FSU Defeats Lincoln Memorial in Exhibition Opener

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Four score and seven (actually eight) threes ago, the Noles got an up and down win.

Since it’s just the first game—and not even a real game at that—I’m not going to go too far in depth. You never want to be the guy (or gal) who trades away their 1st round draft pick in fantasy football because they had an average first week. Instead, I’m just going to talk about some general impressions of the team and the individual players, focusing more heavily on the newcomers since we already have a good idea of what guys like Mike Snaer bring to the table.

Team as a whole:
Offense – This team is overall much more skilled than the previous few clubs Ham has put on the court. They may be the most skilled since Al Thornton’s junior year. Of course, that team didn’t make the NCAAT, but that was also before FSU had developed a culture of winning like we have now, plus our schedule appears much smarter.

The first half in particular saw FSU display crisp perimeter passing, terrific shooting, and nice spacing and movement away from the ball. The second half bogged down a bit, particularly when Miller was out of the game and Snaer played more lead guard. Snaer is a great guy to have the ball in his hands when the shot clock is winding down, and he is definitely capable of running the offense in short spurts when needed, but he’s at his best when he’s off the ball. With him as lead guard, the offense ends up looking like it did when Toney Douglas was here where other guys sort of just stand and watch.

FSU scored 83 points—50 in the first half—had 16 assists compared to 13 turnovers, and shot well all-around, going 55.8% from the field, 42.1% from three, and 81% from the charity stripe. The 83 points and 13 turnovers came on 65 possessions, which equates to 1.28 ppp and turnovers on 20% of possessions. Both of these would be better than last year’s averages, and much better than what the Noles were doing in OOC play last year. Of course, the opponent wasn’t great, but Ham also used massive substitution patterns.

Defense – Well, it’s a work in progress. There were definitely some bright spots: Aaron Thomas’ quick development, Terry Whisnant’s improvement, Ojo’s fundamentals, and Shannon’s energy and apparent recovery from injury. But there also is a lot to work on, which Hamilton admitted as much afterwards.

One of the biggest things that stood out to me was no big playing many minutes over anyone other. Turpin started, but only saw 13 minutes. That’s the same amount as Boris Bojanovsky and just one more than Michael Ojo. Shannon checked in with 10 and Robert Gilchrist played 8. I’ll be interested to see how the minutes are dispersed in the next exhibition game.

The other major thing the stood out was the guards are not yet adjusted to playing perimeter defense without an automatic eraser out there. James, and really Gibson as well towards the end of last year, was just so good at erasing mistakes, it allowed for guards to take more chances and get into passing lanes. As of now, this team doesn’t have that—although Gilchrist showed he has the potential to be that guy with 2 blocks in 8 minutes, but he has to learn the whole defense first. That’s not to say our defense can’t be good, but it will have to be a bit different this year until we develop a greater inside presence.

There didn’t seem to be that junkyard dog mentality on defense last night, other than Shannon who always brings that, but in a scrimmage like this I understand why. No need to get anyone hurt in October. Overall, Lincoln Memorial scored 75 points on 65 points, which is 1.15 ppp. They did shoot the ball surprisingly well, but that has clearly got to improve…which I suspect it will as long as Leonard Hamilton is the coach.

Individual players:

Starters:
O. White – Much improved outside shot, hit 4 of 5 threes. Did great job of getting his shoulders square to the basket every time. Hope he doesn’t fall in love with it because he’s also deadly on the offensive glass, but it would be huge if he could shoot 38 or 40% from three this year.

K. Turpin – Fluid and smooth for a big guy, he has better skills and fundamentals than James or Kreft, and seems to be more “into the game” than Gibson. But at this point doesn’t display the aggressiveness or explosion as James. Did have a great pass from the high post that led to an easy layup and a terrific one-handed tomahawk slam off a pick and roll.

M. Snaer – Off shooting night (0-5 from three) but his shot is so much improved from 2 or 3 years ago it’s amazing. Most of his misses were still good shots within the flow of offense. Typical good D and I liked his aggressiveness in slashing the lane.

