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The Primer: Best men’s basketball player in Florida State history bracket

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Let the arguments begin...again!

Doug Edwards

Basketball and brackets. The two go together like garnet and gold. Which is perfect because this bracket is all about FSU hoopsters.

The Florida State men’s basketball program, under the steady leadership of Leonard Hamilton, has ascended to national prominence over the last decade. The NCAA Tournament success and ACC championships have been a result of Hamilton and company’s ability to identify, acquire, and develop talent like Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann, Trent Forrest, and Chris Singleton.

But FSU wasn’t always the basketball wasteland inherited by Hamilton nearly twenty years ago. Although lacking the rich history of Florida State football, there have been bursts of greatness highlighted by names such as Dave Cowens, Doug Edwards (in case you just started following FSU hoops recently, he’s the guy pictured), and George McCloud.

How do the legends of yesteryear stack up to the “new blood” studs? That is exactly the question we want you to help settle over the next few weeks with a 32-player bracket.

Before we get started, let’s lay down some context and ground rules:

How were the players selected?

  • TN staff reviewed the record books to identify of a pool of 75+ players who qualified for initial consideration. This included all 47 of the 1,000 point scorers in FSU hoops history, as well as the top 3 career leaders for every major stat (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks), as well as a few other stats like made FGs, made 3s, and FG%. We also weighed honors such as all-american, all conference, and tournament MVP recognition.
  • This list was painstakingly whittled down to 40 after hours of evaluation from the perspective of identifying the “best players based on impact/stats/on-court performance at FSU only (NBA doesn’t matter), with a dollop of raw talent and ability on top.”
  • After robust and vigorous debate, 24 “auto-bids” were selected and seeded on an S-Curve by five different TN staff members and seeded based on the consensus ranks. These players will make up the 1-6 seeds in the bracket.
  • The remaining 16 players went into the “at-large pool.”

How will the bracket work?

You, yes, YOU, will be a part of creating the final bracket!

  • The 16 at-large selections have been separated into two pools of 8 players.
  • The Tomahawk Nation community will vote for whom should be included into the final 32-player bracket. The top 4 vote-getters from each pool will comprise the final bracket, slotted into the overall S-Curve in order of most votes to fewest.
  • At-large player voting will begin tomorrow (Sunday, April 12).
  • From there, the bracket will follow standard one-and-done procedure.

Who made the cut?

Many of the auto-bids are names you would expect. Ron King. Toney Douglas. Sam Cassell. The at-large selections are a mix of recent household names and under-the-radar greats from earlier decades. But before we get to who made it into the top 40, let’s take a moment to celebrate a handful of the outstanding ‘Noles who saw their bubble burst.

Deividas Dulkys — The proverbial “first man out,” Dulkys was actually in the at-large pool until an oversight was noticed with a must-have player. Life is tough on the bubble. During his time at FSU, Dulkys was a key-cog on some of the most successful teams in school history. The ultimate “3 and D” specialist, Dulkys ranks third all-time in career made 3s and is also 17th all time in career steals. The Lithuanian native also holds the school record for most made 3s in an ACC game with 8 during the memorable evisceration of UNC in 2012, aka the “Dulkys Game.”

Chuck Graham — A member of FSU’s Sweet 16 and Elite 8 teams of the early 90s, Graham was a 6’3 guard who could do a bit of everything. But scoring was his best attribute, as the 4-year part-time starter still ranks 19th in career points scored. His best year came in 1992 when he averaged 13 points, 3.5 rebounds, and just a shade under one steal per game.

