By Ken Cross
As Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton enters his 15th year as the head coach of the Seminoles, he has become synonymous with not only winning, but pushing the win totals to get the Seminoles to the next level.
Six years ago, FSU did what was once unthinkable as the Seminoles toppled North Carolina for the ACC tournament championship. Hamilton belonged from day one to those who know basketball and the ACC. That statement was the dot on top of the ‘I”.
Hamilton’s teams are known to be deep and athletic and play with an innate toughness that accentuates his defensive philosophy. As he enters 2017-18, he thinks that philosophy may occur once again at a very high level.
“I am hoping that we will get back to that junkyard dog defense and then also with the improvement of our free throw shooting and three-point shooting, we have a chance to be the surprise team in the ACC,” said Hamilton at the ACC Media Day on Wednesday.
Guard Terance Mann is Hamilton’s leading returning scorer at 8.4 points per game a year ago. The role players accrued minutes which will be invaluable as the season unfolds.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 26, 2017
“Guys that are returning got a lot of playing time last year,” noted Hamilton, who has seen several ‘Noles leave early for the NBA, “We have six freshmen. Even though we are very very young we have improved the level of skills and are now devoid of shortcomings of last year.”
Hamilton is alluding to the shooting woes which actually finally came to fruition in the loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament. He noted that FSU got to the line regularly in averaging 23 free throws per game, but the Seminoles were 13th in the league. He lamented the three-point game which yielded only 34.7 percent.
“We went from having very few three-point shooters to not having anybody who is not a good shooter,” said Hamilton, “We have improved on defense and have a deep basketball team.”
This team is going to see stars rise out of the role players of a year ago. Mann, P.J. Savoy and 7-4 Christ Koumadje will be at the forefront of the roster. Hamilton notes the exploits of forward Phil Cofer and guard Braian Angola as well as a four-star freshman in guard M.J. Walker.
“We have got a team now that we can absorb the loss of Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Mayes, Michael Ojo, and Johnathan Isaac,” said Hamilton of the talent and ability of his young team, “We lost five players and four starters along with Jacquez Smith. We played 11 or 12 players an awful lot. We have seven players returning that played at least 10 minutes per game.”