A heartbreaking overtime loss is one thing. But when the loss comes in the NCAA tournament with the game-winner dropping through the net as hopes to advance expires, the loss isn’t just heartbreaking.
Last year, Florida State’s season ended at the hands of Cinderella team Virginia Commonwealth in the Sweet Sixteen.
“It’s just been kind of haunting in the offseason,” senior Bernard James said. “That’s been a huge motivation. I think about that game every day.”
With the help of players like first-round NBA draft pick Chris Singleton and point guard Derwin Kitchen, Florida State compiled a 23-11 record last season, finishing third in the final ACC standings.
Though replacing Singleton and Kitchen will be no easy feat, the squad returns three starters, including James, sophomore Okaro White and junior Michael Snaer.
Poised to fill the gap left on the court by Singleton, James is perhaps more prepared than most to take on the tall task.
His journey to Florida State is unconventional, as he served six years in the United States Air Force after high school followed by playing two seasons at Tallahassee Community College.
“I had known people who had dropped out, and I saw what they were doing with their lives and I didn’t want to take that path,” James said. “I felt like the military was really my last chance to salvage everything and get back on track. So when I got the opportunity, I jumped on it.”