Professionally Speaking

Kenny Williamson knows what FSU hoops is capable of achieving. He was an assistant here under Pat Kennedy from a 1989-94, a span that saw the Seminoles win 97 games and make three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. As a scout for the New York Knicks the past six years, Williamson has kept a close eye on FSU and watched the Seminoles' stunning win over Duke. Click here for Williamson's thoughts on the 'Noles and good friend Leonard Hamilton. "I think he's starting to get a few pieces."

Kenny Williamson knows what Florida State basketball is capable of achieving. He was an assistant at FSU under Pat Kennedy from a 1989-94, a span that saw the Seminoles win 97 games and make three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Of course, times haven't been as good since the early 1990s, though FSU did win 12 of its first 14 games and returned to the NCAA Tournament under first-year coach Steve Robinson in 1997-98. Robinson, however, couldn't keep the Seminoles headed in the right direction and was fired last year.

Hired to rebuild the Seminoles, first-year coach Leonard Hamilton appears to have FSU back on track, so to speak. The Seminoles are coming off their biggest win of the season, stunning then-No. 5 Duke Sunday night at the Tallahasseee-Leon County Civic Center. When the final horn sounded, hundreds of students flooded the court in celebration.

While extremely pleased with his team's effort, Hamilton didn't want to get too caught up in the euphoria. The Seminoles stunned top-ranked Duke at home last season but still finished last in the Atlantic Coast Conference, losing eight of their last 10 league games.

"I'm happy for our team, for our school, for our community and our students and the people that support us," Hamilton said. "But I never allow ourselves to get too excited when things are going well, just like we didn't allow ourselves to get too low when we lost four or five games in a row. We realize that we've won 11 games and we want very much to have a good season. Eleven victories won't get it."

It's that approach which brings a smile to Williamson, who has spent the past five seasons as a scout for the New York Knicks and considers Hamilton a friend. Williamson attended Sunday's game and, just like everyone else seated on press row, sprinted for cover when the final horn sounded as students rushed from all points.

"Another day at the office," Williamson laughed. "That was good. In the NBA, they say it's (rebuilding a program) a five-year project. But I think you can do it faster. Leonard has really, really good recruiting ties in different areas. He's will respected in the business and I think he will be able to get it done faster than that."

Of course, the next step for the Seminoles is learning how to capitalize on their success, something that has evaded past teams. FSU's last five wins against ranked teams -- including then-No. 1 Duke and No. 15 Virginia last season -- were followed by losses. With eight regular-season and one ACC Tournament game to play, the Seminoles (11-8, 2-6 ACC) still need four wins to secure their first winning record in five seasons and an opportunity to play in the postseason.

FSU is at North Carolina Saturday. The Tar Heels trounced the Seminoles 69-48 on Dec. 22 at the Civic Center. Williamson believes one obvious key to FSU's future success will be Hamilton's ability to recruit quality players. That has already happened.

"My feeling is when you are in the major conferences, in order to be successful, you have to have a minimum of two or three players who can play at the next level or at least projected to be able to play at the next level," Williamson said. "If you have two or three guys like that, you are going to be on the top rung of the conference. If you don't have a couple people like that, you are not going to be in the top rung of the conference and you are going to struggle.

"I just thought the caliber of (former FSU) players were not ACC-caliber players. You might had a player or two, but I looked at them being as complimentary type players. They couldn't carry a team or sustain a team. I think that's what you have to have. It doesn't have to be a marquee name or somebody off a (established recruiting) list but it has to be somebody who can play. And a player who can make plays. When we were here, we had guys who could, one, play and we had people who could make plays. That's what you have to have to be successful."

Williamson was impressed with the Seminoles' effort against the Blue Devils, who did not appear as powerful as past Duke teams.

"I think he's starting to get a few pieces," Williamson said of Hamilton.

"Obviously, the young man Pickett is a junior college transfer who has some ability. I don't know if they thought they would lean on him as heavily as they are but, hey, he's doing whatever it takes to try to help them win. Leonard's teams traditionally play hard. Even when he was at Miami, it took him a while to get that thing turned but when it got going, it got going real good. Similar situations (football schools). The correlation is there. But I think it's going to happen (here).

"He understands that it takes time. He's patient but impatient. Once again, I think in this instance he has a leg up. He has done a start up situation (at Miami). Obviously, this is not totally from scratch. He's a good fit for this program."

Nole Digest Top Stories