Oct. 30, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For the first time in program history, the Florida State men's basketball team enters a new season as the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Champions. The Seminoles are also in the top 25 of both the USA Today Coaches and Associated Press preseason polls for the first time.
Both are unfamiliar feelings for a team that won its first title in the nation's premier college basketball conference a season ago.
But they aren't the only unfamiliar things about the 2012-13 Seminoles.
Just look at the roster.
All-America candidate Michael Snaer is back, so too are proven playmakers Okaro White, Ian Miller and a healthy Terrance Shannon. Terry Whisnant II and Kiel Turpin are there as well and expect to have increased roles. But the same isn't true for a host of other 'Noles that had a hand in turning FSU into a champion as Luke Loucks, Deividas Dulkys, Bernard James, Xavier Gibson, Jon Kreft and Jeff Peterson have all graduated.
Six returnees. Six losses.
"I believe that we have a group of guys returning that I think is going to give us some tremendous leadership and stability to keep us moving forward," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I also think we have an underrated group of youngsters coming in that might be able to contribute right away. We're very excited about this group as a whole, and because we have added some really good players to an already talented group, we feel confident that we will continue to grow as a team."
Hamilton's confidence that his new-look 'Noles can be successful isn't a surprise considering the talent on the roster.
Snaer is widely considered one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation and one of the top two-guards in all of college basketball. Over the summer he was even recognized as a pre-season First-Team All-American by Blue Ribbon -- the first such honor for an FSU basketball player in the program's history.
The MVP of the 2012 ACC Tournament, Snaer helped propel the 'Noles towards history and to a 25-10 overall record last year with a team-best 14.0 points per game, including buzzer-beater 3-pointers in wins against Duke and Virginia Tech. Snaer's decision to return for his senior season and not enter the NBA early helps ease the loss of those six other veterans and set the tone for his fellow returnees and newcomers.
"Michael continues that 'I'm going to be the hardest working one on the team' type of attitude," Hamilton said, "and I think that his leadership and his work ethic and determination is becoming the attitude of our team."
If Snaer's work ethic is contagious, than Shannon's determination is equally inspiring. The redshirt junior continued what has been an unfortunate trend during his career last season when he went down with a season-ending injury. His dedication to the rehabilitation and ability to bounce back and be healthy enough for the start of the season helps ease the losses in FSU's front court.
Like Shannon, White possesses a great deal of experience that will assist the Seminoles' search for the most effective rotation in the paint. Turpin has added much-needed weight and factors into that gameplan as well.
Miller also returns for his junior season after averaging 10.3 points per game last season while becoming a strong offensive force for the Seminoles - and one the team could rely on in crunch time. Whisnant didn't get to play very much behind Snaer, Miller and Dulkys but the coaching staff has high hopes that he'll be a much-needed contributor this season.
"We really love his potential and he has worked really hard and made some tremendous progress," Hamilton said. "We like the end potential where he can play some point and some two, we can bounce him back between both positions which gives us versatility."
Whisnant and Turpin know what FSU's newcomers will be going through this season as they get acclimated to big-time college basketball and compete for roles on Hamilton's team.
One of those roles could be at point guard where Loucks' veteran savvy and control of the offense will certainly be missed. True freshman Devon Bookert excelled as a passer during his school basketball days in Anchorage - yes, he came to FSU all the way from Alaska before a one-year pit stop from prep school in Las Vegas - and Montay Brandon is a versatile, 6-foot-7 ½ playmaker that could play either guard spots.
On the wing, 6-foot-5 scorer Aaron Thomas will be a welcome addition for the `Noles' future and its present depth. The same is true for forward Robert Gilchrist, who was one of the most sought-after junior-college prospects in this past recruiting cycle.
While Ojo (all 7-foot-1, 290 pounds of him) is still a very raw but intriguing prospect, Bojanovsky could have an early impact. At 7-foot-3, the Bratislava, Slovak Republic native is the tallest player in the history of the program and possesses the ability to post up in the paint or step out and shoot a smooth jump-shot.
"I think we are going to be a faster paced team," Snaer said. "The guards are a little but more quick than the guys that graduated. They can change direction much quicker. The new guys that we have allow us to be a lot more mobile. We have bigs that can step all the way out to the three and shoot the ball so we can stretch the floor.
"I think we are going to be a lot more up-tempo this year."
With returnees guiding that charge and newcomers taking their lead, Florida State's highly anticipated 2012-13 season gets started tonight with an exhibition game against Lincoln Memorial another warm-up game against St. Leo a week later. The Seminoles officially begin the regular-season Nov. 9 at home against South Alabama at 7 p.m.
For tickets, call 1-888-FSU-NOLE or visit the online FSU ticket page.