Hamilton: ACC shadows can motivate
Even as reigning ACC champs, expect FSU to be underdog again
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Leonard Hamilton has been around long enough to know how things work this time of year.
Around the country, talk doesn't turn to college basketball often, and when it does, his Florida State Seminoles are but a afterthought.
Duke and North Carolina and perhaps even N.C. State can generate a little offseason buzz, and when those preseason rankings begin to trickle in, it will be those teams playing the roles of favorites in the ACC.
That's how it always starts, Hamilton said. Tradition quickly overshadows all else this time of year, and so the talk of the college basketball landscape remains those established blue bloods of the conference.
"If you look at our track record over the last six or seven years, we've been pretty good," Hamilton said. "We've been moving this thing along but we still have not captivated the imagination of the people who have that conversation."
Of course, that might be starting to change, Hamilton said.
The Seminoles have made it to the NCAA tournament four straight seasons. Two years ago, Hamilton's crew made it to the Sweet 16. Last season, FSU followed an ACC championship with a first-round win in the tournament, too. And Seminoles have been noticeable in the last two NBA drafts: Chris Singleton taken 18th overall in 2011, Bernard James 33rd this year.
The Seminoles aren't exactly pushing their established ACC brethren off center stage, but it's a start.
"Tradition has been set for 50 years, so sometimes it's hard for the Florida States of the world to break into that talk because you've got to do it consistently over and over and over," Hamilton said.
Maintaining that consistency this season, however, will require some big contributions from some new faces.
With summer classes getting under way this week, FSU's coaching staff can finally begin spending a bit of time working with players -- just two hours per week, according to NCAA rules -- and laying the groundwork for the 2012-13 season after losing six seniors off last year's conference championship team.
"We'd love to have a lot more than that, but at least it gives us a chance to spend a little bit more time with them and give them a little bit more direction," Hamilton said.
The few hours spent on the court this summer won't offer Hamilton's staff time to do much beyond teaching some basic drills and laying a groundwork for the system FSU plans to run, but every hour is valuable given the early work his incoming class is likely to provide.
"We're probably going to need our younger players to be a little more ready than maybe some of the teams in the past," Hamilton said. "Sometimes we've been able to bring them along slower, but I'm not real sure we're going to have the luxury this year of bringing them along too slow."
Hamilton called this class "underrated," but he's already begun touting their versatility. Robert Gilchrist is a 6-foot-8 power forward, but he's also a solid jump shooter. Boris Bojanovsky is a towering 7-foot-3, but like so many European players, he understands a finesse game, too.
Forward Montay Brandon has grown three to four inches since his junior year in high school, Hamilton said, so he's got the size of a big man and the skills of a perimeter player.
For Hamilton, it's all about having options.
"There were some things last year I don't think we were quite as prepared for," Hamilton said. "When we played people who wanted to play smaller or wanted to slow the clock down, I'm not real sure we were quite ready for those types of things. What we've done with the team now is tried to continue the theme of being as versatile as possible."
It won't be just the new faces adding to the mix though.
Center Kiel Turpin added 20 pounds during a redshirt season last year and Hamilton's excited about his prospects this season.
Forward Okaro White saw his role increase last year, and his production followed. Hamilton sees more playing time in store this season.
And then there's forward Terrance Shannon, who showed flashes of potential in seven games last year before going down with a shoulder injury that ended his season. Hamilton said Shannon's recovery has been a smooth one.
"I'm not sure he's 100 percent but he's awful close," Hamilton said. "He's able to do everything. I don't think he's having any symptoms from the injury. He's about full go." Shannon and White and Brandon and Gilchrist aren't enough to set the college basketball landscape abuzz this time of year, but Hamilton is excited.
There's something fun about entering every season in the shadows of the ACC's establishment. It's a motivator.
But it's the end of the season Hamilton really cares about, and he's already thinking big.
"We've got to keep having a little bit more success," he said. "Going to the NCAA tournament is what we expect to do, but we've got to keep moving on up. We're the reigning ACC champs, so what are we going to do with that? That's the challenge."