May 14, 2013, 1:43 PM EDT
The most disappointed guy in all of college basketball right now?
Leonard Hamilton, the head coach of Florida State’s basketball team.
Well, let’s start with the obvious. He had seemingly hit the lottery. The best basketball prospect since Kevin Durant was the son of two former Florida State athletes, his father a former first round pick in the NBA and his mother a two-time Olympic silver medalist sprinter. The Canadian native watched his best friend, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, commit to the Seminoles. He not only didn’t want to deal with the spotlight of being a superstar athlete in this country, but he also happened to commit after Kentucky stockpiled enough talent to take a shot at an undefeated season even without Wiggins on campus.
It was the perfect storm.
And Florida State still whiffed, as Andrew Wiggins announced that he would be heading to Kansas for his one season of college basketball.
This wasn’t the first time that Hamilton came so close to a once-in-a-decade caliber recruit. As Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports artfully detailed on Monday afternoon, Hamilton was an assistant coach at Kentucky when Ralph Sampson was a senior in high school. He all-but established residency in Sampson’s hometown, and he thought he was going to pull Sampson out of Virginia and to Lexington.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work out, as Sampson ended up playing four seasons as a Cavalier.
That’s tough, but it gets worse.
You see, the guy that won the Wiggins Sweepstakes is Bill Self. Self’s first job as a coach was as an assistant at Oklahoma State. The guy that hired him?
Leonard Hamilton. Here’s the story:
Leonard Hamilton was coaching at Oklahoma State then, and Self interviewed for an assistant’s job. Self was a former Oklahoma State player, so he thought he might have an inside line at the job. But during the interview, he noticed that Hamilton did not seem especially moved by anything he was saying. He actually looked kind of bored. Self has always had a gift for reading people.
“I’ll tell you what, Coach,” Self said. “If you hire me, I’ll get you a point guard for next year and you won’t even have to give up a scholarship.”
“You’ll get me a point guard?” Hamilton asked.
“And I won’t have to give up a scholarship?” Hamilton asked.
Hamilton agreed to the strange deal. And sure enough, a player named Jay Davis just showed up, out of nowhere, as a walk on. He was instantly the best point guard on the team. He had double the assists of anyone else, he led the team in steals, he played 32.4 minutes a game. The team was terrible, but Self was on the bench coaching.
Who was Jay Davis? Yep, he was Bill Self’s best friend. He had been a terrific high school basketball player but he had a lot more interest in living the college life than playing ball. “You’ve got to play on the team,” Self told him. Davis declined.
“You’ve GOT to play on the team,” Self told him. Davis declined again.
“YOU’VE GOT TO PLAY ON THE TEAM,” Self told him. Davis played on the team. He, better than anyone, knew that he wasn’t going to beat Bill Self at this game. Later, Davis was the best man at Self’s wedding, and vice versa.’
Now instead of being an ACC contender, the Seminoles look like they may be headed for the NIT again.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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