I was fully expecting the Seminoles to just dribble out the clock.
Because we’ve seen this movie plenty of times in the past. The FSU men’s basketball team is holding a huge lead, the walk-ons are in the game, they’ve gotten up a shot or two, and on the last possession they simply hold the ball near midcourt until time expires.
There was no chance Leonard Hamilton was going to let that happen this time.
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The Florida State head coach called the play himself, motioning senior walk-on Harrison Prieto to come up and set a screen, then pop back out behind the 3-point line to get one last shot at the Tucker Center.
It was Prieto’s first career 3-point attempt. And he drilled it.
FSU’s players and coaches call Prieto the “Weatherman” because he’s working toward a master’s degree in meteorology.
And, of course, because he rains 3s.
“I think the whole sideline was calling the play,” Prieto said. “I was going to run it because everyone was saying it. … And for me, it’s something I do in practice all the time. I mean, you can go ask [former FSU star and current L.A. Clippers forward] Mfiondu Kabengele about me hitting 3s, and he’ll tell you that what happened tonight happened every day in practice.
“So, I don’t think anybody was surprised. But it was definitely a good feeling for me inside because it’s my last night in the Tuck, and you get to nail a 3 with the clock winding down. It felt pretty good.”
FSU’s bench reacted like Michael Snaer had just beaten Duke. The crowd erupted, too, and the Seminoles celebrated a 93-64 win over Boston College by embracing the seniors who have been such a big part of this program for years.
Even the normally stoic Hamilton had a smile so big you could see it while he was wearing a mask.
“Harrison shoots that shot all the time,” Hamilton said. “The [home] season could not have ended on a better note. And I’m so proud of the Green (scout) Team. I’m not sure people realize the important part they play in what we do. Their voice is just as important as the leading scorer on the team. And they exercise it.
“That’s the culture. They’re treated like the leading scorer. Everybody’s the same. That’s why this night was so special.”
The leading scorer, of course, is M.J. Walker. It was his final night at the Tucker Center, too. And he went out in style as well, making six “Prietos” in the game and finishing with a team-high 18 points.
Walker, too, has stressed repeatedly how important the senior walk-ons — Prieto, Travis Light, Justin Lindner and Will Miles — are to the fabric of the team. And it’s why he was celebrating like he had just hit a game-winner when Prieto’s first career 3-pointer (on his second ever attempt) splashed through in the final seconds.
“The Weatherman,” Walker said with a laugh. “I’m so proud of Harry. He’s been a leader for so many years. That was a stamp on his career here at FSU. He deserves it. He deserves all of it. All the bruising he does with our bigs, all he takes from our bigs in practice, his dedication just to the program, man. His heart is in the right place, it’s always been in the right place. And that shot, I was so proud of him.
“I lost my mind on that shot.”
It’s telling how much FSU’s walk-ons mean to the non walk-ons. I really do think it’s a glimpse into what makes this program so special.
Because Miles, Light, Lindner and Prieto are not just 1-0 now as starters in their college careers, they are absolutely, positively a big part of Florida State basketball.
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What they do each day in practice — and what they do during games from the sidelines — matters. A lot.
One of the best and most noticeable traits of this Florida State basketball program is the unselfishness the entire team plays with. It’s been that way for years now. And the senior walk-ons — and their teammates’ reactions to their success — are a great example of that spirit.
“I think our coaches recruit unbelievable people,” Prieto said. “Before they look at what kind of basketball player he is. And I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we’re so successful. There are just good people that have been in this locker room for the past five years. Really good people. …
“I think that’s been the most important thing. Just good people. And they want us to succeed, and we want them to succeed.”
They’ve certainly done a whole lot of that over the last four to five years.
With Wednesday’s win, the Seminoles improved to 15-4 overall and 10-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They now have won 25 consecutive ACC home games — one shy of the league record, held by Duke.
Personally, I thought Hamilton should have just kept the walk-ons in the game for the entire first half to make the game a little more fair for an awful and overmatched Boston College team. But either way, it was so neat that they all got their moments.
Prieto had his 3-pointer, as well as a shot block early in the first half. Lindner had two driving layups. Miles had a reverse layup — off a feed from Lindner. And although Light missed both of his shots, he’s hit enough in his career to feel what Prieto felt on Wednesday night.
And they got to experience what starting — and winning — an ACC game feels like.
It was a night they’ll never forget.
“It was amazing,” Miles said. “Normally, we’re in there the last three minutes. So, for us to get in there the first three minutes was just a whole different type of energy. … The crowd was going nuts. It was amazing. The night couldn’t have gone better for us.”