Leonard Hamilton was a young assistant coach in the 1970s when he was observing some of the legends of college basketball. And absorbing what they were teaching.
That included the writing from Indiana coach Bobby Knight.
“He was the man in college basketball,” Hamilton recalled on Monday. “He had a little book, it was a defensive book, it was more like a pamphlet than a book … I had two books that I read a lot of – one was the Bible and the other was his defensive book.
“I can remember as a grad student just looking at that book and reading it and hanging all of my defensive thoughts on everything that I read.”
Hamilton spent more than a decade as an assistant coach at Kentucky, learning the game and preparing for Indiana annually. And now No. 17 FSU (7-1) will travel to Indiana (7-0) in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ESPN2). It’s the first time that FSU has played at Indiana since 1975.
The Seminoles have played in some of college basketball’s top venues, from Duke’s Cameron Indoor to UNC’s Dean Smith Center, and now will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play at Indiana’s Assembly Hall.
“When I found out that we were playing them, I was definitely excited,” forward RaiQuan Gray said. “It’s a historic arena. I’ve been watching them since I was a kid.”
FSU is road-tested. The Seminoles narrowly lost a foul-plagued game at Pittsburgh but bounced back to win at Florida. And while it was technically a neutral site tournament at Niceville, the Seminoles knocked off Tennessee (in front of a largely partisan Volunteers crowd) and Purdue on back-to-back nights to claim the Emerald Coast Classic.
The Seminoles claimed the title with defense, holding Tennessee to 33 percent shooting and forcing the Volunteers to commit 21 turnovers. A night later, Purdue shot 33.9 percent but made just 5 of 24 three-pointers (20.8 percent) and the Boilermakers committed 24 turnovers.
FSU’s defense traveled. And it was a good thing as the Seminoles made just 1 of 17 three-pointers and lost the rebounding edge 48-33 vs. Purdue.
“Defense is definitely the main key for us,” sophomore forward Devin Vassell said. “Time coming, our offense is going to be flowing.”
The Seminoles have had little time to recharge their batteries. They returned to campus early on Sunday morning, then practiced briefly and watched film. On Monday, there was class, practice and a flight up to Bloomington, Ind.
“The quick turnaround, a game of this magnitude does concern me a little,” Hamilton said. “We don’t have very much preparation time.”
Hamilton reflects on the schedule challenges. From the first two games on the road to the back-to-back games in Niceville to a long road trip to Indiana.
“I’m hoping it will serve as an important aspect of our development once we get into ACC play,” Hamilton said.
FSU AT INDIANA
Time/TV: 9 p.m. / ESPN2
FSU projected starters: G Devin Vassell (12.5 ppg., 4.4 rpg.), G M.J. Walker (10.2 ppg., 3.0 rpg.), G Trent Forrest (12.4 ppg., 4.0 assists), F Malik Osborne (6.1 ppg., 5.8 rpg.), C Dominik Olejniczak (3.7 ppg., 2.6 rpg.).
Indiana projected starters: G Aljami Durham (13.7 ppg., 2.9 assists), G Armaan Franklin (4.4 ppg., 3.0 assists), F Justin Smith (14.3 ppg., 5.1 rpg.), F Trayce Jackson-Davis (15.6 ppg., 9.6 rpg.), C Joey Brunk (8.4 ppg., 5.1 rpg.).
Hoosiers notes: Archie Miller is in his third season … FSU has never beaten Indiana but is looking for its fourth straight victory in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge … The Hoosiers, who are not ranked, have won all seven games by double figures but do not have a notable win.