TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Devin Vassell loves Florida State, loves his teammates and loves playing in the NCAA tournament.
All of which made this decision that much more difficult.
Vassell, a sophomore forward on the FSU men’s basketball team, announced earlier this week that he would forgo his remaining two years of eligibility and enter the NBA draft.
He intends to sign with an agent, which would officially bring an end to his collegiate career.
“It was definitely a hard decision,” Vassell said in a teleconference on Thursday afternoon. “Especially with how the season ended. You know, of course it didn’t end how we wanted it to.
“But talking to my family and my coaches, we felt like this was the best decision for me.”
ESPN ranks Vassell as the 19th-best prospect on its draft board, and he indicated Thursday the he believes he’ll be selected in the first round.
Were that to happen, Vassell would become the 13th first-rounder in school history and fourth since 2016. (Technically, teammate Patrick Williams, who declared on Thursday, could beat him there.)
Exactly when Vassell will hear his name called is a little bit up in the air.
The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25, although there’s some uncertainty surrounding that date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NBA’s decision to suspend its season on March 11 was the first domino to fall in the American sports world, and it seems likely that its timeline for scouting and drafting could be affected.
Then again, Vassell has plenty of experience with things not going to plan.
Less than 24 hours after NBA announced its decision, Vassell and his Florida State teammates learned that the ACC tournament, in which they entered as the No. 1 seed, had been canceled. A little later, an even bigger blow: The NCAA tournament had been canceled as well.
All of a sudden, the Seminoles’ season was over.
No matter where his basketball career takes him, that particular reality is going to sting for a long time.
“I was definitely looking forward to playing in both of those tournaments,” Vassell said. “The feeling is unmatched when youre playing in those types of tournaments. I don’t even know how to explain it.
“For that to be taken away hit hard.”
So hard, in fact, that in the hours and days after the season ended, Vassell felt pulled back to Florida State for one more run with his teammates.
But the passage of time, along plenty of prayer and a few heart-to-hearts with family and coaches, brought a new perspective.
“At the end of the day, we knew that (the end of the season) was out of our control,” Vassell said. “We had to move on. The best decision for me I felt like was to enter my name in the draft.
“But I really do wish that we were able to finish out the season, and who knows what could’ve happened.”
Vassell had a special “Thank You” reserved for coach Leonard Hamilton and his staff, who dived into their deep pool of pro basketball contacts to give the player all he needed to make an informed choice.
Vassell said he spent two hours in Hamilton’s office, the pair weighing out all the ins and outs and potential scenarios surrounding his decision.
By the time the meeting had finished, both Hamilton and Vassell were in agreement.
“It really helped me out, making my decision more clear,” Vassell said. “For the coaches to be as supportive as they were, that’s a big ‘Thank you’ for them.”
With Vassell, senior Trent Forrest and freshman Patrick Williams all moving on, the Seminoles will enter their next season without three of their top four scorers.
That’s a lot for any program to overcome, but the Seminoles are used to it. They said “good bye” to six of their top eight scorers from the 2018-19 team and then roared back to have their best season in nearly 50 years.
Vassell expects more of the same once the Seminoles return to the court.
“We have a lot people that are ready to step up,” he said. “I feel like the team is going to be just as good – even better – next year.”