TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida State men’s basketball team is a year older and a year wiser.
Last season saw FSU’s streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances end, as the Seminoles went just 18-16 and finished sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Last year we took a real step back and I think a lot of it was because of the high inexperience and just guys not fully understanding our defensive principles,” said head coach Leonard Hamilton. “It seems like we’ve made some progress in that area.”
“There’s no doubt that the year of experience that they got last year taught an awful lot, if you go talk to each man they’ll tell you there were just certain things they didn’t quite understand. It’s not that they were resistant to learning I just think that’s the process that you go through and last year was the first time that we’d had to rely on that many first-year players.”
With a year of experience under their belt — and a mid-summer team trip to Greece to scrimmage and practice with the Greek national team — the five sophomores who had to take their lumps on the court last season should be light years ahead of where they were at this time last year. But so is the ACC. The additions of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have put the Seminoles even further down the proverbial conference ladder.
The Seminoles will also be without Michael Snaer — of buzzer-beating fame — after he graduated last spring. Likely picking up his slack as the leaders of the Seminoles will be seniors Okaro White and Ian Miller.
White has gotten better every year that he has been a Seminole, averaging a career-high 12.4 points last season to go with 5.9 rebounds.
Miller, who has been one of the Seminoles’ most dynamic scorers the past few seasons — when he’s on the court — worked harder this summer than at any point in his career.
“I dedicated myself to basketball for once. I’ve never had a Summer working out, lifting weights and training,” said Miller. “Everything I’ve been doing here at Florida State has been natural and God’s gifts, now that I’ve put together the little details and [have been] training at the highest rate than I can train and picking up all the things that I can pick up, I think this will be a breakout season for me.”
Florida State needs it to be.
The star recruit from FSU’s most recent class, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, is academically ineligible after a snafu over his high school transcripts cost him his first year on campus.
Newcomer Jarquez Smith, a 6-9, 225-pound forward, looks to have plenty of potential — scoring 15 points and picking up six rebounds despite playing largely out of position in FSU’s exhibition opener — but might take time to adjust to Leonard Hamilton’s complicated defensive system.
That was a problem for Florida State’s newcomers last season, too. FSU’s defense fell off some last season as the Seminoles struggled at times.