February 16, 2004 TALLAHASSEE Tim Pickett may well be the odd man out in what appears to be a four-man battle with Duke's Chris Duhon and J.J. Redick, and N.C. State's Julius Hodge for ACC player of the year honors, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Toiling for Florida State, which has had just one first-team All-ACC selection (Bob Sura) since joining the league, certainly doesn't help his cause. Neither does the fact that the other viable candidates are from the league's top two teams. Yet it's not difficult to make a compelling argument for Pickett, based on his contributions to the Seminoles'climb from a 10-year stay near the ACC basement. Simply put, his team would be in a fight to stay out of the play-in game without him. Three times this season, most recently in home victories over Georgia Tech and Clemson, Pickett has been FSU's lone double-figure scorer. In fact, the Daytona Beach native is the only Seminole averaging more than nine points a game. No other team in the ACC is as statistically dependent on one player. In his team's four wins over ranked opponents, Pickett averaged 23.5 points, including a career-high 33 against the Yellow Jackets and 30 in a win over North Carolina. How important is Pickett's scoring to the Seminoles? He's been held under 10 points just four times this season, and FSU is 1-3 in those games. Scoring, however, is just the most visible asset Pickett brings to the table. Of the quartet of contenders, he is clearly the best defender. His steals per game average ranks third all-time in league history, trailing only (by fractions) Maryland's Johnny Rhodes and N.C. State's Chris Corchiani. He leads FSU in minutes played and is second in rebounding. Emotionally, only Hodge can match Pickett's ability to raise his teammates'play, though you could argue that Duhon's savvy and understated play make him the ideal floor leader. Redick is unquestionably the league's best perimeter shooter, but Pickett creates, takes and makes shots the Duke sophomore can only dream about. All four have the ability to sense the time when they must step forward with a clutch performance; a characteristic common for all big-time players. Pickett, however, must do it all the time for the Seminoles. FSU simply does not have the luxury of teammates capable of carrying the load. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton is well aware of the burden Pickett has been forced to shoulder. That's one reason he was elated when Pickett was held to one point in the second half of a 65-52 win over Clemson, after the ACC's top three-point shooter scored 15 of his game-high 16 in the opening half. That was really intense,Pickett said, of his fast start against the Tigers. I was thinking that anyway: Just jump on em real quick, and then put the pressure on them. That's exactly what we did. They never recovered. Pickett scored FSU's first 11 points, then dished to Adam Waleskowski as the Seminoles bolted to a lead (13-2) they never lost. To get where we want to be, this was a big game for us, and I think everybody knew that and came out pretty exited,Waleskowski said, pausing as he nodded to Pickett. I know this kid did. While Pickett was FSU's only double-figure scorer, Hamilton lauded him for his unselfishness in the second half, when he continued to play hard at the defensive end and focused on getting his teammates involved offensively. For the first time in a long time, we didn't have to totally rely on Tim Pickett for 40 minutes,Hamilton said. That shows how much the team has grown. If we're going to be a team that is going to continue to keep getting some victories, he's realized that we're going to need some more of the teammates to be involved. FSU's bench out-scored Clemson's 32-13, as four other Seminoles scored at least seven points. It was the kind of balance the Seminoles will need the rest of the way, and the kind of help Pickett deserves. If for no other reason, Pickett is deserving of any recognition that comes his way, because he's earned it. No other ACC player gets more of an opponent's attention in game preparation than Pickett, and yet he still manages to deliver in any number of ways, and with a passion and joy that has endeared him to teammates and earned the appreciation of opposing players, fans and coaches. Troubled Signee Gets Quick Boot While the rest of the ACC is closely watching to see how newcomer Miami handles the legal problems of heralded signee and convicted felon Willie Williams, Florida State didn't waste any time sending a strong message to future recruits. One day after FSU signee Jonathan Warren was arrested with a pair of high school teammates and charged with two counts of a lewd and lascivious act upon, or in the presence of, a minor under 16, the Seminoles rescinded their scholarship offer. I met with our athletic director and president, and based on the incident involving Jonathan Warren, we are withdrawing his scholarship indefinitely,FSU coach Bobby Bowden said, in a release issued by the school. Warren, 19, a safety from in-state Madison County High, was arrested at school on Feb. 12, one month to the day after the parents of a 14-year-old girl filed a complaint with the sheriff's office, alleging that their daughter was the victim of a sexual assault. While the sheriff's office did not release complete details of the incident, citing an ongoing investigation, they did reveal that there were two girls involved in the alleged assault. Shortly after Warren posted a $25,000 bond reduced from $100,000 on Feb. 13, FSU announced its decision. Florida State's swift action came in the wake of Williams'very public legal problems. On national signing day, Gainesville police revealed that the nation's top-rated linebacker out of Miami Carol City had three sworn complaints against him, stemming from his official visit to Florida. One of those charges, discharging a fire extinguisher, was a felony. A day later, Florida Today revealed that Williams had been arrested 10 times in the previous four years. He was on probation because of a 2002 felony burglary case. Williams spent three days in jail for a probation violation and was released the day after charges were brought upon Warren. Miami officials claimed they was unaware of Williams'significant history of run-ins with law enforcement and they initially withheld action against the signee. They later suspended the processing of Williams'admissions application. Williams signed with Hurricanes over the Seminoles, and FSU coaches said they too were unaware of his extensive legal problems. Florida State athletic director Dave Hart said his program already had begun to assess its screening process of potential signees, prior to Warren's arrest. Hart, however, said the Williams case likely will lead to legislative changes from the NCAA. This will transcend the state of Florida or the Atlantic Coast Conference,Hart said. I think this will go to a lot of people's attention. The issue of researching the criminal background of prospects likely will be taken up along with a number of other issues pertaining to the recruiting process by an NCAA committee during meetings in San Diego later this month. FSU's associate athletic director for compliance and legal affairs, Bob Minnix, has been appointed to a seat on that committee.