TALLAHASSEE — Florida State freshman Chris Singleton, one of the most heralded prospects in program history, needed a single day with his teammates to impress them with his game and his attitude.
"Somebody put up a shot, and, all of a sudden, Chris just came out of nowhere and swatted the ball away," sophomore guard Jordan DeMercy said. "He kept doing it and kept doing it, and I was like, dang."
Translation: The guy isn't just good — he's off-the-charts good.
"There's no question that he's a talent," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I don't like to compare players, but he does have a rare combination of talent and work ethic."
Although the 6-9, 222-pound Singleton is still adjusting to the pace of the game and a dramatic position change, from center to small forward, he is entrenched as a starter who does a little bit of everything for the Seminoles (13-2).
Entering today's ACC opener against No. 2 Duke (13-1, 1-0), Singleton is second on the team in scoring (averaging 9.8), is second in 3-pointers (17-of-42), leads FSU in rebounding (6.5) and is second in steals (24) and blocked shots (18).
"Sometimes it's been a struggle, but that's all part of growing," Singleton, 19, said, referring to the challenges of improving his ball handling and not using his hands to try to defend smaller, quicker players on the perimeter. "I think it's coming together."
Fans and opponents haven't needed much time to see that.
He had 12 points and 17 rebounds in the season opener at Jacksonville to become the third freshman in school history to have a double double in his debut. He had his second double double (10 and 10) against Stetson a few days later. He scored 11 on 4-of-5 shooting, including two key 3-pointers, in a win against Georgia State that earned him ACC rookie of the week honors. He scored a career-high 18 in a win against Western Kentucky and is coming off a solid game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in which he had seven points, eight rebounds, five steals and two blocks.
"He's very athletic, long and powerful," said Georgia State coach Rod Barnes, who frequently saw Singleton at nearby Dunwoody (Ga.) High. "I think he has an opportunity to be one of the better freshmen in the ACC, if not the best one."
That would be saying something considering some of the other freshmen in the league.
Like Singleton, Virginia forward Sylven Landesberg, Wake Forest forward Al-Farouq Aminu, Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert, Duke guard Elliot Williams and North Carolina power forward Ed Davis and guard Larry Drew (as well as injured center Tyler Zeller) were McDonald's All-Americans in 2008.
Not that Singleton, one of only nine FSU players to have received that prep accolade and the first in five years, gives that hype or the expectations that come with it a lot of thought.
"With all the accolades he had, he could have come in here bigheaded, not listening to coaching, not listening to his teammates," DeMercy said. "But Chris was different than what you could have expected."
Instead, he has blended in nicely. From Day 1. He doesn't force shots — he averages just seven a game, and that's not significantly fewer than he attempted in high school. He looks to make that extra pass and create an even better shot for a teammate.
"I think the most positive thing about Chris Singleton is his unselfish spirit that allows him to do the little things that sometimes young players coming in as freshmen are not willing to do," Hamilton said. "He works very hard on offense and defense and with his rebounding. He's shown a willingness to defend as well as do the dirty work. He's been a very refreshing McDonald's All-American, I guess I can say."
"I've never wanted it to be just about me; I've always wanted it to be about everybody," Singleton said. "I just want to win. I just want to do whatever I can to help us win."