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March 3, 2012

Sunday will be the final home game for six seniors

When Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton was recruiting his current senior class out of high school, it wasn't an easy sell.

FSU hadn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1998, and finished the previous two seasons with a 7-9 record in the ACC.

But Hamilton felt the program was close to breaking through. So he told guys like Luke Loucks, Xavier Gibson, and Deividas Dulkys that they could be the ones to help push things over the edge.

"That was coaches' recruiting pitch to us," Loucks said. "'You have a chance to come in and do something special that's never been done. You have a chance to turn around a program, to change the culture.' That's something that everyone who has come through with our class and after our class has bought into."

Thanks to Thursday's win over Virginia, Loucks, Gibson and Dulkys as four-year seniors have been a part of a school-record 90 wins heading into Sunday's regular season finale against Clemson (16-13, 8-7) at noon in the Donald L. Tucker Center.

No. 22 FSU (20-9, 11-4) has locked up the No. 3 seed for next week's ACC tournament in Atlanta. The Seminoles will also make their fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance regardless of how things play out in the conference tournament.

"I'm really proud to have been on this team for the past four years and I feel like we've done a lot of special things, but I still feel our best basketball is ahead of us," Loucks said. "As emotional as this game will be for us six seniors having our families here cheering us on, we still feel like this isn't the end of the road. This is kind of the start of our next season which is the postseason."

The four-year players will be joined by fellow seniors Jeff Peterson, Jon Kreft, and Bernard James, who all transferred in to FSU, for Sunday's Senior Day festivities.

Hamilton is proud of what this senior class has accomplished during their time in Tallahassee. He said that the classes before this one helped pave the way, but this class helped push the program to new heights.

"The senior class came in with some guys, Toney (Douglas), Uche (Echefu), and Ryan (Reid), guys that had been working hard," Hamilton said. "Those guys established the foundation and I think this group came in and added to it. The work ethic, the focus, the determination, that foundation had already started to be laid.

"This group came in and gave an infusion of energy and depth, commitment, that really I thought started to take us to an even higher level. It gave us an opportunity, because of the quality of these young men along with their abilities, it gave us a chance to absorb injuries, foul trouble, issues that normally cause you a setback. Because of them and the unselfish spirit that they brought to the team, they allowed us to overcome some things that prior to that we were not able to overcome."

Each of the last four seasons Hamilton's team has won at least 10 games in the ACC and at least 20 games overall.

That level of consistency is what sophomore guard Ian Miller hopes he and the rest of the younger Seminoles can keep going next season when the six seniors are no longer around.

"The seniors they mean a lot because they pretty much started the consistency of FSU winning in basketball," Miller said. "For them to pass the torch to guys like me, Mike (Snaer), (Antwan) Space, and Terry (Whisnant) that's pretty big. I think we have some pretty good role models."

Earlier this season things didn't look bright for the seniors' final campaign. FSU was just 9-6 overall and had opened up ACC play with an embarrassing 79-59 loss to Clemson. But rather than let things go south, the team rallied to win 11 of it's next 12 games and now head into the Sunday's game without the pressure of the NCAA tournament bubble.

Dulkys said after watching what it felt like for Virginia's seniors to lose their final home game, he knows he and his teammates will come out ready to avenge the 20-point loss to the Tigers earlier in the year.

"We lost to them and we know what they're capable of," he said of Clemson. "They're a very good team right now at 8-7 in the conference. They're going to look to beat us to get a chance and we're going to be focused, we're going to be energized, we're going to be ready."

Where they rank

  • 90 wins is the most by any senior class at Florida State, surpassing last year's class total of 89 wins.

  • Dulkys ranks third all-time in school history in three-pointers attempted with 539 and fifth all-time in three-pointers made with 192 (just two behind Tim Pickett's 194).

  • Loucks ranks second behind Echefu (131) in games played by just one with 130 games under his belt.

  • James has 148 career blocked shots which gives him the fourth most in school history. Gibson's 92 blocks is good for the ninth most.



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