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Best men’s basketball player in Florida State history: Garnet at-large pool

Welcome to the selection committee!

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The first step to any great tournament is building an accurate and complete bracket. As explained in this primer, the entire TN community is helping to build our bracket for the best men’s basketball player in Florida State history. While 24 of the 32 players have already been seeded as “auto-bids” by the TN staff, the remaining 8 spots will be selected, and ultimately seeded, by you.

The 16 players up for at-large consideration have been randomly assigned to two at-large pools; the “garnet” pool and the “gold” pool. Each pool contains eight players and you will be able to select up to four players from the pool that you feel should be included into the final, 32-man bracket. After several days of voting, we will take the top four vote-getters from each pool and seed them into the S-curve from 25-32, ranking them in order of most votes received.

This vote is for the Garnet Pool. The voting device is down below, but before you make your selections, here are some stats (and when available, video) on each of the players in contention. FYI, the players are listed in random order, so please don’t infer any bias into the order of the list.

Oh, and I mentioned this in the primer, but the perspective you should be aiming for as you vote is one that considers the players’ overall stats and on-court impact at FSU (NBA means nothing), with a dollop of their raw talent and ability mixed in. (In other words, this is not just considering who would win a game of 21).

Tony Dawson (1988-1989) - Hailing from Kinston, North Carolina, Dawson arrived at FSU for the 1988 season as a JUCO transfer from Gulf Coast CC in Panama City and made an immediate impact. A naturally gifted scorer, the 6’7 forward teamed with the 6’8 Geogre McCloud to give FSU a dynamic offensive tandem and helped the Seminoles return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 8 seasons. Dawson averaged 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game his junior year, and then added a three-point shot in 1989 which helped up his average to 20.9 points per game his senior season. His 19.4 ppg average is the 6th best in school history and he was the second fastest Seminole ever (in terms of games played) to reach 1,000 points. The 242 field goals Dawson made during the 1989 season are tied for the 4th most in a single season in school history, helping lead the Seminoles to a regular season Metro Conference title, a 22-8 overall record, and a rank of 16th in the final AP poll. His efforts on the court earned him 2nd team All-Metro honors.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes (2014-2017) - Similar to Dawson, Rathan-Mayes was a big part of getting FSU back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. Unlike Dawson, it didn’t happen right away. “XRM,” as he was known, arrived at FSU not only as a Seminole legacy, but also as a heralded recruit. After sitting out a season due to accreditation issues at a school he briefly attended, XRM exploded as a redshirt freshman, averaging nearly 15 points as the team’s starting point guard. Unfortunately, while he earned ACC All-Freshmen honors, the team finished a pedestrian 17-16 and Mayes wasn’t overly efficient. Fast forward to 2017 and XRM had put in the hard work to turn himself into a complete player. Now capable of setting up his teammates just as much as calling his own number, XRM sported the 4th best assist rate in the ACC, had an eFG% of over 52%, and still averaged more than 10 points per game. Not only that, he was now an impact player on both ends, earning a spot on the 2017 ACC All-Defense team and helping FSU to a 26-9 record. While his 1,235 points (26th all time) fell just a tad short of his father’s 1,260, XRM also ranks 6th in career assists. Oh and he accomplished two things his dad never did: 1) Win an NCAA Tourney game; 2) somehow score 30 points in less than five minutes.

Greg Grady (1973-1976) - Grady might not be a name many Seminole fans are familiar with, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering him as one of your votes. Consider this: Grady is 5th all time in career double-doubles and 4th in career rebounds. 4th, as in only 3 people in school history grabbed more rebounds than Grady, and their names are Cowens, Royals, and Fedor. On top of that, the 6’9 leaper from New York City was also a tremendous shot blocker. That stat wasn’t consistently tracked by then, so we don’t have his career totals. But what we do know is he once swatted away 13 shots in a game against Stetson. Fair to say he’d also be top 5 in shot blocks if we had the official numbers. In 2017, Grady was elected into the FSU Hall of Fame.

