TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) For the first time since coming to the United States, Florida State's Leticia Romero can focus on basketball.
''This year I am more concerned about what the team needs from me and am more established,'' Romero said. ''I am trying to talk more, communicate and lead from the point guard position along with leading more and getting more engaged. So far it is really good.''
Two years ago the guard from Las Palmas, Spain, was trying to adjust to a new country and language at Kansas State. When coach Deb Patterson was fired, Romero's future was in limbo when Kansas State originally denied her transfer request only to relent a couple months later.
At this time last season, Romero was running the scout team after transferring to Florida State. Romero thought she would have to sit out the entire season but the NCAA granted a hardship waiver in late December that made her eligible immediately.
In the 24 games she played, Romero averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Despite being out the first month, Romero still earned an honorable mention on The Associated Press All-America team.
Florida State was 20-4 in games that Romero played and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to South Carolina.
After being unranked at the start of last season, the Seminoles go into this year No. 7 in the preseason poll.
With Romero as one of five international players on the roster, the Seminoles should benefit from the rules changes to the women's game, which include four 10-minute quarters.
''The style is faster by nature so I would say it is more suited to me. You are going to see a lot of fast breaks and it is going to be a more physical game,'' Romero said. ''We're pretty confident about the changes. It's not that big of a change for most us.''
Coach Sue Semrau also thinks going to quarters could be a psychological advantage because players will see five minutes on the clock instead of 16 minutes at the first timeout.
''We have speed and it is important to play up-tempo. If we don't exploit teams with speed we are doing our team a disservice,'' Semrau said.
It could be a busy 12 months for Romero. Besides playing for Florida State, she is on Spain's national team roster and could be the first Florida State women's basketball player to participate in the Olympics if Spain qualifies for the Rio Games. Spain is third in the recent FIBA rankings.
''I'm trying not to focus on national team. It has always been a dream to get there (the Olympics) but I have so many challenges right now,'' she said.
Some other things to know about the Seminoles, who open the season on Monday at Florida:
TOUGH NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE: Besides Florida, the Seminoles have tough early games against Tulane, Rutgers, Connecticut and Arizona State. Semrau has been steadfast in stressing that her team has to be strong coming out of the gate.
STRONG STARTING GROUP: Besides Romero, Florida State has three other returning starters including Adut Bulgak, who received one vote on the AP's Preseason All-America team. The senior center led the team in scoring (12.3 points per game) and rebounds (9.3) last season. ''She can do some many things -- shoot the 3-pointer, roll to the basket and be a big post. It makes the defense focus on her all the time and gives us more freedom to make plays,'' said Romero of Bolgak. Forward Ivey Slaughter and guard Brittany Brown, who are juniors, are the other returning starters.
DEPTH CONCERNS: Florida State has only 10 players on the roster, meaning it will need to avoid injuries. Freshmen Maria Conde and Rachel Antoniadou are expected to contribute immediately.