“I cannot find words to explain to you how drastic it really is going from where we were last year to where we are this year. Let’s just say I was brought back to reality as to what it’s like to have an inexperienced team. You have guys who they think they’re giving you more effort than they’ve ever given in their lives and they don’t realize they have so much more to give.” -Leonard Hamilton
Last year's ACC-winning Florida State team featured six seniors that contributed as much leadership as they did production on the court (a lot). This year's team is much younger, with the departure of the six guys from last year the Seminoles boast a slew of newcomers for 2012-13.
One of the less noted parts of having a senior-heavy team like last year's is that they understand the process of being a student-athlete at a major university. They get how to manage classes with practice. They start to pick up the nuances of a complicated defensive system and they know how to watch film.
“That’s definitely a big deal because a lot of these guys haven’t watched film in the past and they don’t know what to look for," said Michael Snaer. "I’ve watched film with a few of the guys in there and they’re looking at all the wrong things. They’re looking at positives instead of negatives, when we watch film you’re not searching for things you did right, you’re really trying to figure out the little things and the little details that you do wrong.”
It sounds basic, but one of the first things any group of freshmen must learn in college is how to watch film and also to be coached. The 'Noles tipped off practice a month ago at Seminole Madness, in that time they've made strides towards being better players in the film room, but they still have a ways to go.
“I think it’ll take them a couple more weeks, about two more weeks to understand what the coaches are saying and what they’re doing wrong and not to feel like they’re just being hounded on," said Okaro White. "They’re just being coached, really. These young guys coming from high school have never really watched film, I never watched film in high school. So they don’t really understand the film aspect of the game and that’s very important. So I think it will take them a little while to adjust to it.”
Imagine it from a player's perspective. To make it on scholarship at a program like FSU, chances are you've been the best player on the court since you hit puberty. Nobody's ever scrutinized your game in a critical light before, chances are you've only received accolades and compliments from teammates and coaches that were reliant on your talent to win up until that point.
Now you're in college and you actually have to learn to play basketball and accept real coaching. That can take a while to get used to.
“I think it’s a shock to them initially, because over the years I’ve heard players say, 'man, I didn't realize I was that bad,'" said Leonard Hamilton. "The film is a great teacher, I think that they’ll learn. We have a ways to go, I’ve been kind of brought back to reality a little bit. You see guys running a dummy offense a little bit, you see them making athletic plays and you say, 'boy, you know...,' but then you go five on five and the whole team has to be together on the same page and you’ve got this many new guys and you see as much game slippage as we’ve seen and you’re reminded, we’ve got a ways to go.
“Sometimes when a guy’s out there dunking the ball and making plays between his legs you go 'boy we’ve got some potential skills,' but then all of the sudden you get out there and a guy is all out of position and he’s not contesting the shot, not mirroring the ball you say 'my goodness, we’ve got a ways to go.'"
Florida State has one more exhibition before the games start to count in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. While Hamilton and his coaching staff know they can go with a smaller rotation that uses their veterans heavily and they'll be successful early, in order to save wear and tear on players like Snaer and White, Hamilton also knows he has to bring the new guys along quickly.
“We haven’t spent very much time defensively and it showed the other night [against Lincoln Memorial], but I thought the film was really great to see that it wasn’t necessarily a lack of effort," said Hamilton. "It was a lack of concentrating and having an understanding of the things we’re trying to implement when our defensive plan works and realizing there's a team defensive concept and when the guy’s not in the right position that you hurt your teammate because a guy’s depending on you to cover because of our rules.”
Unfortunately for the 'Noles, things pick up quickly so they don't have a ton of time to iron out how to study film and get the young guys on the same defensive page as the veterans. Early in the season FSU might necessarily be forced to go to a smaller rotation in tight games as they wait for things to click with their new players. The Seminoles don't have a ton of gimmes early on, they need to hit the ground running.
“We don’t have that luxury right now," said Hamilton. "Sometimes you kind of front load your schedule with some games where you can kind of learn some things. We don’t have that luxury right now, it gets serious real quick. Hopefully that will motivate us.”