Dwayne Bacon's maturation has helped power Florida State's rise

The Dagger
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaab/players/131171/" data-ylk="slk:Dwayne Bacon">Dwayne Bacon</a> is averaging a team-high 18.1 points for 15-1 Florida State (Getty Images).
Dwayne Bacon is averaging a team-high 18.1 points for 15-1 Florida State (Getty Images).

Only four days after declaring for the NBA draft last March, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon made a mature decision.

The highly touted freshman chose to delay his NBA ambitions for at least another year rather than risking sliding to the late second round or going undrafted altogether.

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“It wasn’t hard for me just because I know my potential,” Bacon said. “My dream is going to the NBA one day and I still feel like I can fulfill those dreams, I just have to keep working. The better I get, the better opportunity I’ll have. I just kept telling myself that once I decided to come back and so far it’s turning out very well for me.”

Bacon’s return to school indeed has proven to be a shrewd choice. The 6-foot-7 wing has evolved from a one-dimensional slasher into a more multifaceted scorer who still thrives attacking the rim but can also make opponents pay for not respecting his jump shot.

Halfway through his impressive sophomore season, Bacon is averaging 18.1 points per game and shooting 37.1 percent from behind the arc, a massive improvement over the 28 percent he shot a year ago. Just eleven days ago, he hit six 3-pointers in a single game at Virginia including the game winner with two seconds left.

“In one year, [he went] from a guy who struggles when he can’t get to the rim to a guy who can makes teams pay in a big-time game on national television,” Florida State assistant coach Charlton Young said. “[That’s] a huge testimony to the hard work he’s put in over the summer and his growth. He’s an elite bucket-getter but there’s more to the game than getting buckets.”

Bacon’s development has helped Florida State emerge as one of college basketball’s surprise teams entering Tuesday night’s clash with Duke. Before the start of the season, the Seminoles were projected to finish eighth in the ACC. Now, they’re 15-1, ranked ninth in the country and one of two undefeated teams in the nation’s toughest conference.

There was a time when it seemed unlikely Bacon would still be at Florida State this season. The McDonald’s All-American averaged 23.3 points per game as a senior at prestigious Oak Hill Academy, the most points anyone at the basketball powerhouse has averaged since New York Knicks point guard Brandon Jennings in 2008.

Young said that Bacon’s mother, Kenny Crawford, was the guiding voice behind Bacon’s decision to stay in school. She told Bacon that he had the potential to get 10 times better and get a little more mature if he returned for his sophomore season.

Bacon spent the summer with Young in the gym, going through two-a-days to improve his outside shot and become a more well-rounded player.

“(I) worked on my shot every day. I studied the defensive side of the ball every day,” Bacon said. “I took it one day at a time and I slowly developed. We started with mid-rangers early in the summer and then it picked up all the way to the 3-point line. We worked consistently and (Young) stayed on me because he knows that I need to improve on my jump shot because it pretty much was the last feature (that I needed to become a complete player). Now, I don’t feel like I need to change anything else. I just need to keep working at it.”

It will be a few months before it becomes clear whether Bacon’s improved jumper has elevated his draft stock, but it’s already obvious that his hard work has made Florida State a better team.

A year ago, Bacon might not have attempted that game-winning 3-pointer at Virginia and probably wouldn’t have made it. Now he has the confidence that he can score in more ways than just one.

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