With Florida State now nine games into the 2009-10 season, it has given two newcomers - guard Michael Snaer and forward Terrance Shannon -- some time to experience basketball at the collegiate level. For both freshmen, the results have been mixed.
Snaer has appeared in all nine games and is averaging nearly 21 minutes per appearance. He is scoring 6.8 points per game while also grabbing 2.4 rebounds. Shannon, who suffered an eye injury during the preseason, has appeared in just two games and played a total of 15 minutes. In 14 minutes against Florida International, he scored five points and grabbed three rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Luke Loucks, who had to make the transition from high school to college last season, said it can be tougher than it appears.
"You realize it is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one," Loucks said. "There are a lot of things, but especially the speed of the game and learning the different schemes. It takes a while to realize how intense you have to be every practice and every game, every time you put on your shoes. You have to go all out or you are going to be embarrassed. I think that was the biggest thing."
For Shannon, a freshman forward from the Peach State, the main reason he has been slow to join the rotation is that he missed his entire senior season with a knee injury. That meant that upon his arrival at Florida State, he was going to have to get back into basketball shape.
"There is a conditioning level component that you lose," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It is difficult to get back when you miss so much time and you aren't able to run up and down the court and keep yourself in a physical and cardiovascular shape. When you have an injury like he had, it takes a while to get it back together physically and his injury was the type that you don't rush, because when you rush them you can very easily start to develop other issues by trying to compensate for the issues that you have."
"He has to get re-acclimated to the system," Hamilton added. "It is going to take a while to get him back on top of his game, but he is physically talented and can contribute for us in spots. But we have to allow things to take a natural course."
For Shannon, his experience against the Golden Panthers - and in watching the Seminoles' other games - has taught him a bit about what to expect.
"The talent level is really different," Shannon said. "The guys are bigger, faster and stronger. They are also more intelligent on the court. You can't just outrun or outjump everybody, you have to know how to approach your opponent. It comes down to having more skill and working harder than your opponent."
This past week, when the Seminoles were able to mix practices with final exams, has been invaluable to Shannon. And he admits he needs every second he can get on the court to pick up on his responsibilities and roles.
"I am still having trouble," Shannon said. "It is just about learning the plays, your defensive assignments, and the system in general. You just have to be aware of where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to do. It takes time and reps to get it down."
While Shannon is coming along at a slower pace, Snaer has been pushed a bit more into the limelight early on. He has scored in double-figures in both of the last two games, after scoring in double-figures only once in the first seven games. He also has increased his shooting percentage from both the field and the line in the last two games.
"Mike has all the physical gifts in the world," Loucks said. "I think the speed of the game is easier for him. I think the only thing he struggles with is that he is going so fast sometimes and he wants to show everybody what he can do, that sometimes we just have to slow him down so that his talent can shine through."
Loucks' assessment is backed up by Hamilton as well, who believes that Snaer's talent will begin to come to the surface during the ACC portion of the season.
"Talent-wise, he is tremendously talented, and I think before the season is over you will see him have his breakout games and really be a major contributor for us," Hamilton said. "I think it is just sometimes the speed of the game, making decisions against bigger and better athletes, and facing different schemes each night out on the court, it becomes a learning process that 98 percent of all freshmen go through. He will learn and he will improve."
"I think before too long, you will start to see them blossoming," Hamilton added.
Hamilton hopes that will start when the 'Noles host Georgia State on Tuesday at 7 p.m. It will mark the team's first game back in action since they took a week off for final exams.