- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There were days this summer when Leonard Hamilton would shuffle into his office not long after the sun came up, and he'd hear the familiar sounds of sneakers squeaking and balls clanging off a rim.
On the court, he'd find a slew of veterans and rookies, elder statesmen instructing the kids on how things are done and what's going to be expected of them this season.
It was music to Hamilton's ears.
"That speaks volumes," Hamilton said. "Whenever we have a workout, you look in the gym, and you have six freshmen out there with six different goals, working on their game. That gives you a feeling that attitudes are right and they understand the work ethic. Now what we have to do is make sure we're patient with them."
There is still a long road to travel before Florida State's reshuffled roster is clicking on all cylinders, Hamilton said, but as his team kicks off the 2012-13 season at 7 p.m. ET with Seminole Madness, some solace can be taken in knowing a sizable portion of the groundwork has been laid.
The defending ACC tournament champions lost a healthy dose of veteran talent from last season, but Hamilton thinks the influx of five freshmen and three transfers have infused plenty of talent onto the roster.
The group is led by big men Kiel Turpin, a 7-foot center who transferred from junior college last year before redshirting, and 7-1 forward Michael Ojo, who is raw but immensely talented.
The question now is, how quickly can Florida State turn all that potential into production?
"The thing we have to do as a staff is maintain a certain level of patience," Hamilton said. "You look and see the potential of how this team can develop, but when you put five on five, you realize that we still have a ways to go."
The development started early, however, and All-American Michael Snaer raves about the drive and determination of his new teammates. Hamilton said he has been impressed with how developed many already are, while junior Terrance Shannon called the newcomers a group of gym rats.
"They're like sponges," Shannon said. "They're always looking to learn."
When the members of last year's ACC title team got their championship rings during the FSU-Clemson football game last week, it marked something of a turning point in the program's history. It was, of course, a memento of the team's first conference championship, but more importantly, it served notice for what the expectations would be moving forward.
In the days that followed, the freshmen talked about little else. They got a chance to see the rings handed out, and now they wanted rings for themselves.
"That's the best thing about creating a culture, creating a tradition," Snaer said. "The next generation expects to do that and more. Hopefully that's where our program is going. I'm seeing great signs of that from our young guys."
The journey begins in earnest tonight, but Hamilton understands these first few weeks will simply be building blocks.
The goal of repeating as ACC champions won't be easy to achieve, and Hamilton has his sights set even higher. But the beauty of this season's team, he said, is that the work it will take to get there should be a pleasant chore.
"This is the type of challenge that as coaches, you look forward to," Hamilton said. "You have a group of returning players that are fairly mature and focused and hungry. They've passed that wisdom they've learned along to the new players."
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