The NCAA introduced the 3-point arc in April 1986, following George McCloud’s freshman season at Florida State. McCloud made a living by drilling 3-pointers and made millions in the NBA, too.
“I’ve always been able to shoot the ball,” McCloud said. “Even high school I was able to shoot the ball. And then when they brought in the 3, it was pretty easy for me to be honest with you because coach (Pat) Kennedy allowed you to play free. He didn’t take you out for your mistakes. He told us to shoot the ball when we were open. And it was my job not only to shoot but to get everybody else involved.”
McCloud did just that, moving from forward to point guard — and he was both a good one and a tall one at 6-foot-6. He made 201 career 3-pointers and dished out 299 assists in leading FSU to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances his junior and senior seasons (1987-88 and 88-89).
On Saturday, McCloud will join six FSU legends and have his No. 21 jersey hung from the rafters at the Donald L. Tucker Center during a ceremony at halftime of the Wake Forest game. McCloud’s honor is a long time coming as he was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame in 1994, but his jersey will hang along with Dave Cowens, Dave Fedor, Hugh Durham, Sam Cassell, Ron King and Bob Sura.
“I’m honored — it’s a great accomplishment,” McCloud said. “A lot of people played a part in it. All of the players that I played with. We have a group chat that we all still communicate. … The camaraderie and the brotherhood they built. All of those guys played a part in it.”
The 54-year-old McCloud will be among the more than 70 players returning to Tallahassee for a reunion Friday night and Saturday. Four of those who have had their jerseys retired — Durham, Fedor, King and Sura — will return as well as Charlie Ward, Eugene Harris, Harry Davis, Dave Fedor, Chuck Graham, Rodney Dobard, Jeff Hogan, Skip Young, Brad Johnson and the 1971-72 national finalist team.
McCloud was one of FSU’s best players during a time of transition for the program. He was recruited, signed and played for Joe Williams and then Kennedy arrived for McCloud’s sophomore season, 1986-87. He saw more playing time as a sophomore and averaged a modest 7.7 points while making 14 3s that season.
But he broke out as a junior in 1987-88, making an absurd 45.3 percent of his 3-pointers (72 of 159). The following year, McCloud had one of the best seasons ever by a Nole: He shot 43.9 percent (115 of 262) from beyond the arc and 87.5 percent from the free-throw line while averaging 22.8 points, 4.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds.
His 115 made 3s remains a single-season school record, just ahead of Tim Pickett (110 in 2003-04). McCloud’s 201 made 3s in a career are fourth all-time at FSU, behind James Collins (255), Sura (214) and Deividas Dulkys (203).
Among his biggest games was a Feb. 1989 showdown with LaSalle’s Lionel Simmons. McCloud hit 10 3-pointers, which is still a school record, and had 36 points while Simmons matched him with 36 points in a 101-100 loss at Philadelphia. With McCloud running the point, the Seminoles also captured the 1989 Metro Conference regular-season title.
“He understands working hard work, effort and improving through the process because he lived it, walked it, talked it,” Hamilton said. “And then he was mature enough when he got to the league, the NBA, he was able to utilize the experience that he gained, the maturity that he gained through the process and he has a great perspective on not only the college game, but the areas that he can always project because of his journey, where guys should be and what they need to work on in order to play at the highest level. George, he is a guy who keeps things in perspective and we developed a pretty good relationship over the years. … He’s always encouraging and positive and supportive of where we are in our program.”
McCloud went on to play with Indiana, Dallas, the LA Lakers, Phoenix and Denver in an NBA career that spanned from 1989-2002 (he also played a season in Italy in 1993-94). He averaged 9 points per game and shot 35 percent from 3-point range over the course of his career, and he had a 22-assist night in March 2001.
After his retirement, McCloud spent some time in NBA front offices but has taken a break to spend time with his kids.
“This is my second year being away,” McCloud said. “I was in front office of Golden State and Sacramento. I want to just enjoy my kids. I never was a stay-at-home dad. I’m at the school now, picking up my son, my daughter. I’ve been married almost 15 years. Just enjoying life.”
McCloud also remains connected with his teammates, including Michael Polite, the father of current FSU guard Anthony Polite. And McCloud has kept close with FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, following the team on TV but also making trips back through the years to Tallahassee.
“Coach Ham and I talk all the time,” McCloud said. “The support that he gives me, the support that I give back is important. He never coached me and we have this relationship.
“There’s not too many teams in the country that play as hard as his kids. And they buy into his system. It’s all about team. You don’t have just one player that just dominates, and you play 10 guys successfully. It works for the college ranks and to continue to get top players and when you get top players to buy in and play team basketball success comes with it.”