Malik Beasley - Leonard Hamilton’s first one-and-done player, Beasley arrived at FSU as a four-star and not even ranked in the top 35 of the 2015 recruiting class. But the youngster, blessed with good size and great athleticism, quickly demonstrated he also possessed one extremely coveted skill; the three-ball. Beasley made more threes (55 on almost 39% shooting) than any other freshman in Seminole history, earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors in the process. While FSU didn’t see as much team success during his single season, Beasley was selected 19th overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Jason Rich - One of the first in a long line of “combo guards” to be recruited to FSU under Leonard Hamilton, Rich could impact games on both ends of the court. The four-year starter averaged in double figures his final three years on campus and ranks 21st all time with 1,315 points. And his 133 career steals place him 19th in school history on that list. While none of his teams made it to the NCAA Tournament, Rich was part of laying the foundation in Hamilton’s early years that fostered future post-season success.

Tharon Mayes - A truly gifted shooter, Mayes racked up 1,260 points during just three seasons of action in Tallahassee, which still places him 23rd all time (he sat out a year due to Prop 48 guidelines). Many of those points came in his spectacular final season. Leading a young team that featured many of the stars who would make up the Elite 8 squad a few years later, Mayes averaged 23.3 points per game in 1990—the third highest season scoring average in school history. This included 5 games of 30 or more points, with his 38 point night against Rhode Island tied for the 9th highest ever at FSU. His 16.4 ppg career scoring average is 20th all time, while his career 38% from three is good for 11th. But his contribution to Florida State basketball didn’t end in 1990; his son, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, became a star in Tallahassee, donning the same number “22” a couple decades later.

Here’s some 1989 footage of Mayes and Chuck Graham:

Rick Benson - It’s hard to fully judge Benson’s career, as records weren’t kept as consistently in the 1950s. Stats like blocks and steals weren’t really tracked at all. But one thing is for sure, the four-year letterman could certainly rebound. Benson’s 32 rebounds against Florida Southern are the most in FSU history and 6’7 center had 19 games with 15+ rebounds. The 451 rebounds he grabbed during the 1955 campaign are still the second most in any season ever at Florida State, while his 23 double-doubles are also just one short of the season mark set by Dave Cowens.

Mfiondu Kabengele - Nearly unknown as a recruit, Kabengele never even started a game for FSU and yet still left his mark. A relentless worker and capable of scoring inside and outside, the 6’10 big man recorded 56 blocks in 2019, good for the 10th best single-season total at FSU. That 2019 season all saw Kabengele earn the ACC 6th Man of the Year award, All-ACC Honorable Mention, and a spot on the All-ACC Tournament 1st team. After a dominant performance in the first two rounds of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Kabengele was selected 27th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Draft.

Luke Loucks - A brilliant passer, Loucks played behind Toney Douglas and Derwin Kitchen his first three seasons on campus. However, in his senior year he finally earned the starting point guard role and promptly led FSU to its only ACC Championship and a top 10 final ranking in the AP Poll. Helping the Seminoles finish in the top 4 of the ACC for all four of his seasons, Loucks is 10th all-time in career assists with 391. His most memorable assist might be his no look, cross-court bullet to Michael Snaer as time ticked down in Cameron Indoor Stadium:

Ron Hale — One of the best talents that got lost in the shuffle of the “dark ages” of FSU basketball under Steve Robinson, Hale was a 6’9 forward who would have been a perfect fit on the wing in Hamilton’s current system. A role player his first two seasons (when the Seminoles waved good bye to Pat Kennedy and hello to Robinson), Hale exploded his junior year, averaging 16 points and nearly 6 rebounds per game, with 25 blocks and 34 steals to boot. FSU finished just 5-11 in league play, but Hale’s strong play still earned him 3rd team All-ACC honors. He would repeat as 3rd team All-ACC his senior year, highlighted by his 37-point performance in a 66-64 win at Wake Forest that still stands as the second most points scored by a Seminole in an ACC game. His 1,236 career points rank 25th all time.

Ham Wernke — A teammate of Rick Benson on those early-to-mid 1950s teams, Wernke was an Indiana native with a classic Hoosier shot. Capable of snapping the net from all over the court, Wernke averaged more than 19 points per game over his four year career, earning NAIA All-American honors for three straight years. His 1,404 career points still ranks 15th on the all time FSU list.