Dec. 18, 2007
Florida State senior guard Isaiah Swann entertained offers from most of the nation's top basketball programs when he was deciding where to attend college.
He and his family then hosted Jim Calhoun of the University of Connecticut in their home. The Huskies were on their way to winning the national championship while Swann was making his decision. He made an official visit to Arizona and spent time with their successful coach, Lute Olson. Other suitors also included Tubby Smith of the University of Kentucky, Bill Self of the University of Kansas and Bob Huggins of Cincinnati.
But the biggest impression during Swann's entire recruiting process was made by Leonard Hamilton and the coaching staff from Florida State University. Hamilton had just finished his second season in Tallahassee and had guided the Seminoles to a total of 26 victories and a total of eight wins in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The Seminoles' victory totals and number of postseason appearances in Hamilton's first two seasons weren't what caught Swann's attention during the recruiting process. Rather, it was the graduation rate for Hamilton's players during his coaching career and the number of players he had helped develop who are now playing at the professional level that helped Swann make one of the most important choices of his life.
"Coach Hamilton was more interested in me as a person when I was being recruited," said Swann. "I had the confidence in my game to know that I could be successful on the court wherever I chose to play college basketball. He helped me develop the confidence that I could successful as a person no matter where I decided to go to college. I knew that he would care about me even if I hadn't decided to play for him at Florida State."
Hamilton has made the academic success of his players a priority during his coaching career; that success stands as his number one goal as a coach on the collegiate level. In his 10 seasons as the head coach at the University Miami, 28 of his 31 seniors received their degrees. In his first five seasons at Florida State, 13 of his 15 senior players have earned their degrees.
In addition, Hamilton has seen 44 of the players he has either coached or recruited achieve their dreams of playing in the NBA. Included on that list are four players in his first five seasons at Florida State including 2007 NBA Draft Lottery selection Al Thornton.
"The respect that I gained for Coach Hamilton during the recruiting process is something that grows greater with each day that I am around him," said Swann. "The challenges he faces each day and how he handles them is unbelievable. You just have to be around him to learn how to become a better person. You can take basketball out of the equation with Coach Ham because his success is built on the success of current and former players."
Swann has developed into one of the top players in the ACC under Hamilton's tutelage. He is approaching the 1,000 career point mark, is one of the top 3-point shooters in Seminole and conference history, and made his mark on the national stage as he scored 31 points against Mississippi State in the 2007 NIT.
When it comes to success on the basketball court, Swann knows that the points will continue to come as the 3-point shots continue to fall. He will complete his career among the leaders in school history in 3-point shooting, assists, steals and games played.
But those aren't the most important statistics for Swann.
In April he will earn his bachelor's degree in social science and will become the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He was named to the Dean's List at Florida State during the spring of 2006 when he earned a 3.8 grade point average and he has been one of the Seminoles' most active players in donating his time to community service projects during his career.
Swann has become one of the most inspiring academic success stories during Hamilton's 30-year collegiate coaching career.
"Isaiah's accomplishments in the classroom are a tribute to his intense desire to be successful in everything he chooses to do," said Hamilton. "When he arrived at Florida State as a freshman we knew that he had the ability to be successful academically and we were positive that he had the drive to complete his degree requirements. He has done a remarkable job in keeping in his academics in line."
Hamilton has kept such a keen eye on Swann's academic progress that he will earn his degree in four years.
"In today's fast-paced world of college athletics and the demands that are put on the players' lives, it is just amazing that Isaiah is going to earn his degree in four years," said Hamilton. "It generally takes the majority of the student population five and sometimes six years to earn their degrees."
As a senior, Swann's days a full of early morning classes, afternoon study hall sessions, basketball practice and late night group meetings. As he career at Florida State comes to a close, he can often be found studying for an exam in the student-athletes' academic support unit or draining a 3-point shot in the Seminoles' practice facility.
Swann's choice to attend Florida State University and the trust that he put into Hamilton is paying off for the senior star. The Seminoles are well on their way to being a college basketball powerhouse and Swann will complete his educational career with something that can never be taken away from him - a college degree.
By Chuck Walsh Florida State Sports Information