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FSU set to rely on new faces

Leonard Hamilton doesn't know exactly what he'll get from all the new faces on his team this season.

Guard Montay Brandon is among FSU's freshmen expected to get in the mix this season.

But the Florida State men's basketball coach has plenty of reason to be optimistic.

While stalwart guards Micheal Snaer (team-high 14.0 points per game in 2011-12) and Ian Miller (10.3 points per game off the bench) will bear much of the burden for this year's Seminoles, the key to success – and a defense of the FSU's first Atlantic Coast Conference championship – could lie with the progress and development of seven newcomers who will be plying their trade in the Donald L. Tucker Center starting Nov. 9, when FSU opens its season against South Alabama.

There are five freshman and two junior college transfers joining the ranks for this year, and given what FSU lost from last year's squad – six seniors including second-round NBA draft pick Bernard James at center – the newcomers will be subjected to some on-the-job training.

“These guys have tremendous attitudes,” said Hamilton, who is entering his 11th season at the helm in Tallahassee. “I can’t say enough about them. They're eager to learn. They are coachable. They are here early. They stay late. They really, really have the makings of a team that will be able to come in and blend with the veterans.”

There are three highly-touted guards and three forwards, the shortest of which is 6-foot-9.

Hamilton thinks that Montay Brandon (6-6, 195) and Devon Bookert, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, could get into the mix at point guard sooner rather than later.

“I do like the potential of our youngsters,” Hamilton said. “Devin Bookert and Montay Brandon, along with Ian (Miller), gives us a kind of three-headed point guard situation. Hopefully we will be able to use that to our advantage by keeping them fresh, making them move around to take advantage of matchups.”

This class made its way to Tallahassee from all over the globe. In addition to Bookert, who graduated from West Anchorage High before spending a year at prep school in Las Vegas, FSU now has players on the roster who hail from faraway places:

Boris Bojanovski, a 7-3, 240-pound center from the Slovak Republic
Robert Gilchrist, a 6-9, 220-pound junior from London
Michael Ojo, a 7-1, 290-pound center from Nigeria

And Hamilton to is quick to point out the FSU's group of seven newcomers becomes eight when factoring in Kiel Turpin, a well-regarded junior college transfer who redshirted last season. Turpin used the year to add 25 pounds – from 215 to 240 – to his 7-foot frame.

FSU will also be bolstered by the return of forward Terrance Shannon, who received a redshirt last year after injuring his shoulder early in the season.

“You've got eight guys now that you're trying to work in that don't have a whole lot of experience,” Hamilton said.

But if those players can develop at a steady rate, then it could lead to a different brand of basketball than people have been used to seeing from FSU. Hamilton's teams are infamous for their defensive prowess and he's never going to stray too far from that philosophy. But he also said several times during the preseason that he expects the Seminoles' new lineup, which features strength in the backcourt, could call for a faster, more exciting style of play.

Snaer said that talent isn't an issue for any of the newcomers – they just have to put it together in the context of Florida State's strategies.

“The new guys that we have and the talent they they have allows us to be a lot more mobile,” Snaer said. “Our bigs, we have bigs that can step all the way to the “three” (position) and shoot the ball, so we can stretch the floor, we can run the floor a lot better. So I think we're going to be a more uptempo team this year.

“The talent for all of them is there. It's just going to be all mental. The ones you're going to see separate themselves are the ones who can pick up the plays, the ones who can understand what coach wants and what he wants to see.”

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