Leonard Hamilton learned a lot during FSU basketball's Canada road trip
For Leonard Hamilton, it just may have been kismet.
NCAA regulations permit college basketball trips to make summer trips abroad once every four years. After previous trips to Spain, Greece, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago under head coach Hamilton, this year’s Florida State men’s basketball team has spent the last week and a half in Canada, playing three public exhibitions and three scrimmages against Canadian competition over a 10-day period.
For a team that returns just five scholarship players from last year’s team, the timing worked out perfectly that this was the Seminoles’ year to take their trip.
“We looked forward to playing on this tour because it gave us a chance to play against someone else and get a feel for each other and the strengths and weaknesses of our team,” Hamilton said. “I see a lot of things I like. For one, I think we have the potential to be a pretty good scoring team…
“For the most part, I’ve been pleased. Lot of things I like, but we’ve also had the chance to see a lot of the things we need to work on in order for us to be a fine-tuned machine by the time the season starts.”
The Seminoles’ three exhibitions against Canadian collegiate teams were all decisive victories. They beat the University of Ottawa 86-66 on Aug. 6, Carleton University 98-66 on Aug. 8 and McGill University 90-74 on Aug. 10. Add in an additional scrimmage against each of these teams and you get an idea of how hectic the schedule for this trip was.
There was time for a few leisure activities including a zipline course, but the majority of the trip was basketball-focused.
“This has been more of a business trip than it has been (in the past). Sometimes we go places where we do a lot of sightseeing. We’ve done a little bit of that, being in the capital, in Ottawa, today they went ziplining. They’ve taken a couple little trips, but this has been more of a business trip,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been interested that we’ve had so many activities in a short period of time, it’s been a little taxing on us. They’ve found out a little bit of what it’s like being in a tournament-type atmosphere where you don’t have a whole lot of game preparation, you’ve got to go off what you’ve been working on in practice.”
UCF transfer Darin Green Jr. made the biggest impact on the trip, averaging 20.4 points per game in the exhibitions. After coming off the bench in game one, he got the start in each of the final two games and hit five 3-pointers in each of them. Over the trip, he shot 13 of 30 (43.3%) from outside the arc.
Redshirt junior guard Caleb Mills, returning for his second season after transferring in from Houston, was a nice complimentary piece to Green, averaging 19.7 points per game and making 28 of his 47 shots (59.6%) with all but one of those coming inside the arc.
Unsurprisingly given the size discrepancy, FSU dominated on the boards and defensively, holding two of its three opponents below 30% shooting.
Hamilton came away far more impressed, though, with how a team of quite a few newcomers so easily bought into his desired style of play.
“Our guys really seem to have a good chemistry amongst themselves, they seem to really get along,” Hamilton said. “They have bought into our system of sharing the ball, sharing playing time…
“I’ve seen each player on the team probably have enough moments that I’m encouraged about the individual skills and talents that they have on the team.”
One thing that remains a bit of a work in progress for the Seminoles is the on-court leadership. The departures of Malik Osborne and Anthony Polite, both multi-year leaders for the Seminoles, leave sizable holes in this regard.
“There's no doubt that we’re still tinkering a little bit with the leadership aspect of the team because we don't have guys who have been with us that much. Sometimes, guys are a little bit reluctant to step up and speak when they're still trying to learn within the system themselves,” Hamilton said. “(Green) is not an extremely talkative person, but he leads by example and he's talking much more now than he was at the beginning of the year. Our leadership is probably still developing within this team a little bit.
“Right now, you’ve got Matthew Cleveland and Caleb Mills that probably have assumed a little bit more of that responsibility than maybe some of the other guys. We're still growing in those areas, but we don't we don't have any issues that concern me.”
The trip also provided an early chance for a few FSU freshmen to get a taste of the collegiate game. That was something guards Tom House and Chandler Jackson did in a relatively small sample size.
House had five points and six assists in 17 minutes vs. Carleton and then scored nine points on 3 of 3 from three-point range against McGill. Jackson scored 10 total points and had nine rebounds on the trip, averaging 17 minutes per game.
“I've been extremely impressed with Tom House, his basketball IQ, as well as Chandler Jackson,” Hamilton said. “They are savvy players that both come from winning programs where they were well coached. I'm very pleased with how they’re learning.”
Reigning ACC Sixth Man of the Year Matthew Cleveland did not play at all on the trip. He was sporting a boot on his right foot. The injury is not believed to be serious and he is expected to be back in time for the start of the season.
Hamilton indicated that true freshman forward De’Ante Green will probably miss the entire upcoming season after suffering a torn ACL in January.
True freshman guard Jeremiah Bembry also didn’t play during the Canada trip due to an injury. Hamilton was not sure of what his timeline for a return would be.
True freshman center Baba Miller also wasn’t on the trip as he has not yet made it to campus. He’s expected to arrive on Aug. 19, and Hamilton was hopeful the head start everyone else got on this trip will lead to them helping him catch up.
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