July 10, 2002 TALLAHASSEE It's been years since Florida State and Florida have been seriously sniping over basketball recruits, but the arrival of Leonard Hamilton in Tallahassee apparently has changed that. Not since Vince Carter was starring at Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland, entertaining offers from FSU and UF before deciding on UNC, has the cauldron been bubbling this well.
Hamilton's aggressive, albeit quiet, recruiting approach has pumped some much-needed life into the in-state rivarly life that figures to get quite interesting in the next few weeks. At the center of what has become a message board firestorm on the unofficial websites for both schools in 6-8 Danish teen sensation Christjan Drejer.
Drejer, a projected lottery pick a year or two down the road, originally had been considering taking up residence States-side with either the Seminoles or Gonzaga. He visited both schools and also was entertaining a lucrative offer from an Italian professional team (Benetton) before wiping FSU from his list of finalists.
Sources close to the FSU program became incensed when ESPN.com's Andy Katz reported that Drejer was now involved with Billy Donovan's Florida Gators and had eliminated the Seminoles from contention for his services. One of the most prominent rumors was that Katz was provided a phone number to Drejer's home in Denmark by Donovan. Some even suggested that Katz was, inadvertently or not, assisting Donovan's bidding for the point forward.
Then came word that Lakeland (Fla.) Kathleen rising senior power forward Chris Richard also had struck FSU from consideration and was taking a strong look at UF. That news provoked a new wave of messages, with each school's fans making accusations of impropriety. While such unfounded accusations are deplorable, that they are even taking place marks a decided change in the climate between the two basketball programs.
Drejer has not yet announced where he intends to go in the fall, but Hamilton has promised that he will continue to pursue the kind of talent that will put FSU hoops back on the map quickly. And with the Seminoles down to six returning scholarship players and just three incoming signees, now that Al Thornton has failed to qualify Hamilton made it clear that he intends to do everything in his power to bring in some more newcomers prior to the start of the fall term.
Stay tuned. Things are just starting to get interesting.
Bowden Wary About Cyclones QB
With his vacation days down to a scant few, FSU football coach Bobby Bowden usually focuses on his golf game in July. But an Aug. 24 kickoff against Iowa State in the Eddie Robinson Classic and Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium has had Bowden looking ahead a little sooner than usual.
Bowden's biggest concern heading into the opener against the Cyclones is senior quarterback Seneca Wallace, whom he compared favorably to former Virginia Tech star and
No. 1 NFL pick Michael Vick.
"I've never had a one-man show against any of my football teams like the one we got against (Vick) in the Sugar Bowl a couple years ago," Bowden said. "That's how much I think of Seneca. What do I like? No. 1, he don't like for you to touch him. He's quick as a cat, and it doesn't disturb his throwing. A guy like him, what concerns you the most? I mean, you say he's a great passer and we will do this, will do that, but the dadgum guy can run the football. You can barely touch him."
Wallace threw for 2,044 yards with 11 touchdowns and rushed for 475 yards and seven scores last season as the Cyclones went 7-5 and made a second consecutive bowl appearance.
Academic Hammer Slams Recruits
FSU's football and basketball programs were bathed in bad news recently, when the final June standardized test results finally arrived. The Seminoles will be without at least five football signees, plus basketball coach Leonard Hamilton's first signee, when school resumes in August.
A pair of Jacksonville (Fla.) White teammates, defensive tackle Chris Turner and tight end Lonnie Davis, failed to qualify academically. So did Parade All-American wide receiver Dishon Platt. That trio joined defensive tackles Chris Anderson and Chris Bradwell, who earlier failed to make the cut and will attend Butler County (Kan.) Community College and Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, respectively. Turner may enroll at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, while Davis probably will re-take the test in the fall and hopes to enroll in January.
Hamilton's recruiting class received a blow when Thornton, a late-blooming forward from Georgia who dominated some postseason all-star games, failed to make the grade. Thornton is expected to continue taking the standardized tests in hopes of earning a qualifying score that will allow him to enroll in January.
The football program, in particular, has been very successful over the years in working with non-qualifiers to give them a chance to eventually contribute to the Seminoles.
Defensive back Reggie Durden originally signed with FSU in 1996 and failed to qualify, then re-signed with FSU in 1998 after two years of junior college. Wide receiver Robert Morgan originally signed in 1997, then re-signed in 1998. Defensive lineman Kevin Emanuel originally signed in 1998, then enrolled in January 1999. Linebacker Kendyll Pope and wide receiver B.J. Ward originally signed in 1999, then re-signed in 2000. Quarterback Fabian Walker originally signed in 1999, then again in 2000, then again in 2001 after a stint in junior college. (He sat out last season but is eligible this fall.) Linebacker Nate Hardage originally signed in 2000, then re-signed in February after two years of junior college.
Expect more of the same again this time, as all of those who failed to make the grade indicated a desire to join FSU at some point down the road.
Night Time Is The Right Time
Five of FSU's first six football games this season will kick off at 7 p.m. or later, and the one exception figures to be a significant advantage to the Seminoles. Virginia, which many expect will be vastly improved under second-year coach Al Groh, has the daunting task of visiting Doak Campbell Stadium on Aug. 31 FSU's earliest ACC opener for a 3:30 contest.
FSU opens against Iowa State (7:30, Fox) in Kansas City on Aug. 24 and travels to Maryland (7:45, ESPN) on Sept. 14. The Seminoles will host Duke on Sept. 21 (7) in the only non-televised game in the early portion of the schedule before making consecutive Thursday night 7:45 starts at Louisville (Sept. 26) and home against Clemson (Oct. 3) on ESPN.
Various Football Odds And Ends
p Nearly the entire football team is back on campus for the second summer term, allowing strength coach Jon Jost to get an early start in preparing the team for the first 13-game regular season in school history.
"Summer's gone extremely well," Jost said. "The attendance has been very good, the work ethic has been outstanding, the attitude has been tremendous."
p Oft-injured cornerback Bryant McFadden has been limited in his offseason work by a broken hand that will have him in a cast right up to the start of two-a-day drills on Aug. 3.
p Speed training specialist Kurt Hester spent a week working with the Seminoles, and attendance was extremely high.
p Serious shoulder problems will end the career of redshirt freshman fullback James Buchanan, who underwent surgery this past spring but will not be ready for the start of camp. He may end up as a medical disqualification, which would allow him to keep his scholarship to attend FSU without him counting toward the NCAA-mandated 85 limit.
p Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was cleared for all workouts following the reconstructive knee surgery that sidelined him last season, but receiver Robert Morgan still has some ground to make up in his rehabilitation from a similar knee injury.