Hamilton's young Seminoles scrambling to repeat
Defending champion Florida State hoping freshmen can keep them in the hunt for a repeat title
Although Florida State barely resembles the team that that won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship a year ago, coach Leonard Hamilton is hoping his young club can put things together quickly enough to make another title run.
The Seminoles' championship unit last season featured six seniors and was dominating inside, especially on defense. Hamilton's team this season has five freshmen and a pair of junior college transfers that relies much more on their perimeter skills. A year ago, with a veteran team, they were 11-6 at a similar point after losing their conference opener, before a 14-4 finish that included the ACC tournament championship and a win in the NCAA tournament.
At the midpoint of the 2012-13 campaign, the Seminoles own a 10-6 record and stand 2-1 in ACC play heading into Saturday's game at Virginia.
While repeating as ACC champs with so many new players is likely improbable, Hamilton hopes he can get his team back to NCAA postseason play for a fifth straight year.
"You see a lot of potential in this team, but you realize we are making a lot of mistakes that inexperienced teams make," Hamilton said. "When you have seven first year players, how can you predict where you should be or where you're going to be?"
It's been that kind of year for Hamilton's club, which is 6-1 away from home and just 4-5 on their own court.
"We're in a position now where we can control our own destiny, but we don't have very many coupons to use," Hamilton said. "If we're going to continue our run of successful seasons, every game has to be played with a sense of urgency."
Senior Michael Snaer is the lone fulltime starter back from Florida State's first ACC hoops champions and leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points a game. He's also tied with freshman Devon Bookert with a team-high 39 assists. Snaer has scored 1,298 points during his Seminole career and at his current pace is a virtual lock to finish among the school's top 10 by the time he winds up his career.
"With this team you really never know," said Snaer, who has been a major contributor in Florida State's last three NCAA qualifiers. "We can be really, really good one game and really, really bad the next time."
Aside from Snaer and junior forward Okaro White, the lineup has been highly inconsistent.
White averages 13.4 points a game and has been dominating at times, scoring 15 straight points in a come-from-behind win at Maryland earlier this month and following up with a 15-point second half in a losing effort against North Carolina.
Junior Ian Miller has been slowed by a foot injury and missed five games plus valuable minutes in others, creating more opportunity for sophomore Terry Whisnant, the team's best 3-point shooter with a 44.1 percentage. Whisnant has increased his scoring average to 7.4 points a game.
Terrance Shannon's 6.5 rebounds a game leads the Seminoles, who were beaten by better than 2-to-1 on the boards in a 77-72 loss to North Carolina. Shannon is also the team's third leading scorer, averaging roughly 22 minutes a game.
But midway through the season, Florida State's rebounding woes are complicated by little production at the center where junior college transfer Kiel Turpin and 7-3 freshman Boris Bojanovsky are combining for just 5.7 points and 4.6 rebounds while getting the bulk of playing time down low.
And that's just one of the challenges for Hamilton and the Seminoles heading into the second half of their schedule with a young team with freshmen Bookert and Montay Brandon sharing point guard responsibilities.
"You see a lot of potential in this team, but you realize we're making a lot of mistakes that inexperienced teams make," Hamilton said. "We've still got a long way to go."
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