Despite the garnet and gold in his gene pool, Anthony Polite didn’t grow up around Florida State.
In fact, the Florida State legacy spent the first 15 years of his life on a different continent.
Polite was born in Lugano, Switzerland while his father Michael was playing basketball abroad.
That didn’t stop him from following in his father’s footsteps and ending up at FSU as well.
“It has been a part of his life from when he was a very small kid,” Michael Polite told the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I’d bring my bag home with the ball in there. Him, as a child, rolling it around the house, his mom allowing him to play with the ball and him becoming familiar with that round ball and having a love for it kind of snowballs.”
Michael played at FSU from 1987 through 1991. He finished his career with 1,066 points and was on teams that made the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons with the Seminoles.
“He has the benefit of a father who really knew something about basketball. That speaks for itself,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said.
After his time in Tallahassee, he went onto have a 10-year career in Europe. It was during this time that Michael’s wife Maddalena gave birth to Anthony.
Even after Michael’s time as a professional player ended, the Polites stayed in Switzerland.
Polite bounced back and forth between basketball and soccer before locking in on wanting to seriously play basketball when he was 12.
“He’s been a student of the game,” Michael said.
“He knows the history of where I started, from my high school and then obviously playing college ball and then seeing me play professionally, wanting to follow in his dad’s footsteps.”
A few years and a move to a different area in Switzerland later, Anthony decided he wanted to play high school basketball in the United States.
He moved to Boca Raton and enrolled at St. Andrew’s School as a freshman at 15 while his mother stayed back in Switzerland, where she remains to this day.
“His mom has really been supportive of him liking the game and him actually wanting to follow in his dad’s footsteps,” Michael said.
Added Anthony, “I always looked up to my dad and my mom. They always wanted the best for me. My dream was always to come play college basketball.
“Once I came over here and I moved to the states, (FSU) was definitely one of my top choices.”
After a prolific playing career which saw him named the 2017 Palm Beach Player of the Year as a senior, Polite chose FSU over Miami and Memphis, among others.
While his connection to FSU seemed clear on paper, Michael is adamant that his career had little impact on his son’s decision to pursue basketball and to do so at FSU.
“I never really pushed him in the direction that he has to do what his dad did. He just had a love for the game and was a student of the game,” Michael said.
“Growing up in Switzerland, his mom being supportive of him being a basketball player, he just followed some of the better players, better leagues and the competition in terms of college basketball as well. He decided to come here and play college basketball here and he learned the game from this perspective being here in the U.S. and just studied the collegiate game as well.
“He took a visit to Florida State and fell in love with the program in terms of how coach Hamilton runs his program, the guys showing a lot of love towards him as a player and he made his decision. It was nothing that I forced on him. It was something that he studied and decided to come play for Florida State.”
While Anthony played his entire high school career in the U.S., Hamilton sees aspects of his game that developed from his time playing abroad.
“He brings that European system where I think they spend a lot of time with youngsters earlier in life fundamentally. He seems to be pretty sound when he dribbles left, dribbles right, he has good shooting form,” Hamilton said.
Michael added, “Growing up in Europe, he has that European style, he has that style of play. Then, obviously, coming over to the U.S., playing high school ball, playing on the AAU circuit, he’s done a tremendous job of transitioning his game from learning how to play the game and the fundamentals over in Europe and then picking up the style of play here.”
After battling tendinitis in both of his knees last year while redshirting, Polite has earned his first significant playing time this season.
Averaging 14.3 minutes, Polite is seeing the most playing time out of the Seminoles’ four true or redshirt freshmen.
“I’m not surprised. I’ve seen Anthony put in a lot of work in his first two years,” FSU point guard Trent Forrest said.
“I knew he was going to be a pretty good player defensively and he was always able to shoot the ball. I feel like he’s just gaining his confidence.”
His intensity and ability to operate the Junkyard Dog defense Hamilton wants to see is one of the main things to which this can be attributed.
“I like him being in a stance, I like the pressure he’s putting on the ball,” Hamilton said.
“I envision him as some point being a good defender, a guy who can pick up the point guard for us and a guy also who can knock down jump shots.”
Added Anthony, “I know I’m a good defender so that’s what I do. If my shot’s not falling, I have to find something else that I can produce in and that’s defense, steals, rebounds, finding someone else.”
All of this has Hamilton excited about the legacy Anthony may leave behind in his own right at FSU.
“The fact that he has the potential he’s developed, he has the energy and the quickness and speed and the strength to defend. I think he’s obviously a pretty good shooter, pretty good dribbler,” Hamilton said.
“I do think that you can see the future is very bright for him and for us.”
No. 11 Florida State vs. Connecticut
Never Forget Tribute Classic
When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
TV/Radio: ESPN2/103.1 FM