Devin Vassell (2019-2020) - If Vassell played one more season he likely would have been one of the 24 auto-bids into this bracket. Barely known as a recruit, many felt the 6’7 wing from Suwanee, Georgia would redshirt. Instead, the silky smooth shooter with an instinctual feel for the game played a key role off the bench for a Sweet 16 team. This included hitting a dagger three from the corner against Virginia Tech in the ACC Tourney Quarterfinals to send the game into OT—a game FSU would go on to win. The next season, the sophomore blossomed into arguably the best player on the team, capable of carrying the squad on his back as a scorer while also significantly disrupting opposing teams on defense with blocked shots, deflections, and steals. Vassell tied an ACC record when he went 7-7 from three against the Hokies, won the Emerald Coast Classic Most Outstanding Performer, and would ultimate earn 1st Team NABC All-District honors while leading FSU to its first ever regular season ACC crown. Vassell’s 44.6% shooting from three in the 2019-20 season ranked second in the ACC, while his career 41.7% accuracy from beyond the arc places him 5th in school history among players with more than 150 attempts. You’ll be seeing him on an NBA team in the very near future.

Bernard James (2011-2012) - Another guy who would almost surely be an auto-bid if he played one more season, all James did after transferring to FSU from TCC was turn in two of the top three block seasons in school history. And oh yeah, the big man could finish around the basket too, as his 62.7% career FG percentage ranks as the second highest FG% all-time at FSU. But wait, he wasn’t a slouch on the glass either. He sported double-digit rebound rates on the offensive and defensive glass for both his seasons in Tallahassee, and his 9 offensive rebounds against VT in 2012 are the most offensive boards in an ACC game by anyone at FSU. His efforts in 2012 earned him a spot on the All-ACC Defensive team, the All-ACC Tournament team, and All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. He was the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, selected by the Dallas Mavericks.

Tony William (1982-1984) - Like Grady, you may not have heard of Tony William before this article. And like Grady, that doesn’t mean you should dismiss his candidacy. William was caught in between the NCAA Tournament teams of the late 70s and the late 80s, but it certainly wasn’t on account of his performances. One of the best playmakers ever to don the garnet and gold, William ranks 4th in school history with 482 career assists. 215 of those came in his senior season, which is the most assists by any senior ever at FSU, and the 3rd most assists in any season period. William was also a playmaker on the defensive end of the court, racking up 203 career steals which is good for 5th all time. His nine steals against Memphis State in 1983 are tied with Bob Sura and Charlie Ward for the second most steals in one game.

Alton Lee Gipson (1984-1985) - A transfer from Utica Junior College in Jackson, Mississippi, Gipson started every game of his two year FSU career. And what a two years they were. His junior season, Gipson led FSU in scoring at better than 20 points per game, while also making his presence felt on defense with 54 blocks—which still ranks 11th on the single season list and is the second most blocks ever by a ‘Nole in their junior year. His efforts earned him Metro Conference Newcomer of the Year, 1st team All-Metro, and AP All-American Honorable Mention honers. No one hit wonder, Gipson came back the next year to earn 2nd team All-Metro honors and a spot on the Metro Conference All Tournament team. His 626 points in 1984 are the 10th most scored in one season by a Seminole and his 19.6 per game average for his career is tied with Ron King for the 4th highest in school history. Despite playing just two seasons, his 1,194 career points rank 28th at FSU—just one spot behind Sam Cassell.

Hugh Durham (1957-1959) - Better known for his coaching success, Durham wasn’t too shabby on the court either. Standing just 5’11, Durham was a gifted scorer from Louisville, Kentucky. In just three years (freshmen couldn’t play), the diminutive guard torched the nets for 1,381 points, which still ranks 18th in school history. His 18.9 career points per game is even better, checking in at tied for 9th. Durham had it all on display against Stetson in January of 1957 when he dazzled onlookers with 43 points, the 3rd highest single game total for a Seminole. His senior season, Durham scored 20+ points in 15 of FSU’s 23 games, including dropping 30 on the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats. His performances that season earned Durham All-American Honorable Mention from UPI and the Helms Foundation.

Alright, now that the resumes have been reviewed it’s time to make your selections. Remember, you may vote for up to four players in the garnet pool whom you believe should be included in the final, 32-man bracket. The top 4 vote-getters will be slotted into the S-Curve based on the total number of votes they receive.

Pro-tip — Consider going into the comment section prior to voting, as you’re bound to find stories and memorable game descriptions about most of these players.