Hamilton and the Seminoles continue to make an impressive impact in recruiting when Alexander Johnson, ranked among the top available players in the nation, signed with the Seminoles Wednesday. Johnson, from Albany, Ga., made his decision only one day before the official close of the NCAA's spring signing period that ends today. Johnson made a point to say that Hamilton proved to be the difference in his decision.
"He's a good coach, and I like the guys that he's got coming in," Johnson told The Tallahassee Democrat. "I think I can give good help to them for next season. They're the ones that were the main thing. The coach played a big role in it. And then with the guys he signed, that played another role."
Johnson becomes the fourth member of one of the nation's top recruiting classes at FSU. The class also currently includes Vaketon Wafer, a Parade-All-American third-team selection from Lisbon, La., Diego Romero from Lon Morris College in Texas and Antonio Griffin from Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.
In a morning news conference with The Territory and other media members Thurday, Hamilton talked about Johnson's signing as well as his program's progress.
"Obviously excited about the announcement yesterday with Alexander," Hamilton said.
"He's the type of youngster that we like to have in what we call in our post situation. Like I told you at the start of the year, I really like to play with only one true position at the point guard. I like all my other positions to be interchangeable so that we can create scenarios during the course of the game that might create certain mismatches for guys who have certain strength and weaknesses. And he's a guy who is versatile enough that he can play at the high post, play in the low post, pick and pop on the wing, step in the short corner. He's versatile enough that I think it gives us an opportunity to utilize our offense a little better."
Johnson signed with Georgia before his senior season at Dougherty High School in Albany, but didn't qualify academically. He chose the Seminoles over Cincinnati, Indiana and Connecticut. He spent the past season at Brigton Academy in Maine, where he averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds.
FSU's recruiting class was ranked between fourth and 13th in the nation before Johnson decided to stay close to home.
Wafer, the ultra-smooth 6-5 wing who averaged 26 points at Heritage Christian Academy in Cleveland, Texas, earned second-team All-America honors from Parade magazine. Romero (6-10) garnered first-team All-America juco honors in the preseason from Street & Smith's magazine. He averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds at Lon Morris (Texas) College. Griffin (6-6) averaged 14.7 points and 7.4 rebounds at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. Hamilton is excited about the group's potential.
"He's a multitalented youngster that can step out and post up and pass and catch and those are the type of players we like to have in the post," Hamilton said of Romero.
"Von Wafer and Antonio Griffin are both multitalented youngsters. They are athletic, they are slashers, they are shooters, they are scorers and quick enough to defend We are moving closer to getting the type of guys in our system who will be versatile enough where we can utilize the philosophy that we have just a little better.
"As we look toward the upcoming season, I think it's going to be interesting. ... I think the biggest area we have to adjust to is ourselves, our competitiveness in practice and how we adjust to those type of challenges. We are still cognizance to the fact that as much improvement we made last year we finished ninth in the league. We are narrowing the gap a little but when you look back at the quality of the people that finished ahead of us, they are extremely talented as well and they are coming back with a lot of great players. I am comfortable we are moving in the right direction but we still have a lot of work in ahead of us before we can realize our dream. Just because we've had a better recruiting class and we are getting some depth, we still now have to go out and put this thing together and become a well-oiled machine."
Hamilton says for that to happen, the Seminoles must continue to improve during the offseason – not to mention carry that momentum into next year. He believes FSU's recruiting class will help erase obvious weaknesses.
"As far as the recruiting class is concerned, we tried to address our needs. I think you've seen that we played quite a few games close last year and depth was a real issue. Fatigue, I think, was a culprit in a lot of situations were we could play people fairly well for a long period of time," Hamilton said.
"But you would always see the other teams' third, fourth or fifth options step up at the end of games and make plays. We just didn't quite have the energy. We would play six-and-a-half, seven players most of the time and most of the time four or four of those guys got most of the minutes. I could see where towards the end of the season, we lost a little energy from a couple of our guys because they played so many extended minutes. Hopefully, with the addition of the new players coming in, that we will be able to play with a little more energy, keep our guys a little fresher.
"Maybe a litte more aggressively defensively, push the ball a little more, play with a little more reckless abandon on defense that we just couldn't do this year because we had to be a little more concerned with fouls and wasted enery. Sometimes you have to use an exceptional amount of energy to fatigue your opponent, but you can't do that when you are trying to play hard but conserve your energy and plus, knowing you have to finish the game against the calibre of competition that we are facing in our league. I do feel we have kind of improved in those areas."