January 9, 2007
TALLAHASSEE Toney Douglas' desire to play point guard led the Auburn transfer to Florida State, and while it's too early to tell whether the sophomore will get a grasp on the nuances of running a team, his ACC debut was less than encouraging.
Continuing what appears to be a trend against top-notch opponents, Douglas failed to register an assist in 23 minutes and turned the ball over four times in a 68-66 loss to Clemson.
When asked afterward to assess Douglas' play the first time out against an ACC opponent, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton came up a little short as well.
"It would be unfair to Toney for me to even comment on one particular player in this particular game," Hamilton said, "because I think this was a team loss, to a team that played better as a team than we did."
While there were more than enough errors spread throughout the ranks to support the coach's contention, it is abundantly clear that Douglas is going through some major growing pains.
Against FSU's five toughest opponents Pitt, Wisconsin, Florida, Providence and Clemson 15 games into the season, Douglas' assist-turnover line (seven assists, 14 turnovers) closely replicated the Seminoles' disappointing team stats in that category. And that simply isn't good enough for a team Hamilton admits has "very little margin for error."
To be fair to Douglas, this is the first time he's been his team's primary ball-handler since his senior season at Jonesboro (Ga.) High in 2003-04. It also should be pointed out that despite a recent scoring slump (a season-worst three consecutive single-digit efforts), he ranks second on FSU's team in scoring at 13.5 points per game, second in assists (2.3) and leads the team in three-point field goal percentage (.405).
Douglas' value to the team as a complementary scorer to senior forward Al Thornton alone is significant. Douglas led the Seminoles in scoring against Pitt and Wisconsin, with 23 and 24 points, respectively.
Still, the Seminoles will be hard-pressed to meet their expectations without improved play at the point guard position. In addition to Douglas' struggles against the Tigers, his backup Ralph Mims managed just one assist and five turnovers.
Given Hamilton's track record for player development over the years, it's far too early to consider Douglas' move to the point a failure. There's no better example than junior guard Isaiah Swann, who like Douglas was recruited as a point guard despite significantly more experience on the wing.
Swann starts at wing guard for the Seminoles, but his ball-handling and offensive decision-making have improved dramatically over his three seasons. He even leads the team in assists (3.3) and is one of only two Seminoles with a positive assist-turnover ratio.