Florida State's Hamilton pleased with early practices
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) With Florida State's men's basketball team a week into preseason practices, coach Leonard Hamilton realizes that expectations are high.
The Seminoles haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2012, but they have what is expected to be one of the nation's top freshmen classes for the second straight season.
''We're trying to tailor our system to who we are. We can be a real good defensive team and be able to create more on offense,'' Hamilton said Friday following the annual ''Jam with Ham'' public practice. ''I'm excited about where we are.''
The newcomers are led by five-star 6-foot-10 forward Jonathan Isaac, who is expected to be one of the top freshmen in college basketball. Isaac has the size to be physical in the paint but also has enough quickness and shooting ability to play on the perimeter.
The Seminoles have a talented duo of four-star guards in point guard Trent Forrest and shooting guard CJ Walker.
''All of the newcomers have done a nice job so far,'' Hamilton said. ''The thing that has surprised me is I thought we would be struggling from the perimeter, but we have shot well so far.''
FSU has a talented nucleus returning despite Malik Beasley leaving after one season for the NBA draft. Dwayne Bacon led the team in scoring (15.8 points) and rebounding (5.8). Xavier Rathan-Mayes was third in the ACC in assists but saw his scoring average drop to 11.8 points.
Hamilton is more encouraged over the return of senior center Michael Ojo and sophomore forward Phil Cofer. Ojo missed all of last season due to a knee injury and Cofer played in only 11 games before having surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle.
The Seminoles started last season 10-2 but faltered and lost five straight in February during the second half of Atlantic Coast Conference play to see their NCAA hopes dashed. They advanced to the second round of the NIT and finished 20-14.
With the mix of youth and experience, many have put the Seminoles as a team to watch in preseason polls. Hamilton, who received a two-year contract extension in February, is happy about the recognition but guarded about expectations.
''It says a lot about the overall respect that people have for our program on a national basis,'' Hamilton said. ''The fact we are in the conversation we have to use as a motivator. We've got to go out and earn the right to be in this position and move up higher.''