December 15, 2012

FSU attempting annual climb out of early-season hole

They've been here before, the Seminole veterans.

Names like Okaro White, Michael Snaer and Terrance Shannon have been mentioned in the early months of basketball seasons past, and not necessarily for good reasons. Whether by coincidence, habit, or something in between, Florida State basketball has left many scratching their heads in December and January, only to turn it around in a drastic way by the time March rolls around.

And whether or not there is concern in the locker room, that's exactly what the veterans are drawing on after three straight losses.

White, now a junior, pointed to Florida State's 9-6 start to his sophomore season, a start that included consecutive losses to Harvard, Connecticut and Michigan State. Florida State then lost weeks later to Princeton and was embarrassed on the road at Clemson before putting an ACC title run together.

"So we're just trying to tell the young guys that even with the veteran team we had last year, we were in a funk and we're basically in that same spot again," White said after Wednesday's 72-47 loss to Florida. "But we can fight back out of it like last year."

But in 2012-13, if this Seminole team is going to make a similar type of run, the wins will certainly come in different fashion.

Although the roster is comprised of three players at seven feet or taller, inexperience dictates that there won't be a similar type of paint presence provided as in years with bigs Bernard James, Solomon Alabi and Xavier Gibson. In fact, the last two Seminole opponents of note - Minnesota and Florida - shot a combined 48.1-percent from the field, outlandish numbers for a program that has routinely held opponents under 40-percent for a full season.

"We've just got to play through it," Hamilton said Wednesday night. "And in the meantime, we've got to find that magic level to play up to our potential. We would be satisfied with that."

What exactly is the Seminoles' potential? After guard Ian Miller was declared out for at least a week with a nagging bone bruise in his foot, there are available on-court minutes for the younger players. Point guards Devon Bookert, Montay Brandon and shooting guard Aaron Thomas all showed flashes of offensive brilliance in Brooklyn earlier this season, but have been nonexistent since.

Although Hamilton admitted on Friday that there should not be as much pressure on the younger Seminoles to produce now, it appears that's exactly the task at hand.

"This is a new challenge for us, there's no question," said Hamilton. "I'm just looking back and I'm trying to figure out why I didn't realize, or why we didn't make some adjustments not to have so many first year players on one team that we're depending on. I think that that's kind of the nature sometimes of building programs."

Whether it's the senior Snaer or the younger guns, the Seminoles begin another annual attempt to climb up the hill Sunday against the 3-5 Maine Black Bears (4 p.m. on ESPNU) before an eight-day layoff.

"I still like this team and I like the potential we have," Hamilton said. "The growing pains are somewhat painful right now, but… the thing we have to do is keep trying to maintain some level of patience, but still hold them accountable and keep demanding that we work hard enough to get better."

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