By Jerry Durney and Daniel Supraner
There are many players who have captured the imagination of Florida Institute of Technology Men’s Basketball Whether it’s the old Percy Hedgecock Gymnasium, these days Clemente Center.. But little is said about this day, like Robert Schuel’s Canadian Quintet. ’92, Astley Smith ’91, Mike Smith ’91, ’11 MS, Peter Walcott ’95 and Dwight Walton ’91.
Together, the Maple Leaf Five created the most successful era in program history from 1988 to 1995: three 20-win seasons, two NCAA tournament appearances (first in program history, first in history), And the first ever Sunshine State Conference Regular Season Championship.
Prior to arriving in Melbourne in the fall of 1987, the Panthers did not record a victory for eight consecutive seasons and have never won more than four conference plays since joining SSC in 1981.
Walton, the future Olympic athlete for the Canadian national team, transferred to the Florida Institute of Technology after spending a season at the University of Siena. As a rule, he had to compete in the 1987-88 season before starting the three seasons in Crimson and Gray. However, Panther head coach Tom Foliad Sr. at the time thought that Dwight’s hometown needed more talent, so he went to his valuable transfer for confirmation.
“Coach Foliard asked me if there were any other Montreal players like me,” Walton said. “The funny story is that he came to Montreal. He was the only coach with about 20 guys in the gym. We put a chair on the sidelines for him, and he Saw 20 players go to it. He asked me to come, and he said, “Dwight, I like him, he and him,” and those The people were Brother Smith and Garfield Glasgow.
When Walton wore a red shirt, the Panthers rise began during the 1987-88 campaign. The team will be led by Tom Foliad Jr., who will be inducted into the Florida Institute of Technology Hall of Fame in the future. ’89 and Davon Kelly In 1990, he won the most 18 games in more than 10 years and set a record for the first time in the tournament. Astley Smith’s 13 points per game was enough to win the honor of the SSC All-Freshman team and the All-SSC Nonorable Mention.
During the season, Foliad Senior was looking for Astley’s younger brother Mike. His first experience with the Florida Institute of Technology and the environment it offers came in February 1988 during his recruitment visit, seeing the Panthers defeat Tampa for the first time in the history of the program. 68-63.
“The game I played was sold quickly to see how full the gym was, all the fraternities and all the people who were there,” said Mike Smith. “Not only because my brother and Dwight were there, but also because of the school atmosphere at the time, I thought,’Yes, this is where I want to be.’”
Walton joined the team in the 1988-89 season, quickly influencing him, achieving an average of 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds in the game, earning the honor of the First Team All-SSC and the honor of the NABC Third Team All-America. Earnings made him the first All-America in the program. Along with Kelly, Brother Smith, Robert Schuel, and point guard Ray Paproky, the rest of the SSC found that the Florida Institute of Technology is now very realistic.
The peak of the program’s history may have come on December 29th and 30th, 1988, when Hedgecock Jim hosted the Florida Today / McDonnell Douglas Holiday Classic.
In the first night’s action, the Panthers cruised until John Calipari’s Massachusetts team won 106-87. After 742 career wins, six final four trips, a college-level national championship, and a head coach mission at the NBA, Thursday night in Melbourne is firmly rooted in the memory of the legendary coach. I am.
“A few years later, I attended a NABC Foundation event and was one table above a location in Crispy,” recalls Foliad Jr. “I went to his table.” Coach, nice to meet you. I don’t know if you remember me, but I went to Florida Institute of Technology. I don’t know if you came here and remembered. I don’t know, we’ll beat you. “He said,” Do you remember? You guys had all those Canadians! “
One night, Panthers enrolled at Boston University from the Big East Conference. The team features Dana Barros, an All-Big East sniper who has become an All-Star in the NBA’s 14-year career.
“He put his son Kevin, who is neither the fastest man nor the tallest man, on him,” recalls Mike Smith. ?? ‘And the goal is not to score in double digits for anyone else. ”
Barros was successful, but the Eagles needed his prolific score just to keep them in the match against the Panthers at the enthusiastic Hedgecock Gym. The game was decided in the last few seconds when Kelly sank a pair of free throws to conclude the Florida Institute of Technology’s 77-75 victory.
