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November 14, 2011
It was some of the most intense and physically demanding matchups that Florida State center Bernard James can remember. There was plenty of sweat, arguing - sometimes even some shoving and pushing.
No, James isn't referring to FSU's games played in the NCAA tournament, but rather pickup games between teammates in Tallahassee over the summer.
"We would just go at each other like we didn't even know each other," James said. "There was pushing, all that good stuff. I think we've had a lot of experience being really physical this summer so when the season comes around and guys are a little less physical we won't have any problems dealing with it."
Florida State (1-0) hopes that translates in the early season as it cranks up regular season play with Central Florida tonight. Ranked in the top 25 in the AP poll (25) and the Coaches' poll (24) released Monday, FSU will tip off at 7 p.m. ET at the Donald L. Tucker Cetner.
In the offseason, the team would work out for an hour or so before playing intense pick-up games or one-on-one king of the court tournaments. While they were on the court sometimes things would get a little heated between the teammates.
"We had our arguments, but we would go to the locker room and everything is fine again," senior guard Deividas Dulkys said. "It was competitive, it was very good."
Head coach Leonard Hamilton and his staff are not allowed to watch the summer pickup games, but he said all the players told him they felt each workout would pay dividends once the season gets into full swing. He said that losing by just one point to Virginia Commonwealth in the Sweet 16 helped motivate the players in the offseason.
"We ended somewhat on a positive note," Hamilton said of last season. "But the realization that we could have played a little bit better, could have gone a little bit farther is one of the reasons why the guys came back and worked so hard in the spring and the summer."
Junior guard Michael Snaer agreed with Hamilton, saying the team was proud of the run they made, but felt they could have gone further. Knowing how close they were only made Snaer and his teammates work harder over the summer.
"This summer we really took it to heart that we lost the way we did and we noticed throughout the season we didn't really take it seriously and we didn't believe from the beginning," he said before this season. "This year we want to show that we believe from the beginning, so we put a lot a lot of work into our individual skills, because we know one shot could have made the difference (against VCU)."
While the pickup games served as a way for the players to improve on their skills individually, it was also a chance for the team to work on its chemistry. The games gave freshman Terry Whisnant and Antwan Space, as well as transfers Jeff Peterson and Kiel Turpin the opportunity get accustomed to their new teammates.
"It was really important to get them in here and get accustomed to how we play and get used to the players," said Snaer, who scored 16 points in the season-opening 79-67 win over Jacksonville University last week. "Just get them used to the team chemistry, used to us in general just with our personalities and temperaments."
After stints at Iowa and Arkansas there was no time to waste for Peterson who has just one year of eligibility left. Once he signed with FSU he immediately came to Tallahassee to watch tape of his teammates and jump in their offseason pickup games.
Peterson said the fact that he is one of six seniors on the Seminoles' roster contributed to the urgency of the offseason workouts.
"For six of us this our last go round, so everybody is just trying to leave it out on the floor," he said. "Whether it's pickup, or we're competing in the weight room or conditioning or anything like that so it's been very competitive."
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