Hamilton: Noles look to stay focused, not distracted by cancellation

A full calendar year where teams have attempted to stay safe, stay positive and play sports has again been challenged with a cancellation as the Florida State men’s basketball team begins postseason play.

The Florida State-Duke game in the ACC Tournament on Thursday night has been canceled as there is a positive COVID test with Duke, the league announced.

“The postponement follows a positive test, subsequent quarantining, and contact tracing within the Duke men’s basketball program,” the ACC announced in a statement.

FSU will advance directly to the ACC Tournament semifinals and Duke’s season is over. The Seminoles will play North Carolina on Friday (9 p.m. on ESPN).

“Looks like there’s another challenge for us to face that is typical of what I think we’ve had to endure the entire year in one way, shape or form,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “The most important thing for us now is to stay focused on that which we can control as we prepare for whoever we want to play in the ACC Tournament. We just have to stay focused, concern ourselves more with what we do.”

FSU has had a pair of COVID pauses, one in January and the other in February. The team’s ability to be mentally strong through those challenges could help with the latest cancellation.

Hamilton said the Seminoles plan to practice on Thursday afternoon, possibly in a practice arena for Greensboro’s G League team. FSU was able to practice in the Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday.

“We got some shots up for about 30 or 40 minutes, just got used to the floor, the balls and the rims,” forward RaiQuan Gray said. “I think we shot the ball pretty good. So I think that we are going to adjust to it. It feels good in there. I’m excited to play.”

It was almost a year ago, March 12, when FSU was set to play Clemson in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., before the entire event was canceled — as well as the NCAA Tournament — as a result of the COVID pandemic.

“It started last year around this time, and 2021 has been crazy already, but we just kind of take it for what it is and control what we can control,” Gray said.

Duke athletics director Kevin White said in a statement that the men’s basketball program had gone the full season without a positive test among the athletes and staff. He confirmed the positive result will end Duke’s 2020-21 season and halt the program’s 24-year NCAA Tournament streak.

“While our season was different than any other than I can remember, I loved the 2020-21 Duke basketball team and was honored to be their coach,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

FSU will travel directly from Greensboro to Indianapolis, likely after the full field of 68 is announced on Sunday evening. Hamilton emphasized during a Zoom call with media on Thursday that safety was paramount and that the Seminoles have tried to stay within a “team bubble.”

“These are unprecedented-type times that we have had to find ways to get prepared for,” Hamilton said. “The most important thing here is that we just need to try to get through this season as safe as possible, and hope that we never have to deal with it again.”