Back in the fall of 2009 I had the opportunity to do a feature story on then Seminoles star (and highly recruited McDonalds All-American) Chris Singleton. Sunshine State hoops was not what it is today, and the thought of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on the same team wasn’t just a pipe dream, it wasn’t even conceivable. FSU was in the middle of another successful season (what would be the second in their 3 year tournament run — not bad for a football school with woefully outdated facilities) and a handful of players from that team would land on an NBA roster.
So what does this have to do with today’s Florida Gulf Coast Sweet Sweet game? Because amongst the number of players and coaches that I spoke to from that FSU team, a then, little known assistant coach named Andy Enfield was one of them. The 43 year-old Enfield: he being the leader of the pop-culture phenomenon known as ‘Dunk City,’ is kind of a big deal right now. In fact, I’d wager that more articles have been written about him and his team this week than any other sports team in the country (with the exception possibly being the Heat).
Little did I know that day, speaking to Enfield, that he would go on to become the Head coach of the first 15 seeded team to ever get past the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend. Little could any of us known — for FGCU wasn’t even a division 1 team then.
So when the media began rehashing Enfield’s roots this past weekend, including his 5 year stint as a Seminole assistant coach, it hit me, that the name sounded semi-familiar. And after going through that Singleton feature story I wrote, I found the proof: I had not only met the guy, but I had un-assumptively interviewed him.
With the Eagles set to take on Florida tonight with the nation sure to be watching (even if the game does begin a tick before 10PM EST), I thought I’d share what the hot commodity coach had to say about Singleton back then.
It’s like that Family Guy Kiss-fest episode where Lois says to Kiss fans: You never know who’s gonna grow up to be famous…
If I only knew then, what we all know now.
Singleton’s skills and work ethic
“He’s very talented on both levels of the floor, and an excellent defender. He has long arms and he anticipates very well and he gets a lot of deflections. He gets his hand on a lot of balls in the passing lanes and he’s a very good rebounder, because of his athleticism and his length. On the offensive end he’s really improved his perimeter shooting. He shoots the ball at an extremely high level from the three point line when he’s open and he’s improved his free throw shooting. He’s worked very hard in the off-season on putting the ball on the floor and being able to pull up after one or two dribbles to create a shot for himself. He’s probably the best on the team in transition and finishing around the basket, going full speed in transition. He really is a talented player on offense and defense and we’re expecting big things from him.”
He’s been a pleasure to coach. He listens and he has the ability to take what you teach him and immediately put it into effect. Sometimes it will take him quite a few repetitions to perfect what you’re teaching him, but he’s really been responsive and the thing that impresses me the most is he has the ability to take what you teach him and you’ll start to see him using that immediately. A lot of players around the country don’t have that ability like Chris has.
Singleton’s pro prospects
“His potential really depends on how hard he works on his offensive game. He’s going to be a good defender because of his size and length. His position in the NBA will be at small forward. He has very good size for that position. However, his potential would depend on how hard he works on his ball handling, his shooting, and his passing, because in the ACC and hopefully for him at the next level, if he’s fortunate enough to play in the NBA, he will need to improve on all three of those. He’s done a great job so far in the year he’s been at Florida State. We need him to keep improving during this season and however long he’s at Florida State, whether it’s through his senior year or if he’ s fortunate enough to leave earlier than that for the NBA. We expect him to be an NBA player down the road, but how quickly that happens and how quickly he helps us win the ACC depends on his improvement in those areas.”
On the lack of star treatment
“We treat him like all our other players. We don’t treat any of our guys differently based on their long term potential. We’re concerned about their individual improvement and our team improvement, and what they can do to help our team.”
Note how even as an assistant Coach Enfield had swagger too. He predicted that the Seminoles would win the ACC with Chris’ rise as a player. And damn it, he was almost right! FSU won the ACC Tournament in 2012. Singleton declared for the draft in 2011 and Enfield took the head coaching gig at FGCU that same offseason.
Endfield made no mention however of taking a school that had yet to be granted division 1 status to the NCAA Tournament and beating Georgetown and San Diego State.
Singleton would go on to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and ’11 and was drafted by the Wizards with the 18th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Photos: USA Today / AP