For the second year in a row, fans have a chance to get their first glimpse of Florida State's men's basketball team at the "Jam with Coach Ham" on Friday night. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Tully Gymnasium on campus.
The event is free and features three-point and slam dunk contests and an open scrimmage and will also include FSU's cheerleaders and the Golden Girls. There will be free pizza and t-shirts and chances to win prizes that include iPods, cash and free rent. The players will also sign autographs at 8.
"Any time you have a chance to start the season off with a bang you like to," said Leonard Hamilton, who enters his ninth year as FSU's head coach. "I'm not really sure you'll see a whole lot of defense being played. This might be like the Globetrotters against the Generals, but this gives our fans an opportunity to be introduced to our players. We'll shoot some 3s, have a little slam dunk contest and ham it up a little bit. I think this year we are doing a little dance routine with the dancers. I think the (players) are just excited to be out there with the fans."
Expectations are higher than perhaps ever before in Hamilton's tenure as four starters, including the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, junior forward Chris Singleton, and several key reserves return from a team that finished tied for third in the ACC and earned a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since the early 1990s.
The Seminoles lost two big men, second-round draft picks Solomon Alabi and Ryan Reid, but Hamilton firmly believes his team is going to improve in several areas.
"To be honest, I think you will see that every one of our returning players have made tremendous strides," he said. "I'm not just saying that as a cliche. I think they have all worked on their weaknesses over the spring and summer. We recognized our shortcomings and they have tried to improve in those areas we were not very efficient in last year. You see will much better ball handling and passing. I think you are going to see better perimeter shooting. I think you'll see better free throw shooting. I think you'll see better decision making. "
This will also be fans first chance to see three newcomers who are expected to contribute instantly, including 7-footer Jon Kreft, a former five-star recruit who could only practice with the team last year, freshman guard Ian Miller, a four-star prospect, and a junior college transfer, 6-10 center Bernard James.
"You've read about Ian, John and Bernard and now you want to see how they are going to fit in," Hamilton said. "That is the fan part. That is the exciting part about being a college basketball fan."
The team will have its first true practice on Saturday and the season opener is at home against North Florida on Nov. 12.