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Hamilton, FSU set to begin full practices with new-look roster

The Florida State men’s basketball team opens practice on Friday ahead of the 2021-22 season, which begins with on Nov. 10 against Penn. FSU will also play a few exhibition games, with the first being against Mississippi College on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.

Coach Leonard Hamilton sat down with the media on Wednesday to discuss the team. Below are highlights:

Big picture thoughts on FSU, culture and program

Hamilton: “I do like our team. It’s kind of like a broken record, I guess you might say. We have guys who have moved on. Guys who play well for us and moved on. We have guys who have not necessarily been patiently waiting, but we have guys who have matured and grown into the leadership position that they’re in. And we’ve been fortunate for the last couple of years, when we’ve had guys moved on, basically I think we’ve in some ways gotten better each year. The culture of our team, the ability of our guys to stay focused and accept the roles and the system and the style of ball that we play. And so I think we have some guys ready to step up and replace the guys that played so well for us last year that have moved on. And hopefully we’ll continue that trend, where it is not as much about who it is — it’s whether the system provides guys opportunities to step into their next role. I also think it says a lot about the ability of our staff to consistently keep developing players. And I think that has been probably the strength of our program that we’ve been able to always seem to develop guys and allow them to continue to keep improving and step into roles and keep our program at a significant position in basketball.”

Freshmen Jalen Warley, Matthew Cleveland

Hamilton: “I think they all have been going through a learning curve. But I must I must say I’m extremely pleased with how fast learners they have shown to be. They’ve made tremendous adjustments. Every day I’m watching them closely because we need first-year players to be major contributors to us this year. I’m seeing that they’re having an understanding of our system. They’ve definitely adjusted to our culture and you don’t end up calling the names very much because they have adjusted. They ask a lot of questions. They are gym rats. … Being quick learners that they are I’m expecting them to be early contributors.

Houston transfer Caleb Mills

Hamilton: “Unfortunately Caleb never had a chance to work out with us last year. He attended all the meetings, all the skull sessions, all the basketball meetings, but he never really had a chance to participate. He had a little slight injury … From a physical standpoint, he’s starting from scratch, but mentally he was there in all the meetings, watching, studying. And I think he’s a fairly mature youngster. So I feel very confident that his transition will be a lot easier than it would have been.”

Anthony Polite

Hamilton: “Anthony has been so solid, he’s been consistent. He shoots the ball well, he’s one of our better defenders. He very seldom makes mistakes. He handles the ball well and makes good decisions with it. He plays extremely hard. Hits his free throws. I’m expecting him to have a great year. I’m expecting him to step into this role and contribute at a high level. His voice is very well respected amongst his teammates. … I expect more of the same but with a little more of a of a leadership commitment.”

RayQuan Evans’ return and role

Hamilton: “Evans now is more vocal. He speaks up more. I think a lot of the younger guys are looking to him for leadership. So I think you can expect him to be a lot more of a vocal and energetic, enthusiastic leader than what he’s been in the past.”

FSU’s bigs: Ngom, McLeod, Ballard and Butler

Hamilton: “There’s no doubt that Tanor (Ngom) is a little further along because he was in our system last year. And he he’s made a lot of adjustments. His improvement probably has been as much as anyone that I’ve seen since I’ve been here. He’s just become more of a leader on the team at that position. He had a lot of adjustments that he had to make coming from a level of basketball that he played with in Canada. And so it was a little challenging for him. But he’s had a year to lift weights, a year to study films, a year at our level even though it was abbreviated last year with the pandemic. But I think he is really significantly grown in that position where he’s a lot more ready to contribute that he was definitely coming in last year. And we expected him to be a leader. Naheem (McLeod) has made significant progress graduating from the community college and from academic standpoint, I think he’s he’s matured, he’s grown he has a better understanding of what we expected of him. Quincy (Ballard) is improving every day. We always have the luxury of playing Malik (Osborne) at the five whenever we need to. John Butler has played strictly in our 4-man (forward, not center) perimeter rotation but he might, when we go small, you could see him playing some high post-type of five position systems that we occasionally run when we want to go small.”

Justin Lindner, Harrison Prieto return to lead Green Team

Hamilton: “I think that our famed Green Team has been so instrumental in the success that we’ve had in our program and helping us with our game preparation, helping us in practice and helping us improve in our skills. There are many days that when we’re going against them offensively and defensively, they give us all we can handle. So the leadership that those two guys, Justin and Harrison have been giving us, but now they are capable of giving us with several new, young walk-on players, we think that’s going to be invaluable. Harrison and Justin both are very capable at this stage in their careers by going into games, and actually playing and being productive. So we’re very fortunate to have two experienced guys like that around. They’ve been around for five years.”