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Spectator now sparkplug for 'Noles

Last year at this time, Toney Douglas couldn't wait for Florida State basketball practices.

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published December 3, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Last year at this time, Toney Douglas couldn't wait for the Florida State basketball practices when the scout team ran against the big boys.

It didn't matter that the work was uncelebrated.

It didn't matter that the score was unimportant.

Douglas, one of the top freshmen guards in the SEC in 2004-05, transferred from Auburn and, in accordance with NCAA rules, had to sit out the year. His competitive thirst could only be quenched in practice.

"Those were my game days," he said. "That was all I could look forward to."

"And he took full advantage of it; he took it very seriously," FSU junior guard Jason Rich said. "He really helped us get prepared for games and, believe it or not, he had the scout team organized. That's obviously something he's very capable of doing."

Now, when the work is celebrated.

Now, when the score is everything.

Douglas, eligible again, gives the Seminoles 4-2 a dimension they have lacked: a quick, fearless playmaking guard who can also score a bunch from anywhere on the court.

Entering tonight's sold-out showdown against No. 4 Florida (7-1), Douglas averages 15 points, tied with Al Thornton for the team lead, on 52.9 percent shooting overall and from 3-point range. He also averages 3.2 assists and three rebounds.

"Toney is going through an adjustment period going from a scoring guard (at Auburn) to a point guard and has a lot to learn," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said, "but I like the progress he's making. And I do like what he brings."

Douglas was a shooting star at Auburn, averaging 16.9 points, second in the nation among freshmen. He impressed Florida coach Billy Donovan, scoring 32, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that forced overtime, in a UF win two seasons ago.

"He's a terrific player," Donovan said. "I'd classify him as a great scorer; he can score in a variety of different ways. He can score by shooting the 3, but he's really crafty and terrific off the dribble."

But at 6 feet 1, Douglas knew his best shot at making it as a professional was as a point guard, not the shooting guard where Auburn coach Jeff Lebo used him. So, after testing the NBA waters, he transferred to FSU, where he was assured he could primarily play the point.

"I don't have anything against the coaches at Auburn; they're good coaches and I learned a lot from them," he said, reticent to talk about his divorce from Auburn, which got a bit messy when his father and former AAU coach, Harry, had a public battle with its staff. "I had to do what was best for me."

Even if it meant sitting out.

He used the time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of his new teammates so he would know how best to get them involved and fill his role.

"He doesn't feel any pressure that he has to carry us and we're not putting him in that position where he has to carry us," Hamilton said. "We just want him to learn and grow."

"As a player, you always feel like you have a lot more work to do; you always have a chance to get better," Douglas said. "I love playing with these guys and (love) that the season's here and I'm back in a uniform playing on the court."

Times staff writer Antonya English and Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or at (813) 226-3347.