Four members of the Florida State men’s basketball team will hear their names called over the loudspeakers at the Donald L. Tucker Center this weekend, just like they have hundreds of times in the last four years. Only this time it won’t be as a member of the Seminoles’ starting lineup or when they have made a spectacular play on the basketball court.
It will be during graduation ceremonies at Florida State University, as Boris Bojanovsky, Devon Bookert, Montay Brandon and Michael Ojo are awarded their bachelor’s degrees and officially become graduates of the university they represented so passionately as varsity athletes during the past four years.
These four players have seen the world, travelled the country and played in front of thousands of fans in countless basketball arenas. They have defeated ranked teams, played in national tournaments and appeared on television more times than they can count, but walking across the graduation stage and shaking the hand of FSU President Dr. John Thrasher might very well be the most important thing they will ever do inside the Tucker Center.
Bojanovsky and Ojo will earn their degrees in International Affairs while Bookert and Brandon will earn their degrees in Sociology. Later this summer, Michael Saxton will earn his degree in Finance.
“All five of these players are tremendous people who have given so much of themselves to our program and our university,” head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They continue to help us set a tremendous standard for our team, are leaders for our current and future players and to all graduate in four years is an incredible accomplishment.”
For Florida State and Hamilton, the academic achievements of the seniors on the 2015-16 team continues a long standing tradition of classroom success. During Hamilton’s tenure as a head coach at Florida State, Miami and Oklahoma State dating back to 1988, more than 94 percent of his players have earned their degrees. Under Hamilton, the Seminoles were one of seven ACC teams credited with a perfect APR score in 2016 and are among the ACC leaders in the most recent five-year period.
The Academic Progress Rate, which was developed in 2003, holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.
Each of the Seminoles who will earn their degrees in 2016 helped Florida State earn success on the basketball court with two NIT appearances (including a semifinal appearance in 2014), five victories over ranked teams and two upper division ACC finishes in the last four years. In addition, the Seminoles cemented themselves as the third winningest program in the ACC in the last 11 years.
Brandon grew up on Tobacco Road in North Carolina and was an ACC fan from the time he began dribbling a basketball. Now, after a record setting career at Florida State, Brandon has achieved one of his goals and has countless memories of Florida State that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
“Earning my degree was the biggest reason I came to Florida State and it was the biggest goal I set for myself when I arrived on campus as a freshman,” said Brandon, who set the school record for starts with 122 during his four-year career. “My mom, who has always been my greatest fan, impressed upon on me how important it would be for me to earn a degree from an outstanding institution. She helped shape my vision and my goals throughout my life. In so many ways, I have my mom to thank for getting to this point in my life.”
For Bojanovsky, who hails from the Slovak Republic, his journey to earning his degree from Florida State was a bit more difficult than the roads traveled by his teammates.
“Once my family and I decided that I would come to Florida State, earning a degree was a must for me,” said Bojanovsky who finished his career ranked third in school history with 195 career blocked shots. “My mom came up with the idea that going to the United States and playing basketball would allow me to earn a very valuable degree. So my graduation and earning a degree means a lot to her.”
Bojanovsky, who plans to continue his basketball career, will remember his biggest adjustment to college life as finding the balance between his academic requirements and his basketball responsibilities.
“Finding the balance between the academics and the athletics wasn’t always easy for me,” Bojanovsky said. “Both aspects take up so much time and effort but with the help of many people including coaches, professors and tutors, I was able to stay on top of my responsibilities. With all of the help that I received and a lot of perseverance, I am proud for myself and my family that I will always be able to say that I am a graduate of Florida State University.
Bojanovsky was never alone in his journey at Florida State. Literally.
During his four year career as a Seminole whenever you saw Bojanovsky anywhere on campus, you generally saw fellow senior Michael Ojo at his side. The imposing pair of players (Bojanovsky is 7-3 and Ojo is 7-1) formed a tremendous bond and will graduate side by side during graduation ceremonies in the April 30.
“Education has always been important to me and my family,” said Ojo the native of Nigeria. “My dad went to college before he passed, my mom went to college and both of my sisters graduated from college. It was getting your education before anything else while I was growing up. That I am going to graduate from an American college with the prestige and the reputation of Florida State has made all of my family back home very proud.”
Ojo, who was redshirted this past season, will stay at Florida State to pursue his master’s degree and play as an imposing member of the Seminoles’ basketball team for the 2016-17 season.
“I was very lucky that Florida State found me,” said. “Coach Hamilton is like a second father to me and he has brought me to a place where I received a first class education. My education is far beyond anything I could ever have dreamed about growing up. Florida State has given me so much more than I can ever give back. I can only hope that I have been an equally good representative on the basketball court.”
For Bookert, one of the top shooters in Seminole history, graduation will mean just as much to him as he becomes the first person from his family to graduate from college.
“Earning my degree means everything to me because I will become the first person in my family to get a degree,” Bookert said. “I met my best friends playing basketball and they will be my best friends forever. That, and the fact that I will receive my degree from Florida State, has made this the best four years of my life. I could never truly thank Coach Ham, our coaching staff and all of the people at Florida State who have made this possible.”
Bookert, who scored 1,120 career points, closed his career ranked fifth in school with a 3-point field goal shooting percentage of .419.
For Michal Saxton who will earn his degree in finance during the summer of 2016, coming to Florida State was very much a family thing. He will become the fifth member of his family to earn a degree from Florida State following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, mother and sister who was a member of the Seminole volleyball team.
“Earning my degree was a big part of why I came to Florida State,” Saxton said. “I always wanted to come to Florida State and study business. It was a huge plus that we have an incredible school of business here.
When each of their names is called during the graduation ceremony, they will walk across the stage rather than check in at the scorers’ table. They will shake the president’s hand instead of putting the ball through the basket or blocking a shot.
But the outcome of the day won’t matter how many points the Seminoles win by because they’ve already won: they are all graduates of The Florida State University.