The Panthers finished their regular season 22-6 and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. Mike Smith has been honored with the SSC Freshman of the Year and Seawell has joined the All Freshman team.
The following year, from 1989 to 1990, the Panthers were 25-2 during the regular season and 11-1 in conference play. This earned us the share of the SSC Regular Season Championship for the first time in program history.
Walton and Astley Smith on First Team All-SSC, Kelly on Second Team, Folliard Sr. Was selected as the SSC Co-Coach of the Year. Walton also won the NABC Third Team All-American honor for the second consecutive year.
The Panthers returned to the NCAA tournament for their first victory in the South Atlantic Semifinals, beating Norfolk (73-63). Later, Florida Institute of Technology fell from Sweet 16 to More House, 81-77.
In the 1990-91 season, the Panthers were led by Walton’s 15.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, winning a regular season of 20-5, the honor of the First Team All SSC for the third consecutive year, and NABC for the third consecutive year. Won the honor of All American. This time to the second team. He remains the only Panther to win multiple US awards. Astley Smith created the All-SSC Second Team, where he won the All-Conference honoring all four seasons in Melbourne while his brother Mike won the Honorable Mention.
The Panthers reached the SSC tournament final for the first time, but were eventually denied another return trip to Big Dance after falling to Florida Southern in a championship game.
Many changes have occurred since the 1990-91 season. The Walton and Smith brothers have graduated and Tom Foliad Sr. has retired as a coach. He was taken over by Andy Russo, who experienced successful coaching at the Division I level in Louisiana Tech and Washington. He also got help from the north of Montreal guard Peter Walcott. From the first day in Melbourne, Peter knew he had a reputation for his support.
“When I got down there, it was,” Oh, are you a new Canadian? Are you as good as Dwight, Mikey, and Astley? “Walcott said.
Walcott averaged 15.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game in a four-year career that never missed a match. He won the SSC Freshman of the Year following the 1991-1992 season and was named First Team All SSC in each of the following three seasons. Walcott and Walton are the only Panthers to win the first team honor three times.
Over the years, the legacy of Maple Leaf Five has become more recognized.Walton took office Florida Institute of Technology Sports Hall of Fame In 2001, he was inducted into the SSC Hall of Fame, and in 2011, he was inducted into the SSC Hall of Fame. The 1989-90 team was inducted into the Florida Institute of Technology’s Sportens Hall of Fame in 2015, and Walcott joined them in February 2020.
Thirty years later, the lessons learned while students at the Florida Institute of Technology continue to resonate with them in a variety of jobs today.
“I run a health center and coordinate everyone from nurses to security to transportation,” said Mike Smith. “One of the things Foliad really taught me was adapting to the situation. Looking back on when we played Boston University and his philosophy of being able to beat them. Don’t fight the inevitable. Recognize and take care of what you can control. I look closely at it in my life and focus on it. “
“It’s all about the strength of the defense, the passion of life, and the love of the game that Director Foliad brought to us,” said Walton, assistant coach at Concordia University in Montreal today. “He was strict, but he was also a player coach at the same time. Overall attention to detail, he allowed his player to play, but also wanted something specific from you . “
“My time at the Florida Institute of Technology was that the work you did was to move you forward,” said Walcott, now a data processor at the Leicester B. Pearson Board of Education in Quebec. Said. “At some point I knew I had to be the driving force. Our program allowed me to develop that inner power.”
It wasn’t just the lessons on the court that bothered the players. Life on campus also helped to expand the world of athletes.
“The biggest thing anyone can learn to play team sports and go to college outside your city is to fill the gap,” said Lakeshore General Hospital House, just outside Montreal. Astry Smith, who is currently working in the keeping department, said. “Our team had people from Africa and Yugoslavia, so I was able to meet and experience a lot of people from all over the world at the Florida Institute of Technology. Depending on the job, people from all disciplines. The Florida Institute of Technology helped me get ahead of it. ”
For more information on the history and achievements of Maple Leaf Five, please visit: FloridaTechSports.com..
This work was introduced in 2021 Spring Edition Florida Institute of Technology..