Hoop It Up

First-year coach Leonard Hamilton admits his Florida State Seminoles have little room for error this season. "In order for us to win games, we've got to win them by committee," Hamilton said. "I think if we have enough pieces that if it's in-sync and working together, it could be more effective than what people might think." The Hamilton Era at FSU begins Sunday, when the Seminoles open against Savannah State at 1 p.m. at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.

First-year coach Leonard Hamilton admits his Florida State Seminoles have little room for error this season.

"In order for us to win games, we've got to win them by committee," Hamilton said. "I think if we have enough pieces that if it's in-sync and working together, it could be more effective than what people might think."

The Hamilton Era at FSU begins today, when the Seminoles open against Savannah State at 1 p.m. at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. FSU should get off to a nice start against an opponent that has produced just six victories over the past two seasons. The Seminoles contributed to Savannah State's 2-26 misery last year, cruising to a 93-41 win to match their most lopsided margin of victory since beating New Hampshire by 52 on Dec. 30, 1968.

One key to FSU's success will be conditioning, especially in Hamilton's up-tempo system that he continues to install. There's also less room for error since the Seminoles have only 10 players on scholarship.

"Most coaches will tell you even with an experienced team sometimes it's January before your offense really gets in sync," Hamilton said. "Now we have 15 guys learning a whole new system. So now you're put in a situation where you need to run more sets to compensate for what you can't do in your half-court offense in terms of motion because you're not ready, which takes away from teaching the motion. So it's kind of a Catch-22."

FSU's starting lineup will feature one returnee in forward Michael Joiner, who struggled in the Seminoles' two exhibition games. Junior college transfers Nate Johnson and Tim Pickett will make their debut for the Seminoles. Pickett averaged 28.5 points and five rebounds in FSU's two exhibitions, while Johnson split time with freshman Todd Galloway at the point and averaged 5.0 points and 5.5 assists.

The Seminoles' inside game lagged behind the guard play during the preseason, and the trio of Adam Waleskowski, Mike Mathews and Trevor Harvey are expected to rotate at the post. Forward Anthony Richardsom, a former McDonald's All-America, should be the first player off the bench for the Seminoles after averaging 26 minutes per game in the preseason.

Hamilton's last few years at Miami didn't feature many set plays. The Hurricanes knew their individual roles and the offensive philosophy. FSU is looking to do the same. The Seminoles also will be looking to improve on their defensive performance following an average preseason.

"Right now it's hard for us to get roles defined because they're still learning where to go," Hamilton said. "So we're in the infant stages of trying to develop a system. We can change the system, but that just prolongs the development of the system. You have to stay the course and can't allow yourself to get frustrated and second-guess yourself. We just have to keep doing what we're doing."

As for FSU's conditioning, Johnson said the Seminoles aren't supposed to be able to last long without help.

"Playing hard defense the whole time in this system, you shouldn't be able to go four or five minutes without at least a sub," Johnson said. "You can kind of tell when you've been giving your all. You can't really pace yourself because it will show on defense."


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