Hoop It UP

While rival Florida and several other elite college basketball programs began preseason practice with Midnight Madness extravaganzas, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton was getting a few extra hours of sleep. The Seminoles got their long-awaited start at 9 a.m. sharp this morning, officially beginning another season that they hope will help vault them further into national significance.

"I'm not real sure I would want a Midnight Madness," said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, who enters his third year on the FSU bench.

"It's something we have talked about. Right now were more concerned with trying to become a better basketball team each and every day." FSU finished 19-14 last season, fading down the stretch with several critical losses after an explosive start.

Though the Seminoles were passed over by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, they did advance to the second round of the NIT with a dramatic double overtime victory at Wichita State.

"That was about politics," said sophomore center Alexander Johnson of the NCAA snub.

"We were is good as anybody. We've got the tools to make a run this year."

Gone are guards Nate Johnson and Tim Pickett, the backcourt duo who started as a pair in every game in Hamilton's first two seasons except one. Both play now as professionals – Pickett for New Orleans Hornets and Johnson for a European team in Slovenia.

Replacing them in the lineup will be Todd Galloway and Von Wafer while newcomers Ryan Mims, Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich will be called upon immediately to bolster backcourt depth. Galloway figures to run the point while Wafer has assumed Pickett's No. 22 and shooting guard spot.

It remains to be seen who fill provide the vocal leadership that was lost the day the energetic Pickett and court-savvy Johnson graduated.

Senior forwards Adam Waleskowski and Anthony Richardson – two of six Seminoles with starting experience – figure to be the most likely candidates.

"I'm not necessarily out looking for someone in particular to assume that role," Hamilton said. "I think that leaders emerge out on the court. Someone will step up to the plate."

Where their experience lacks, FSU will make up in additional depth this season. Diego Romero and Antonio Griffin also enter the fold after separate inquires into their eligibility shelved them in 2003-04.

The pair – along with Wafer and Johnson – was part of Hamilton's top-ranked 2003 recruiting class, according to several services.

The Seminoles open their season Nov. 19 at home against Texas Southern.


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