I. Miller – Real solid game, which is saying something considering he went 1-6 from the field. When he was in (24 minutes) he pretty much played point and I was very impressed with his playmaking ability. He set up easy shots for guys numerous times and displayed a command of the offense that I hadn’t seen from him before. He made one stupid pass that resulted in an easy steal, but he finished with 8 assists to only 2 turnovers. His defense also appeared improved. He’ll never be Snaer, but he did a much better job of fighting through screens and staying with his man—although he still had a lapse or two that led to an easy shot by Lincoln.

T. Whisnant – I was pleasantly surprised by his play. He looked so much more confident in his game and in his knowledge of the offense and defense. Frankly, I was a little surprised he started, but he played well. 3-3 from downtown, including a big shot with a minute to go after the lead had been cut to 4, and 4-5 from the field. He played within himself but also actually looked to make plays instead of just passing the ball when it came to him. Had a couple big steals in the second half as well. If he can give us consistent play that is even 80% as effective as this, that will be a huge boost to the team.

Bench
T. Shannon – Good to see him back out there after shoulder injury. Typical intensity and aggressiveness. Gobbled up rebounds in his limited minutes.

M. Brandon – First off the bench along with Bojo. Fluid athlete who is light years ahead of guys like Singleton or White in terms of dribbling. Not as laterally quick on D as either, but not going to be a liability there after he learns the system. Even though he didn’t have an assist he seems to be picking up the offensive system well. His shot looked flat all-around. Flat on his free throws, flat on his threes, etc. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these guys have been going through grueling practices and the coaches aren’t going to let up for an exhibition game. So for the freshman, tired legs can definitely play a role.

B. Bojanovsky – He is skilled for a guy his size, but I'm not sure how much he can contribute THIS year at his current strength level. He seems to have a high basketball IQ on the offensive side—passed out of a double team down low and delivered a great pass from the high post—but was pushed around down in the paint quite a bit. Great form on his free throws. If I were coach, I would redshirt him unless I knew for sure he was not going to stick around 4 years anyway. In that case, he could certainly be used in situations where the opponent is not overly physical underneath and/or if other bigs get into foul trouble.

A. Thomas – Kid can flat out play the game. He was second off the bench in the first half (behind Brandon) but first off in the second half. An excellent slasher, he displayed the ability to drive baseline or down the lane. Strong finisher, he already appears to have a floater that is equal to Snaer’s from last season. Also great effort on defense and displayed lateral quickness to become a fantastic defender. Despite all this, the best play I saw him make was a perfectly timed and placed bounce pass ahead to Montay on a fast break that led to an easy layup. Whisnant is much improved, but I’d be shocked if Thomas isn’t playing 20+ minutes a game by December…maybe sooner.

M. Ojo – This is a massive human being. And on top of that, he is quite fluid and gets up and down the court well. Defensively he surprised me with how much he played with fundamentals. He got low, shuffled his feet, didn’t jump or bite on many pump fakes (which is something Brandon and Thomas need to work on), and called out all screens and hedges. He is such an intimidating presence that even if he doesn’t even jump the player somewhat rushes/alters their shot. Offensively…he is pretty raw. He does appear to have above average hands/catching ability, but he doesn’t really have any real moves. However, the best thing I saw was his willingness to learn and be coached. Players and coaches alike were working with him all throughout the game and you can literally see him go back out there and try what he was just instructed to try. If that effort continues, he should have a steep learning curve and just might be serviceable by February. Until then, he should play 5-10 minutes a game just for his rebounds and physicality alone.

R. Gilchrist – Incredible athlete. He’s like a longer Okaro White if that’s even possible. He’s the wildcard. If he can pick up the system over the next month or so and increase his minutes from 8 up to 15 or 17, we might be a completely different defensive team. This is the guy who could make deflections in passing lanes, block shots out of nowhere, and just generally wreak havoc on the opposing team’s offense. He didn’t shoot much, but when he did the form looked decent. He did throw down a big time allyoop, and made his presence felt all over the court during his limited minutes. Looking forward to see how he progresses over the next week and a half.

D. Bookert – Didn’t play. Ham said he was held out as a precaution because of a “knee scrape.” Hopefully it isn’t a long term thing that causes him to miss significant practice time.
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