Atascadero High boys basketball star Robbie Berwick loves the big moment.
Now, he’ll get his shot on the big stage as a Florida State Seminole playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Berwick, a 6-foot-4 senior point guard, announced his highly anticipated college selection Saturday evening at Atascadero’s Ewing Gym in front of members of the media, coaches, teammates, family and friends.
Berwick said he’s committing to Florida State because he has a good bond with head coach Leonard Hamilton — a former coach of the NBA’s Washington Wizards — and he liked the facilities and feel of the program when he made an official visit to Tallahassee two weeks ago.
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Berwick said he wants to compete against some of the nation’s top basketball programs.
Florida State is in the ACC and plays against the likes of Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina. Defending NCAA champion Louisville joins the conference next year.
“I’m very excited,” Berwick said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, training, discipline. I’m just thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in my life. I’m thankful to my family for supporting me.”
The Seminoles have made it to the NCAA Tournament four of the past five seasons.
Hamilton, who has coached Florida State since 2002, has led the Seminoles to eight consecutive winning seasons, including a 23-11 record and a Sweet 16 run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. In 2012, the Seminoles won the ACC Tournament.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Berwick said. “I have to follow my dreams. Playing against schools like Duke and Syracuse, that’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was little. Those are the types of games I live for.”
Berwick had been heavily recruited by several colleges nationwide. He previously said playing college basketball on CBS on Saturday mornings will be one of the “funnest things I’ll ever do.”
At Florida State, he’ll have that opportunity.
On Monday, he announced on Twitter he’d narrowed his choices to a final four of Fresno State, Colorado State, Texas-El Paso and Florida State. But he had five hats to choose from at his news conference Saturday — including his final four schools and one of Cal Poly, which also recruited him. In the end, the Seminoles won out.
Berwick will be the first local basketball player since Derrick Jasper to play at an elite national basketball program. Jasper played at Kentucky, and then UNLV, after graduating from Paso Robles High in 2006.
Berwick averaged 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds last season as a junior, leading Atascadero to a share of the PAC 7 title. He was named The Tribune’s county player of the year.
Berwick is known for his role as a facilitator with a high basketball IQ who can take over a game as a scorer if he needs to.
His high school teammates say his confidence and work ethic will help him transition to college.
“I’ve played with him for 10, 12 years, since we were kids,” said teammate Grant Woodard.
“He lives for the big moments. He works at basketball all the time. He’s a tremendous player.”
On his recruiting trip, Berwick watched a practice and had dinner with Hamilton. Berwick described Hamilton’s demeanor in practice as “calm.”
“He’s an amazing guy,” Berwick said. “He makes sure his players are alright. He treats them like they’re his sons.”
Berwick said he hopes to compete for playing time as a freshman. Three Florida State freshmen averaged more than 18 minutes per contest last season.
“They’re not scared to play freshmen,” Berwick said. “This offseason, I’ll be extremely committed. I’ll be training every day. I’ll be thinking about beating Duke every day.”
Berwick attracted much of his college recruiting attention from his play on the AAU circuit in the Los Angeles area, where he held his own against some of California’s top high school players.
To prepare for the next level, Berwick has worked on getting shots off over bigger players and his outside shooting in particular.
Florida State has three 7-footers on its team, and Berwick said he likes the idea of feeding the ball into big men who can dominate the paint.
Robbie’s brother, J.D. Berwick, a former basketball star at Atascadero High who played against Jasper, said he had a five-hour sitdown with his younger brother about his decision.
“I think he’s either going to sink or swim, but I think he’ll swim,” J.D. Berwick said. “Some people said he didn’t fit their style of a blazing point guard, but I feel like he will find a way to succeed on the floor. That’s who he is. He loves the workouts. It’s not work for him.”
J.D. Berwick told his brother he “won’t be a big fish in a small pond anymore. It won’t be a cakewalk.”
For his sisters Natalie and Shannon, and his parents, the distance from home was a consideration, and they’ll miss having him close by.
“It’s going to be hard because he’ll be so far away,” Natalie Berwick said. “But then I realized, this is his dream. I can’t try to keep him here for selfish reasons. He has to get out of his comfort zone to achieve his goals.”
Berwick said he spoke with coaches such as Bob Cantu, a Paso Robles native who’s now an assistant at UTEP, and Joe Callero, Cal Poly’s coach, who wished him future success after telling them his choice.
“I’m really grateful to all the schools that recruited me because they believed in me,” Berwick said.
Now with his selection made, Berwick said he’ll be able to focus on the remaining football season and the upcoming basketball season.
“We still have the goal of winning CIF in football and CIF in basketball,” Berwick said. “That would make life that much better.”