On Sunday afternoon, Florida State will host Clemson at the Donald L. Tucker Center for Senior Day. Six FSU seniors will be playing their final game at the Tucker Center. Jeff Peterson, who played three years at other schools, will be playing the final home game of his collegiate career for the Seminoles. Bernard James, whose story is well documented, will be playing in his final game as a Seminole after two years of JUCO basketball and six years in the US Air Force. The same can be said for Jon Kreft, who suffered many setbacks on his way to Tallahassee, as he takes the court at the Tucker Center on Sunday. But the three other seniors, Deividas Dulkys, Xavier Gibson and Luke Loucks, have all put in four years at FSU. Despite little national notoriety and basketball futures that are far from limitless, these three have helped launch an awakening for Florida State basketball.
Dulkys, Gibson and Loucks were all highly recruited coming out of high school. Loucks has rarely been a mainstay at point guard throughout his career and has had difficulties taking care of the basketball. Dulkys has an excellent shooting stroke, but long shooting slumps throughout his career have prevented the Lithuanian from blossoming into a high caliber ACC guard. Gibson, a 6’10″ forward with range and athleticism, was never consistent enough offensively and battled through foul trouble which halted him from ever fully reaching his potential. But with just one game remaining in Tallahassee, the legacy of this senior class could be that of one that put FSU basketball back on the map for good.
As freshmen during the 2008-09 season, Dulkys, Gibson and Loucks helped Florida State reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 after being a perennial bubble that was consistently on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday. As sophomores, they helped the Seminoles reach consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992 and ’93. As juniors, they helped Florida State to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993 and to a third consecutive NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history. And following Thursday’s 63-60 win over Virginia, they have all, but guaranteed a NCAA bid making them the first FSU senior class to reach the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons.
The three (Dulkys, Gibson, Loucks) have been far from perfect and far from all-conference performers, but they have spent virtually the entire season in the starting lineup and have been instrumental in getting Florida State back to the dance. It was Dulkys, whose 32 point effort led an upset of then #3 North Carolina and kick-started a 10-6 team to a seven-game-winning-streak in the ACC. It was Loucks who made the assist to Michael Snaer for the game-winning shot to snap Duke’s 45-game-home-winning-streak. It was Gibson, who gave FSU an inside scoring presence in some of its most tightly contested ACC wins (Duke, Virginia twice). All three will be relied upon to help Florida State make another run deep into the tournament.
While neither Dulkys, Gibson nor Loucks will likely ever see his jersey number hanging from the rafters at the Donald L. Tucker Center, each will know that his four years at FSU sparked unprecedented territory for the basketball program. Not only will they be the first senior class to reach the NCAA Tournament in four straight years, they will have helped launched a team that was a mainstay in the NIT to a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament. Over the past four years, Florida State has gone from a middle-of-the-pack ACC team to one of the top three programs in perhaps the most tradition rich conference in all of America. But what most Florida State fans and alumni will hope that these four years have represented, will be FSU’s assertion of itself as more than just a football school and a force to be reckoned with nationally. Whatever becomes of the Florida State basketball program this year or in the years to come, and whatever becomes of Dulkys, Gibson and Loucks, they will know one thing: that they were part of a truly special era for Florida State basketball. That’s something that can’t be taken away.