When Dwayne Bacon announced in 2017 after his sophomore season at Florida State that he was declaring for the NBA Draft, he noted the legacy he hoped to leave behind at a program emerging from a stretch of mediocrity.
"We did so much to turn this program around and we made a lot of things happen," said Bacon, who was the program's first five-star signee since 2009 as part of a celebrated 2015 recruiting class.
But as Bacon departed after helping Florida State snap a four-year NCAA Tournament drought, the Seminoles were losing their top three scorers and four of five starters from a 26-win team. It was fair to wonder if the program could sustain its newfound success entering the 2017-18 season.
Four years later, the answer is a clear yes. The trend Bacon set in the 2015 class by making FSU a destination for top-tier talent continued this week when the Seminoles landed a commitment from five-star prospect Jalen Warley. The 6-foot-4 combo guard from Pennsylvania gives Florida State a five-star commitment for the third straight recruiting class.
Among ACC schools, only perennial powers Duke and Florida State have landed more five-star players since 2015. Once the 2020 NBA Draft is complete, the Seminoles will also stand alone in third among ACC schools in number of players drafted over that time as Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams are considered likely first-round picks.
The run of success under coach Leonard Hamilton hit new heights in 2020 when the Seminoles captured their first-ever ACC regular season title with a 16-4 record in league play and Hamilton was named the ACC Coach of the Year. If not for the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, Florida State would have tied a program record by making the Big Dance for a fourth consecutive year. The Seminoles were a projected No. 2 seed, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm, and they advanced to the Final Four in a Sportsline simulation of the projected bracket.
For a program that appeared stuck in the middle of the fierce ACC from 2013 to 2016, there are no longer questions about its staying power in the upper-tier of a conference that has produced six of the past 11 NCAA Tournament champions. Now the question is when FSU might join the likes of Duke, Florida State, Louisville and Virginia among the group ACC teams to cut down nets in recent years.
Warley's commitment cemented Florida State's early spot atop the 2021 team recruiting rankings, and he made it clear during his announcement on CBS Sports HQ that he expects the Seminoles to be atop the rankings that truly matter at some point during his college career.
"Be prepared for a national championship," Warley said.
Here are the metrics that illustrate Florida State's improved standing in the ACC since it landed the 2015 recruiting class that included three players in Bacon, Malik Beasley and Terrance Mann who each blossomed into NBA Draft picks.
Here's a look at how Florida State's recruiting has been under Hamilton:
ACC programs with most NBA Draft picks (2016-2019)
ACC programs with most five-star commitments (2015-2021)
- Duke: 23
- North Carolina: 8
- Florida State: 5
- Louisville: 3
- Miami: 3