The Florida State men's basketball team took the court for the first time on Wednesday night for an exhibition game against West Florida. The Seminoles came away with a 79-58 victory thanks to a balanced effort with several players contributing.
The Seminoles' scoring effort was led by Uche Echefu. The junior forward did most of his work in the paint scoring 16 points to go along with five rebounds.
The 'Noles' veteran backcourt also came through with two seniors and one junior combining for 32 points. Redshirt junior Toney Douglas and senior Jason Rich scored 11 points each, while senior Isaiah Swann contributed 10 more.
For the first time out, head coach Leonard Hamilton was pleased with his team's effort.
"I thought that we had our moments where we accomplished some things," Hamilton said. "I like this team and I like our chances. I feel like we have some pieces that will make us a much better basketball team"
Hamilton had to be impressed with the play of Echefu. Last year as a sophomore, the former Rivals150 member averaged just 6.9 points a game. With the departure of leading scorer Al Thornton, Echefu will be counted on this season to provide more scoring punch.
"I have been working on my inside game all summer," Echefu said. "I think I just feel more comfortable playing now. I have been here three years and I feel good playing. This was just an exhibition game but I saw some positive things and some things to work on when we get to practice. I just have to keep getting better every day."
The game was close in the opening minutes thanks to a cold start by the Seminoles, especially from the perimeter where FSU misfired on their first six attempts. The 'Noles finally found their shooting touch draining 7-9 from the perimeter to close out the half and took a 50-24 lead in the locker room.
West Florida did themselves no favors in the first half committing 13 turnovers and shooting 39-percent from the floor.
The second half was more of the same as the Seminoles pulled away but lost focus down the stretch allowing West Florida to outscore them 34-29.
"Second half we were not efficient," Hamilton complained. "We were trying to make plays and not allowing our offense to work for us. Those are things that I think we can correct."
Two true freshmen saw their first ever action as college players Wednesday night. Forward Julian Vaughn played 25 minutes scoring nine points and grabbing a team-leading eight rebounds. Freshman swingman Jordan Demercy played 6 minutes scoring two points.
"It was obvious they were both very anxious," Hamilton said. "Julian showed flashes of what he is capable of doing … I thought (Demercy's) defense was real good and he played really hard. I thought in the second half he showed some freshman moments but that is to be expected at this time."
Freshman Chris Blake did not play and Hamilton announced after the game that he has been suspended for the semester for a violation of team rules.
"If and when he plays depends on how he responds," Hamilton said.
The fourth scholarship freshman from the most recent recruiting class also remained on the bench. Seven-foot center Solomon Alabi is sidelined while he recovers from a stress fracture in his right leg. Hamilton is optimistic that his star recruit will make a return in the near future.
"He had an x-ray the other day and it was positive," Hamilton said. "He has continued to improve. He hasn't had a setback. I think that it is important that we allow him to heal completely. He is very, very important to us and we are not going to rush him. We are going to proceed with caution because we want to make sure that when we get him back we can count on having him for the remainder of the year."
The Seminoles' game against the Argonauts was the first of two exhibition games. Next up is another home tilt versus Valdosta State on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center. Proceeds from the game will go to benefit the Aubry Boyd Fund. The 'Noles open the regular season on Friday, November 9th, when they play host to Nicholls State.