For years, Michael Snaer searched for his swagger.
The Moreno Valley, Calif., native used that bravado to elevate his game in high school and earn multiple scholarship offers (Snaer, class of 2009, was rated No. 22 overall by RecruitingNation). The fearlessness fueled the buzz surrounding the Florida State guard’s arrival three years ago.
Although he averaged 14.0 ppg, made 40 percent of his 3-pointers and hit a pair of game-winners last season, Snaer said he questioned his potential in his first three seasons.
But the confidence he lost has returned, he said, thanks to a pair of standout performances at this summer’s LeBron James and Kevin Durant skills academies.
“I’ve been believing in myself and now, I’m at a point now, I feel like if I’m not the best, I’m one of the best 2-guards in the country,” Snaer told ESPN.com. “I strongly feel that way. I’ve been up against all the guys at [LeBron’s camp], where you see all the guys at your position. I really feel that, in my mind, if I’m not the best, I’m one of the best. I can’t be guarded.”
Snaer said he reached that conclusion after competing against some of the top college players in the country and pros, such as former Syracuse star Dion Waiters, in the offseason. The 6-foot-5 wing, who earned All-ACC second-team honors and cracked the league’s all-defensive team last season, said those battles proved he’s the best shooting guard in America.
“[At LeBron’s camp], I think we did one-on-one drills one time. I just straight destroyed people. So I mean, at that moment, I just knew, in my opinion, I’m the best guard in the country, the best 2-guard in the country, in my opinion,” Snaer said. “Any guy would say that of course. But, like I said, you ask any of the guys that were down there [in] that drill with me and who laced up and went against me -- I can give you references if you want -- but they’ll tell you, ‘Yeah, I couldn’t guard him and nobody down there could.’ And that’s the bottom line.”
Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton, who lost Bernard James (10.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and five other seniors, signed six recruits for the 2012-13 season.
James, who served three tours in Iraq, was praised nationally for his leadership. Snaer said he can’t fill that void alone. But he accepts the role. His first step: advising the team’s young players to keep their heads up as they adapt to the collegiate game, something he struggled with his freshman season.
“I was trying to be a team guy and in the midst of all that I kind of lost that swagger on the court, that cockiness you’ve got to have in-between the lines,” Snaer said. “I wanted to come in and be just a sponge and I wanted to humble myself. I kind of humbled myself a little too much. It was a just learning experience for me. I’m glad I had to go through that. Now I know you’ve always got to keep that confidence on the court. You’ve always got to believe in your skills.”
He showed few signs of doubt last year when he hit game-winners against Duke and Virginia Tech. The latter secured the Seminoles’ spot in the ACC’s tie for first place. The squad eventually lost in the third round of the NCAA tournament. But as they endured a 4-6 stretch that started in late November, few expected the turnaround that pushed the program to the top of the ACC.
Snaer said the team enjoyed the “underdog” tag last year. And he said he wouldn’t be surprised if folks questioned its potential again, especially with so many newcomers in the mix.
If the new guys mimic Snaer, however, they certainly won’t lack poise.
Snaer said he accepts any challenges from those that question his statements about his talent.
“Anybody wants to prove me otherwise, come get it,” Snaer said. “I don’t fear nobody, especially on that court. … Anybody can come get it if they want it. That’s how I feel.”