Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

College Basketball Preview: Florida State; 'Noles Have Size; How High Can They Climb?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

College Basketball Preview: Florida State; 'Noles Have Size; How High Can They Climb?

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

OVERVIEW

The Seminoles are trying to return to relevance in the ACC two years removed from their first-ever league tournament championship. And coach Leonard Hamilton would appear to have the tools, especially from an inside-out standpoint, to make a run at league favorites Duke, Syracuse, Louisville, Virginia and North Carolina.

Hamilton, who enters his 13th season at FSU and 27th season overall, welcomes back all three starting guards and four players 6 feet 9 or taller (three are 7 feet or taller). Trying to replace iron man Okaro White at forward and versatile Ian Miller at guard may be difficult but the team's top All-ACC candidate, junior Aaron Thomas, and a trio of big men led by 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky are good starts.

The early schedule includes tough non-conference foes Massachusetts, Providence and Florida. If FSU can survive a January gauntlet in which five of seven games are on the road (including trips to Mississippi State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and North Carolina) this can be a tested and tough team by late February.

WHO'S BACK

Thomas led the Seminoles with 14.5 points and 1.6 steals last season, led all guards in shooting percentage (.454) and is the top returning free-throw shooter (.808). A lot of what FSU will be able to do offensively will depend on Thomas with the ball in the open court. He's joined at guard by fellow juniors Devon Bookert and Montay Brandon, who were both prone to scoring slumps last season. The Seminoles could play three 7-footers at the same time in Bojanovsky, Kiel Turpin (7-0) and Michael Ojo (7-1).

PROJECTED STARTERS AND DEPTH

Hamilton doesn't let himself get stuck with the same lineup and will play eight or nine players. He usually likes to bring one dynamic player off the bench, with Thomas (16 starts in 36 games) as a example last season. The Seminoles will begin the season with a relatively small starting lineup in Thomas, Bookert and Brandon at guard and Turpin and Jarquez Smith (6-9) at forward, with the 7-footers coming off the bench. If Hamilton wants to go big, that will change. A player who could help immensely is Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a 6-4 shooting guard who was ineligible last season and was ranked the No. 8 high school 2-guard in the nation by Rivals in 2013. …

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