The ACC Men’s Basketball Tip-Off was today in Charlotte, North Carolina, and NoleGameday's Austin Veazey was given access for the press conference and breakout interviews to listen to Head Coach Leonard Hamilton, and players Anthony Polite and Malik Osborne.
Coach Leonard Hamilton
Coach Hamilton was asked plenty of questions about Roy Williams stepping down at UNC and this being Coach K’s last year at Duke. He laughed at the transition into the elder statesman role in the ACC, before someone said “getting old isn’t fun” to which his reply was “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m 25.” He still expects Duke and UNC to uphold their usual spot in the standings no matter the coach.
On FSU’s national recognition: “We don’t really worry much about respect, respect is something you earn… We’re not going anywhere.”
On actually having an off-season this year compared to last year’s COVID year: “Important, we’re able to get consistent reps with the new guys… I felt at times we were sputtering last year.” This quote speaks volumes to me, as FSU had the 16th most efficient offense last season. So if that is sputtering, firing on all cylinders must be one heck of a show.
On Houston transfer Caleb Mills: “He’s a much more complete player than I anticipated. Everyone talks about him as just a bucket-getter, but he can get others involved and defend at a high level.”
On Kentucky Transfer Cam’Ron Fletcher: “Has great energy, wants to learn, very coachable… is going to be a tremendous defender.” The “very coachable part” should ease concerns about how his lone season at Kentucky went. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Fletcher so far.
On switching 1-5 on defense: “It’s who we are, it’s not a decision. That is our system and we are going to stick with it. We ask a lot out of our bigs to go guard on the perimeter, but our length and size across the board make things difficult for our opponents.”
On former walk-on Justin Lindner receiving a scholarship for his sixth season:
Hamilton was quick to note FSU’s success despite the national recognition, noting their 25 straight home ACC wins, 1 away from tying the ACC record, three straight Sweet 16s, and 11 consecutive OT wins.
Osborne is not shy, he’s a great guy that gives very thoughtful answers.
On his summer: “It was good, was able to go back home and relax a little after a long season, but got to work on my game a lot too.”
On what he worked on: “Focused on my mid-range game, and my overall skillset really. I want to be a more disruptive player defensively.”
On where he’s expecting to play this season: “I’ll probably start at the 4, but because of my experience playing the 5 in conference play, in the ACC tournament, and in the NCAA tournament, I know I’ll play some 5 as well. We’ll be able to switch 1-5 and do it well.”
On Lindner getting a scholarship: “Man it was awesome, he’s someone that’s like another coach to us but is a brother too. When Coach said he had an extra scholarship, I was begging for him to give it to Justin, he deserves it.”
On the new players: “I love everyone’s versatility and length, everyone will be able to defend 1-5 and play the perimeter.” Then on freshman John Butler, specifically: “has so much potential. Can shoot it well, put it on the floor, block shots… he’s going to be one of the best players in the league in a season or two.”
On if there’s anyone flying under the radar: “We all fly under the radar. Everyone at Florida State is slept on.” He then went on to mention RayQuan Evans as a guy to keep an eye on.
On what he can learn from seniors in the past like Trent Forrest and Terance Mann as he steps into that role: “How to bring all the new guys along. It’s a long season, and guys might struggle. I struggled a lot my first two seasons but those guys were able to pick me up, and that’s something I want to have.”
On Matthew Cleveland, Caleb Mills, and Jalen Warley entering the program on the perimeter: “They’re all guys that want to learn and want to get better. Consistently in the gym and getting up shots.”
On what he has to do to take that next step: “Just focus on all of the little things really, I think I can take my defense to the next level.” He has already been one of FSU’s best defenders, if he does take that next step, watch out.
On how this team compares to years past: “We’re going to be able to defend at a really high level, and anyone is going to be able to get a bucket. We should be one of those teams that they can’t look at a scouting report of us and say ‘if we stop this guy, we’ll win’. We take pride in that”
The consistent theme is these guys are ready to get back after it and contend in the ACC again. All of the new guys are fitting in really well, and the returners are eager to teach the younger group. Coach Hamilton was making his usual rounds, talking to everyone and giving everyone thoughtful answers, as he usually does. Polite and Osborne are both great representatives of Florida State University, guys that can lead both on the court and off the court.
We’ll have our next season preview article in the coming days about the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s team, with an ACC Preview and schedule review in the coming weeks.