Leonard Hamilton enters his 10th season as the head basketball coach of Florida State University. Last season, the Seminoles enjoyed their best run in nearly 20 years. Florida State finished third in the ACC with an 11-5 conference record. Florida State made a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and not only advanced past the first round for the first time since 1998, but were one defensive stop away from the Elite 8. The Seminoles fell to Virginia Commonwealth 72-71 in the Sweet 16 and finished the year with a 23-11 overall record.
Florida State lost versatile forward Chris Singleton to the NBA Draft. Singleton spent three years in Tallahassee, but elected to skip his senior year and enter the draft, where he was selected 18th overall by the Washington Wizards. Singleton was perhaps the nation’s best defender and brought athleticism and an above average outside shot. Perhaps more importantly, the Seminoles lose point guard Derwin Kitchen to graduation. Kitchen brought stability to a usually sporadic offense. Kitchen averaged 10.4 points-per-game and 5.8 assists in addition to shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Kitchen also played outstanding defense and was an excellent rebounder for his position.
With the losses to Kitchen and Singleton, junior Michael Snaer will be expected to carry the scoring load for the Seminoles this upcoming season. Snaer is a former McDonald’s All-American, but has yet to put up superstar numbers. Snaer however has been solid in a secondary role. Snaer averaged 8.8 points-per-game last season, but will need to up his production to take FSU deep into the NCAA Tournament. The starting point guard position will likely be between Luke Loucks, a senior, and Arkansas transfer Jeff Peterson. Loucks has been around the program longer and is an excellent ball-handler, but is turnover prone. Peterson is more of a game manager and takes better care of the basketball.
The Seminoles will likely start three guards and that third guard should be senior Deividas Dulkys. Dulkys is the lone pure shooter on the Florida State roster, but has been inconsistent from beyond the arc during his FSU career. Dulkys took a step back from his sophomore year last season averaging fewer points and shooting a lower percentage from three-point-land. Sophomore Ian Miller will be the wild card for Florida State. Miller was recruited as a point guard, but has been better playing off of the ball. Miller has shown an ability to score in bunches and few would be surprised if Miller played his way into the starting lineup at either of the guard positions.
In the frontcourt, the Seminoles lack neither size nor depth. Sophomore Okaro White should start at the power forward position. White started for Florida State when Singleton went down with an injury last season. White is perhaps the most athletic Seminole and has shown an ability to shoot from the outside, but could stand to gain to a few pounds. Bernard James will be the man in the middle for Florida State. James is a senior, but will be in just his second year with the ‘Noles. James served in the United States Air Force for six years prior to enrolling at Tallahassee Community College. He will turn 27 this season and brings strength and a strong defensive mentality to Leonard Hamilton’s team. James averaged 8.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last season, but came on strong towards the end of the year. James is still a bit raw offensively, but has become very good at finishing around the basket.
Junior Terrance Shannon brings toughness and hustle to the FSU frontcourt. Shannon is limited offensively, but can score from the post on occasion. At 7’0″, Jon Kreft, a senior, is the tallest Seminole. Kreft is a JUCO transfer who provides and big body and more toughness to the FSU lineup. Kreft won’t provide a whole lot of scoring, but has shown good touch for a man his size. Senior Xavier Gibson is very skilled offensively and is athletic, but has yet to put it all together. Gibson, at 6’11″, can step outside and shoot the ball and can also score with his back to the basket, but inconsistency has plagued Gibson throughout his Florida State career. If Gibson can give Florida State the offense that he is capable of, the Seminoles could once again be a very dangerous team in the ACC.
JUCO transfer Kiel Turpin and incoming freshmen Terry Whisnant II and Antwan Space make up the 2011 Florida State recruiting class. With a deep team, don’t be surprised if any of these three newcomers are redshirted. Whisnant is most likely suited to play the shooting guard position. Minutes will be sparce this season, but if Whisnant can either score or defend, he could make his way into the lineup. Space is a the quintessential Leonard Hamilton player, a 6’7″ lanky athletic forward. It will be interesting to see how or if the Seminoles use Space this season. Kiel Turpin adds size to an already big team; with James and Kreft both being seniors, Turpin may be redshirted this season. At 6’11″, Turpin will provide Florida State with another shot blocker and hopefully, some interior offense.
Florida State’s non-conference schedule is not overly difficult, but FSU will have some challenges prior to beginning conference play. Florida State will play a Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas in which they take on UMASS. Should the Seminoles defeat UMASS and defeat either Harvard or Utah, FSU could wind up with a match-up against Connecticut. Florida State will visit Michigan State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and will travel to in-state rival Florida in late December. As far as the ACC schedule is concerned, Florida State’s only match-up with North Carolina will take place in Tallahassee. The ‘Noles do play Duke twice. Florida State will also face Miami, Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech twice.