‘Noles jump right into intensity of ACC play in season opener

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton doesn’t know what to expect on Wednesday night. Then again, nobody in the ACC knows either.

Starting off a basketball season with a conference opponent is great, in theory. And it helps add spice with many games televised on the new ACC Network. But it’s also uncharted waters for the Seminoles who, like the rest of the league, have never opened against an ACC team.

“You play a couple exhibition games,” Hamilton said. “But it’s hard to determine where you are. You normally try to play some less-important games early to try and get a feel for your team. Right now we’re just jumping out of the frying pan right into the fire.”

FSU is jumping right in with an ACC road game on opening night, playing at Pittsburgh on Wednesday at 8 p.m. The Seminoles also rarely open in a true road game, doing so for the first time since Nov. 2008 (at Jacksonville).

But after its first two games, at Pittsburgh and then at Florida on Sunday, the Seminoles will have a better idea of who they are. It’s as challenging a non-conference slate as FSU has ever had when factoring in Thanksgiving weekend games against Tennessee and the Purdue-VCU winner in the tournament at the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.

“I know that we’re in the development stages,” Hamilton said. “I know that we’re not anywhere close to being where we would like to be this time of year. … Sometimes more veteran teams are much further along.”

Hamilton’s uncertainty is in part due to the influx of six newcomers, a group that includes five-star forward Patrick Williams as well as graduate transfer center Dominik Olejniczak and Rice transfer forward Malik Obsborne. It’s a talented group, but Hamilton is curious to see how the defense meshes with the group of veterans.

Williams has the potential to be a one- or two-and-done to the NBA. He flies to the rim and already has become a favorite of Trent Forrest’s as they make eye contact and connect on alley oops.

“He is a freak, really, just how fast he gets off the floor,” Forrest said. “You can really just throw it anywhere and basically know he is going to come get it.”

Wednesday’s game is on ESPNU. Sunday’s game at Florida is at 1 p.m. on ESPN.

2019-20 Seminoles at a glance

Coach: Leonard Hamilton (334-216 in 17 seasons at FSU; 534-426 in 30 seasons overall)

Last year: FSU went 29-8, 13-5 in ACC

Top returners: 6-4 Sr. G Trent Forrest (9.3 points, 4.5 rebounds), 6-5 Jr. G M.J. Walker (7.5 points, 44 3-pointers), 6-6 So. G Devin Vassell (4.5 points, 26 3-pointers), 6-8 F RaiQuan Gray (3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds). Center Dominik Olejniczak will likely complete the starting lineup.

Off the bench: Williams could be a sixth man. Point guard Anthony Polite and shooting guard Wyatt Wilkes, guards who are in their third seasons at FSU, are also in position for playing time.

Key losses: F Mfiondu Kabengele (first-round pick by LA Clippers), G Terance Mann (second-round pick by LA Clippers), F Phil Cofer and G David Nichols

Newcomers to know: Five-star 6-foot-8 F Patrick Williams, who averaged 22.1 points and nine rebounds at West Charlotte High last season. The Seminoles picked up a freshman center in Balsa Koprivica. FSU picked up Ole Miss graduate transfer Dominick Olejiniczak, a 7-2 center who averaged 5.3 points and 3 rebounds last season. The Seminoles also landed a pair of junior-college guards in RayQuan Evans and Nate Jack. Evans has been slowed due to injury and it’s not clear when he will make his debut.

Impress your friends: The Seminoles are tough to beat on their home floor. FSU went 15-1 at home in 2018-19.

‘Noles in the NBA: Dwayne Bacon (Hornets), Malik Beasley (Nuggets), Jonathan Isaac (Magic), Mfiondu Kabengele (Clippers), Terrance Mann (Clippers)

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