Dec. 5, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Wednesday night's home game against No. 5 Florida represents Florida State's biggest challenge on the schedule thus far in the young 2012-13 season but by now the 'Noles are used to being tested.
Seven games into the year, FSU (4-3) is still working through the growing pains that come with replacing six seniors with six newcomers. It was always expected and understood that the transition would be difficult but home losses to South Alabama, Minnesota and Mercer early in the season have made those expectations a very clear reality.
"The talent is there, I just don't think we all have it together right now and every aspect of the game," said junior Okaro White, one of the four veteran returnees from last season's ACC Championship squad.
In back-to-back losses to the Gophers and Bears, those four have struggled with foul trouble, injury (Miller has been nursing a bruised foot) and with hitting shots. In those two games, White, Miller, Snaer and Shannon have shot a combined 19-of-54 from the field.
With so many inexperienced, still-figuring-things-out players on the roster expected to contribute critical minutes, it's been made clear that the 2012-13 'Noles will only be able to go as far as their most veteran, battle-tested players can take them.
“We’ve accepted that,” White said. “We haven’t been playing good; haven’t been playing up to par. And when we’re not doing that what are the younger guys going to follow and what leadership are they going to follow? It all starts with us. That doesn't just go by scoring all the points coming from the main core guys doing all the rebounding, blocking, playing defense and enthusiasm."
“The veterans production -- our production as a group -- has to pick up because we have to set the tone for the younger guys to feed off of,” Miller added.
But producing and setting the tone means more than just breaking out of a shooting slump, it means leading off the court as well.
And therein lies one of the biggest challenges for FSU's quartet of veterans. They've experienced tremendous success during their respective careers in Tallahassee but it has all been accomplished with other teammates filling those leadership roles. Without guys like Chris Singleton, Bernard James, Deividas Dulkys and Luke Loucks, those that returned this season are being asked to fill those pressure-packed vacancies.
They're being asked to do something they've never had to do before.
"When you're used to just doing your role and not having to speak up and not having to take control of a team and not having to do those type of things, it's easy," Miller said. "And when you're winning it's all fun and games. Right now it's a test of our true character. I know me, 'Ro, Mike and Terrance are ready to accept that challenge. It's a learning process, too. Even though we are the leaders, we are still learning.
"Learning how to lead, learning how to get our of situations like this, how to keep our young guys together, how to keep our older guys together, too."
Focused on taking control of their new roles, White, Miller, Snaer and Shannon all met with coach Leonard Hamilton after that loss to Mercer earlier this week.
They wanted to talk to their coach about how they can prevent a two-game losing streak from becoming something much bigger and more damaging with the conference schedule looming just one month away.
“We have had open discussions about where we are and what we need to do,” Hamilton said. “Our approach has always been very matter of fact. Call it like it is and our guys have always been very receptive.”
If there is a silver lining to the early-season struggles and the challenges of the roster overhaul, it's that those four veterans have been tested like they've never been tested before and have had to respond in a way they've never responded.
Whether it's emerging from their respective slumps, meeting with coaches, or simply understanding the appropriate ways to communicate with the youngsters, FSU could be better in the long run because of these experiences.
And there's still plenty of time to accomplish each of those tasks.
"I'm looking at the season like right now we are 0-0," Miller said. "[Wednesday's game] is a fresh start; a new season."