Coach Hamilton hopeful Florida State can win by committee
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has often said the past two seasons that the Seminoles need to be a team that wins by committee.
This squad should fit Hamilton’s philosophy.
The Seminoles return only one starter from a team that finished 26-9 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.
Florida State does have six players back who averaged 10 or more minutes a game last season. Leading the way is 6-foot-6 junior guard Terence Mann, who averaged 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in starting 34 games.
It also has a recruiting class that was ranked among the top 15 for the third straight season headlined by one of the nation’s top high school shooting guards in M.J. Walker.
Despite the departures of Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes — who all averaged in double figures last season — the Seminoles were picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason poll. If they can fulfill those predictions, then consecutive NCAA appearances for the first time since 2012 are likely.
“Last season we were a team that took advantage of our talents. This year we are going to need to be smarter, execute better and move the ball better,” Hamilton said.
Some other things to know about Florida State, which opens the season Nov. 14 against George Washington:
SAME STYLE: Florida State will continue to run an up-tempo style because it suits its roster of versatile perimeter players. The Seminoles averaged 82.1 points, which was tied for 17th in the nation and was the most by a Hamilton squad. “Our system is intact but we have to be more effective,” Hamilton said. “I expect us to be more efficient in transition but we should be a better free throw and perimeter shooting team.” Converting free throws has been a big emphasis for Hamilton after the Seminoles shot just 68.9 percent from the line last season.
FLOOR LEADER: The Seminoles are likely to go with three guards on the floor most of the time as Mann can either play the point or be a shooting guard. He has shot 57.9 percent from the field in his first two seasons, which is seventh in school history. CJ Walker, a 6-1 sophomore who averaged 12.5 minutes and scored in double figures three times last season, will also see team at the point.
IMPROVING THE PERIMETER: Florida State was 14th in the ACC in 3-point shooting last season, making just 34.7 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. That percentage though could go up with two players seeing additional playing time. PJ Savoy, a 6-4 junior guard, had 47 field goals last season with all but seven being 3-pointers. Senior Braian Angola led the team in 3-point percentage at 42 percent (21 of 50) as he vies for a starting spot.
NEW ADDITIONS: M.J. Walker is the second McDonald’s All-American to attend Florida State the past three seasons and gave Hamilton a five-star recruit for the third straight season. He had 17 points in the Seminoles’ first exhibition game, a 116-68 win over Central Missouri on Oct. 26, but Hamilton isn’t ready yet to pencil him into the lineup. Seven-footer Ikey Obiagu is raw on the offensive end, but he could end up leading the team in blocked shots.
STRONG RESEMBLANCE: Redshirt freshman Mfiondu Kabengele is the nephew of Basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo. After dropping 20 pounds since FSU’s August trip to Jamaica, the 6-9 forward has shown his strength as a rebounder and shot blocker. “He’s improved his ball-handling, passing, and more than anything else, he has improved his understanding of how to play,” Hamilton said.
More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/joereedy