Excitement Abounds

<b>Michael Joiner</b> can feel the difference. On the court, at school, around town. The Florida State Seminoles believe they can make a difference in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. "The buzz is definitely there," said Joiner, a senior who wants to rebound from last season's inconsistency and help turn the Seminoles' fortunes under second-year coach Leonard Hamilton.

"I've been around alumni who said they've already purchases season tickets. It's definitely a shock to me. It's a great feeling to have people start coming back from the dead and support us.'''

Hoop fans can catch their first glimpse of the Seminoles during Saturday's exhibition against Global Sports and the program's annual Fan Day at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. for pre-game activities with the game starting at 3:30 p.m. Players and coaches will be available afterwards for an autograph session.

FSU certainly wants to leave its mark following past struggles. Hamilton, of course, has offered players and fans genuine hope.

The Seminoles were picked to finish sixth in the preseason ACC media poll, its highest ranking since 1994. Hamilton welcomes a nice mix of veterans such as Joiner and All-ACC selection Tim Pickett with the nation's top recruiting class.

The highly-touted incoming class of Von Wafer, Alexander Johnson and Diego Romero and redshirt freshman Al Thornton should provide quality depth on a roster that was stretched to the limit last season.

Joiner, who struggled in Hamilton's motion system last season, says he feels rejuvenated entering his final season.

"I can actually say I feel like a sophomore out here, because it's my second year being with him (Hamilton)," Joiner said.

"But at the same time, classification wise I'm a senior. Time has come quicker than I thought. Coach Ham, he expects a lot out of us, which I'm not surprised, because he treats us like men. He gets us ready for life off the court as much as on the court.

"I think everyone on the team is focused. It's a competitive year for all of us. I wouldn't say there's a spot guaranteed for anybody on the team, because we have a lot of new guys that can really play the game and can maybe start for any other college in America. So we are really on our toes."

While supplies last Saturday, FSU will give away men's basketball posters to fans. A limited amount of T-shirts will also be given away. Prior to the exhibition, there will be games for kids of all ages and the events' primary sponsor, Fox 49, will host on-court contests during halftime. The first 700 fans will be given a coupon for a free hot dog and drink.

Once again the Seminoles enter the season with legitimate expectations.

"Even when I walk around the mall, around shops, around town, people know who you are," center Mike Mathews said.

"When I first got here it wasn't like that. Everybody is excited about the coming season, ready to see Florida State basketball come up. We're just trying to create an identity, something to show we're going to commit to excellence every time we step out on the court."

Added Picket, who is more interested in stressing results: "All that hype over preseason poll really doesn't mean much to me, because nobody can tell the future. With me, we just want to bear down every game. I only see plusses for this team...good things. I don't look too much beyond that to anything like the NIT or NCAA. It's going to happen when it happens. I'm just happy we have fans that can't wait for the season to start."

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