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Florida State Seminoles basketball team sees this season as one to build on

BOISE, Idaho — As Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton sat in a room adjacent to the postgame interview area Friday night, the thoughts of what had just happened careened through his mind at breakneck pace.

• How his team lacked intensity at the start of the second half of its NCAA Tournament opener against Wisconsin and squandered a double-digit lead.

• How his team led by seven with 4:34 to go in regulation.

• How it led 59-56 with 1:18 left in overtime but broke down defensively and allowed an uncontested layup then, with two seconds to play, allowed a three-point play to lose 61-59.

But what truly gave him pause — and comfort as he glanced at the stat sheet — was the thought of what can happen.

"We had a great year," he said of his Seminoles (25-10), who finished fourth in the ACC and reached the league tournament final for the first time, became a fixture in the AP poll for the first time in years and reached the NCAAs for the first time since 1998 as the No. 5 seed in the East Region. "I thought we accomplished an awful lot. We're changing the culture of Florida State basketball.

"And I expect bigger and better things for the future."

Although the Seminoles lose three seniors, beginning with all-everything guard Toney Douglas, the team's top scorer and the ACC's top defensive player, Hamilton relied heavily on six first-year players.

Consider:

• Redshirt freshman center Solomon Alabi totaled 73 blocks and finished the regular season as the ACC leader. Only six freshmen have led the league in that category, including Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh. He has also grown more assertive offensively.

• Sophomore guard Derwin Kitchen, a junior college transfer who wasn't cleared until mid December, improved his conditioning and play down the stretch.

• Freshman forward Chris Single­ton, a McDonald's All-American, used his athleticism and 6-9 height to be a defensive force, too. He finished with 54 steals and 47 blocks. After struggling the latter part of the season offensively, he scored 15 against Duke in the ACC title game and 12 against the Badgers.

• Freshmen guards Luke Loucks (Clearwater) and Deividas Dulkys and freshman forward Xavier Gibson also blossomed, Gibson particularly on the offensive end (he had six points to help FSU take a 31-19 halftime lead against 12th-seeded Wisconsin).

"All the freshmen, they weren't playing like freshmen; they manned up," Douglas said. "They were playing like sophomores and juniors and next year when they're sophomores, they'll play like seniors. … I expect them to go even further than we did this year. They have the capability to do that."

Florida State Seminoles basketball team sees this season as one to build on 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 10:10pm]
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