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Hamilton likes athleticism, attitude, outlook of 2020-21 team

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Florida State coaches are still limited in how much they can interact with players on the court. But Leonard Hamilton and the staff now have an idea when the season can begin after the NCAA agreed to a Nov. 25 start date on Wednesday afternoon.

Just hours before that announcement, Hamilton spoke on a Zoom call with reporters. While coaches have discussed scheduling, there is no consensus yet on playing or not playing non-conference games as part of the 2020-21 season.

“That’s a challenge right now,” Hamilton said. “The ACC coaches met today (Wednesday). We discussed a lot of scenarios and what we would like to see. We’re going to have to wait until the powers that be give us some direction as to what they feel is best and then we’ll start making our adjustments. I really don’t know what to expect. I’ve heard all kinds of scenarios. … How many conference games are you going to play. What are going to be the guidelines that we all have to adhere to make sure we keep everybody safe.”

Hamilton has heard the conversations about playing in a bubble, mentioning one that was proposed in Orlando. Others have been pitched by cities like Greensboro, N.C. Thanksgiving weekend tournaments are also looking at alternate locations.

Some big questions for FSU’s schedule are obvious: Can the Seminoles play Florida? Will the ACC-Big Ten Challenge continue? Can FSU play schools like North Florida, which are part of the Atlantic Sun (that league likely won’t play until Jan. 1).

“This thing is up in the air,” Hamilton said. “Some coaches would like to play nothing but all conference games. Some coaches want to play as many non-conference games as possible.”

Here are some other highlights from Hamilton:

What FSU misses in Forrest, what NBA sees in him

Point guard Trent Forrest averaged 11 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and was one of the team’s top defensive players. But there were often aspects of his game that go beyond the stats.

“He allowed the game to flow,” Hamilton said. “He kept us in sync. I don’t know if we ever remember him making a poor decision. Those things don’t necessarily show up in the statistical column. We’re going to miss that.”

Hamilton said Forrest has been interviewed by “maybe 26 teams,” which is the majority of the 30-team NBA. The attention of fans and draft analysts may be on potential first-round picks, and FSU will have the potential for two with Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams, but Hamilton feels Forrest is receiving attention from NBA teams.

“Trent is very high on a lot of folks’ lists,” Hamilton said. “We expect him to have a really good (NBA) career.”

Who is the replacement at point guard? Rayquan Evans and Anthony Polite are two options. When asked about second-year players in the program who have comfort in what Hamilton and the coaches want to accomplish, he praised Evans.

“I don’t think you’ve seen the real Rayquan Evans,” Hamilton said. “He made major contributions to our team last year. He made big plays. He played with a tremendous amount of confidence. He played like he’s ready.”

What does Hamilton think of this team?

You know this drill, right? The Seminoles have frequently surpassed the preseason expectations the past few seasons. FSU loses a bunch of players, seniors or early draft entries, the analysts and media question the overall remaining talent, FSU is picked relatively low in the preseason ACC poll and unranked in the top 25. FSU quickly quieted a number of the critics and raised a banner at the Donald L. Tucker Center with an ACC regular-season title in March.

Now what? Ok, we’ll play along. FSU loses Williams, Vassell, Forrest and center Dominik Olejniczak. The Seminoles still return a solid core group with guards M.J. Walker, Rayquan Evans and Anthony Polite as well as forwards Malik Osborne, RaiQuan Gray and Wyatt Wilkes. Mix in five-star forward Scottie Barnes, junior college guard Sardaar Calhoun and centers Quincy Ballard and Tanor Ngom (a transfer who will be a senior).

“I love this team,” Hamilton said. “Physically we got some pretty good parts. I love the attitude, I love the atmosphere they create, the camaraderie that they have.”

Hamilton sees the athleticism but questions the maturity, “the mental, intangible things that you can’t really put your finger on, the ability to communicate.” There was a comfort level in knowing what Forrest and Vassell could provide each day. Those two as well as a gifted talent like Williams are considerable losses. But remember the history lesson: Don’t doubt talent on the FSU roster.

Thoughts with Semrau

Hamilton quickly reached out to coach Sue Semrau, who will take a leave of absence from the women’s team to help care for her mom. Semrau’s mom has cancer and lives in Seattle, making it difficult for her to spend time during the pandemic with her parents. Hamilton understands the emotions.

“I know the position she is in,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had issues with my parents before that I needed to devote a lot of attention to. One year at Miami, every day off I flew to Charlotte to check on my father. I tip my hat to her for taking a year off to take care of her mother. It’s good that the university has given her that option. She has a quality staff. I expect Brooke (Wyckoff) to step up.”

One scholarship left

Yes, all of this talent. And FSU has a scholarship left. Hamilton isn’t giving away any clues. “Stay tuned,” he said with a smile.

Quotable

Hamilton: “I’ve got three things we require, that are non-negotiable: You have to play hard, defend and play unselfish. If we’re doing it on a consistent basis we’ll give ourselves a chance.”