Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton
"Well we played another typical ACC, down to the wire game against a very good, very well prepared Georgia Tech team yesterday. We made one play more than they did that gave us a chance to win the game. That seems to once again be the way a lot of games are ending up in the ACC where they are so closely played that every possession becomes so important. We were just very fortunate to have one better possession than Georgia Tech did. That gave us a chance to win."
Q: Can you talk about Chris Singleton's unique skills as a defender?
Hamilton: Well what Chris is doing is kind of learning as he goes. Chris obviously played in the post position in high school and we have given him the opportunity to develop his skills on the perimeter. He is athletic, he plays hard, and he is long, so he has used his god-given talent to the best of his abilities to block shots and break on the ball but now his skills seem to be developing, coming along. He brings a unique skillset to our team as he improves his ball-handling and passing skills. He is a really good perimeter shooter, he has just not been hitting his shots as consistently as we would like him to in games. We are encouraging him now to continue to be aggressive offensively. He is gaining confidence. He is really stepping it up and making major contributions. The unique thing about Chris is that even when he is not scoring or not shooting well for us, he has had an impact on the games we have won when he had not had particularly good offensive numbers.
Q: Do you know what his defensive assignment will be for Wednesday night at Duke?
Hamilton: Not really because we do a lot of switching. I am not real sure it makes that much difference who he guards because I imagine he will end up guarding all three of the perimeter players because we normally switch in certain situations. So I imagine he will be assigned to someone particular at the beginning of the game but during the course of the game that changes.
Q: Chris is such an unselfish kid on offense, but on Sunday he took 16 shots which is a career-high for him, did you guys talk to him at all about being more aggressive?
Hamilton: No, what we have tried to get him to do, I think that is such a great asset to have a kid with his talent who plays the game the right way. He is not forcing shots, he is taking open looks, he is conscientious about being a good team member. Now, I want him to be more aggressive but I want it to come in a natural form. Sometimes you can get a kid being more overly aggressive but I have tremendous confidence in Chris that as his game matures, he will be more comfortable with being more assertive. I believe that he has found that is what we need him to do. We have talked to him about attacking the basket, pull-up jumpers, and taking the standing jump shots, which would give him the skills we believe he needs in order to be successful. So we are telling him to be aggressive, attack the basket and make good decisions with the ball, and that is what he is doing.
Q: In the two games against Georgia Tech, you guys have held Gani Lawal to nine points. I am just wondering what the key was to slowing him down?
Hamilton: To be very honest with you, even though he has not scored as well as he normally does against us, we didn't go into the game with any particularly different type of gameplan than we do normally with our regular, normal defensive philosophies. We have tremendous amount of respect for him and I think our players were highly motivated as a result of the respect we have for him but we didn't do anything any different than we normally do each night out. I think it was just one of those games where neither one of our inside guys - I think we kind of neutralized each other is what I guess I am trying to say. Solomon (Alabi) only had six shots, and (Lawal) didn't have very many, because I think they defended each other very well.
Q: Without naming the teams, what is the gap between the best ACC team you have played and the worst ACC team you have played so far?
Hamilton: I don't mind saying this and I am not trying to, I think every coach in the league would probably say basically the same thing, I think right now Duke is playing probably the best basketball, in terms of consistency and getting the most out of what they have. The league is competitive. I am not trying to say that because we are facing them, I believe that. I think that obviously North Carolina is a young team, and most young teams will have their good days and bad days, but they are very, very talented. I think Maryland is playing very, very good basketball because they have three or four seniors who are experienced and who can understand and relate. They have a great feel for one another. We have been a little inconsistent. We are still basically a sophomore and freshman team. But I feel that if we can continue to keep improving while we are developing and learn, I think we can be a much better team in February than we have been. I do believe, to answer your question, there is not as much of a gap between one and twelve as there has been in the past. I believe that this is because we have one, two, or three great, I don't want to say dominant, but teams with great tradition that have kind of spearheaded the recognition that our conference has received over the last decade, they have gotten so much positive recognition and people have identified the ACC because of the success that Maryland, North Carolina, Duke, and even Wake Forest have had, that programs like Florida State, Clemson, and now Virginia and Virginia Tech, and Boston College who has been successful, and Miami - we are able to attract better players. A lot of players want to now go in and compete against these programs are perennial powers. I think that the league is getting stronger and better. I hope that we don't get to the point where we think because we are beating up on each other that that is bad, I think that is good. It makes it more exciting every night out because anything is capable of happening and the games are very close and competitive. I think that is just going to make our league even better and once we get into the NCAA Tournament we are going to be even better prepared. As we move through this period of development as a league, I think it is kind of a new day so to speak in the ACC. That is not a negative and I am not saying that teams that have been perennial powers are not as good, I am saying that with what they have done have allowed the Florida State's of the world to elevate their programs to the point where now we have now narrowed that gap because of the success that the traditional programs have had.
Q: With an experienced senior like Toney Douglas now gone, your team has had some big wins this season defeating Georgia Tech twice, Alabama, and Marquette - how has that transformation gone for your team with losing him and seeing some of the other players step up into some leadership roles?
Hamilton: Toney was a fifth-year senior, he was extremely mature, he understood how to practice, he understood how to prepare for each game, and I thought he passed a lot of that with the games throughout the year along to some of the players. We are not anywhere near as close to being as experienced, we don't have anybody with that experience. Ryan Reid is our only senior, Jordan DeMercy is only a junior. Solomon is in his third year but he redshirted because of an injury, so we are still basically a young team trying to find our way. We don't have the identifiable go-to guy and I knew going into the season that we were going to have to win games by committee. Sometimes our go-to guy is the guy with the best shot. We have had to make that adjustment by just moving the ball and having good shot selection and making sure that we have the best opportunity with the best match-up available for us to take advantage of.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Krzyzewski: I think they are one of the outstanding defensive teams in the country. Leonard has just done that every year with his team. Leonard's teams are very, very sound defensively. This team has not just shot blocking, but they have incredible length. When you think of (Chris) Singleton being on the perimeter, you have one of the perimeter players in your conference being one of the leading shot blockers and steals leaders to go along with Alabi. They are very difficult to score against in the halfcourt.