 has coincided with three of the best seasons in program history.
The Seminoles are a combined 80-25 overall and 38-18 in ACC play with Polite on the roster, which includes a school-record 29 wins in 2018 and a school record 16 ACC wins in 2019.
After redshirting because of an injury as a true freshman, Polite has developed into a starter in the last two seasons. He’s averaged 15.4 minutes played and started eight games as the Seminoles have finished both seasons ranked in the nation’s top 10.
Because of his experiences in the last two seasons, Anthony will be one of Florida State’s key players in the final two years of his career in Tallahassee.
“He means a lot to our program,” said FSU forward RaiQuan Gray, who played AAU basketball with Polite when the two were in high school.
“He has played his way through injury and consistently shows us and our opponents how tough he is. Anthony has an incredible ability to bounce back from adversity. He is going to be one of our team leaders during the upcoming season.”
FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton sees Anthony’s early experiences in Switzerland as important plusses in Anthony’s development as a basketball player.
“The fundamentals that are taught to players in Europe much earlier in their careers are very important to their development,” Hamilton said. “Anthony’s desire to be a great defender has helped him in our defensive system, which can be tough to pick up. He had no trouble at all understanding that way we play defense. That allowed him to fit into our system quickly.”
After three full seasons as a Seminole, Anthony’s basketball IQ continues to make him a standout player on both ends of the court.
“Anthony’s development has been an extreme bright spot for our program since his arrival,” said Seminole assistant coach Charlton Young. “The way he works and studies the game illustrates to the coaching staff and his teammates a couple of things – that his wants to be a good teammate and that he was to continue to get better every day.”
Young points directly to the improvement of Anthony’s off-hand dribbling and the increased accuracy and speed of his jump shot as just of two of the areas In which Anthony has made strides.
As Anthony grows more and more confident in his game, he, too, understands how important his upbringing in European basketball and its fundamentals continue to be in his continued improvement.
“I’ve learned basketball from an IQ view of the game,” he said. “I’ve learned how to think the game and position myself to be ahead of your opponent on the defensive end as well as the offensive end of the court.”
For Anthony Polite, coming to Florida State has been a homecoming. Following the trail his father first blazed, he is now creating his own legacy as a Seminole.
“He has played his way through injury and consistently shows us and our opponents how tough he is. Anthony has an incredible ability to bounce back from adversity. He is going to be one of our team leaders during the upcoming season.”FLORIDA STATE REDSHIRT JUNIOR RAIQUAN GRAY