TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Florida State’s second exhibition game – a 104-76 victory over Valdosta State – in the books, coach Leonard Hamilton said his team isn’t quite ready for the regular season.
The good news is that the Seminoles don’t have to be. They’ve still got another eight days before they open the campaign against Charleston Southern on Nov. 12.
FSU showed flashes of brilliance on Thursday night, mixed in with some apparent room to grow. Hamilton, however, is pleased with his team’s potential, and he’s confident that the Seminoles can work out a few kinks between now and next Saturday.
“The things I’m most concerned with are things I think we can correct,” he said.
With that in mind, here are five observations from Thursday’s preseason finale:
1) Welcome, freshmen – Led by prep All-American Jonathan Isaac, the Seminoles welcomed in one of the most anticipated signing classes in school history for 2016-17. And it appears that the newcomers are fitting in just fine. Isaac scored 20 in just 19 minutes to lead FSU in scoring, and he chipped in from everywhere on the floor – he finished 8 of 12 from the floor with two 3-pointers and a pair of dunks. Isaac has impressive mobility for a player his size (6-foot-10, 210). He took the ball down the floor on more than one occasion and at one point went coast-to-coast before being fouled at the rim.
“He brings everything, man,” junior forward Phil Cofer said. “And one thing I know about Jon, he’s unselfish. He’s not one of the guys that’s like, ‘Oh, give me the ball, give me the ball.’ He wants to do defense first and get his guys open.”
2) Ojo 2.0 – For four years, Hamilton has been working to bring out the aggression in Michael Ojo’s game. Now a fifth-year senior, Ojo looks like he might be ready to play with a mean streak in the post. The big man, back in the lineup after a year recovering from a knee injury, played with an obvious energy on Thursday night, at one point bringing down a rebound and using his massive frame (7-1, 301 pounds) to clear a handful of Blazers out of his way. Ojo led the Seminoles with seven rebounds and also showed some authority near the basket with two rim-shaking dunks. Both are encouraging developments.
3) Going deep – Not only do the Seminoles have what seems to be a solid starting five – Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Terance Mann, Ojo and Isaac – but they’ve also got players who look like they can hold their own while the starters take a breather. That’s a luxury the Seminoles didn’t have a year ago, when injuries to Ojo and Cofer limited FSU to a nine-man rotation – and one without much of a post presence. On Thursday, though, Hamilton had put in 12 different players by the midway point of the first half. That includes Cofer, who continues to show no lingeringeffects from his foot ailment and at one point even knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers.
4) Mr. Swiss-Army Knife – Mann last year earned a reputation as one of the smartest and most versatile players on the roster, and he seems to have built on that foundation heading into his sophomore year. Mann did a little bit of everything on Thursday night – he scored seven points, grabbed six boards, and dished an assist while also pestering VSU on defense for much of the night. He’s the type of player who can give the Seminoles some of whatever they may be missing on any given night.
“That’s what I take pride in – doing everything,” Mann said. “Rebounding, passing, just being unselfish and then taking the shot when I have it.
5) Room to improve on defense – Hamilton said earlier this week that the team’s defense is still a work in progress and that was apparent on Thursday – especially from the perimeter. Although Valdosta State finished 9 of 25 from 3-point range, the Blazers started 4 of 6 from range and actually held a one-point lead midway through the first half. Although they ended up missing a good deal of them, the Blazers consistently found open shots on the perimeter and also turned 18 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points.
“We gave up too many uncontested shots and gave up some second shots,” Hamilton said. “But we’re capable, and I expect us to be a really good defensive team.”