TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Leonard Hamilton is looking for easy baskets in 2013.
The Florida State coach wants his Seminoles to get to the rim regularly and utilize the size of 7-footers Kiel Turpin, Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky in addition to forward Okaro White, the leading returning scorer.
“We feel that we have a team of guys that are a little more skilled off the bounce in terms of their dribbling skills and their athleticism,” Hamilton said. “We want to try to attack the basket a lot more off the dribble, which we have not been as consistent with in the past.
“We want to push the ball a little bit more in transition and hopefully that will give us an opportunity to get out and utilize our athleticism and (increase) our ability to attack the basket a little more.”
The Seminoles went 18-16 last season, including and 9-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They finished behind Miami, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia, missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years.
Hamilton wants more shots from close to the basket and a quicker pace of play to pressure opposing defenses and get to the free throw line more often. More free throws equates to a rise in easy points for a traditionally strong free-throw shooting team that connected at 73.5 percent last season.
Things should speed up with the development and health of sophomore point guard Devon Bookert and senior guard Ian Miller.
Jacksonville visits Tallahassee on Nov. 8 for the home opener while Virginia makes the trip Jan. 4 for the first ACC matchup.
“It was a bad feeling,” White said of not making the NCAA tournament. “We were blessed to play in the NIT, but we weren’t used to it. We weren’t really very happy because we were used to playing in the tournament.
“I’m glad I’ve got one more year to go out on a good year and get that bad taste out of my mouth.”
Five things to watch from the Seminoles this season:
THE NEWCOMERS: The ACC added traditional heavyweight programs in Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame during the summer and life became much more difficult. Hopes of a surprise conference championship, in the mold of Miami last season, was challenging enough with Duke, North Carolina and Maryland. Those chances are smaller with the newcomers on the schedule.
HE’S BACK: Senior guard Ian Miller is healthy and the Seminoles are expecting him to shoulder a considerable load. Miller was hobbled by a foot injury for much of last season that limited him to 5.3 points per game. The lingering problem kept him from practicing from the end of November through the end of the season.
“I don’t have to prove anything,” Miller said. “It’s all natural. It’s all going to speak for itself.”
PICK UP THE D: Florida State led the nation in defensive field goal percentage in 2010-11 and 2011-12 before things fell off last season. Hamilton knows their success relies on defense first. The team has led the ACC in blocks the last four seasons, but that’s not enough.
“We didn’t feel they grasped our defensive system as well,” Hamilton said. “Our effort has been a lot better in practice and overall they have a better understanding of our defensive principles that allowed us to be one of the better defensive teams in the country for a number of years now.”
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The roster is comprised of four seniors, six sophomores and three freshmen. Florida State must get production from sophomores that belie their years. Hamilton preaches that players in his system make their most significant improvements between their sophomore and junior seasons. He needs that timeline to speed up by 12 months.
HEAVY LIFTING: All eyes will be on White and Miller. The seniors need to have their best seasons for the Seminoles to return to the NCAA tournament. White averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds and both of those numbers could increase. He spent the offseason working on his 3-point shot to improve the 31.3 percent he shot in 2012-13. Everything should improve from Miller by simply being healthy.