For the past week we've been covering the 9 scholarship players who could be characterized as role players. This isn't meant to diminish their importance. There will be nights when Terrance Shannon approaches a double-double, or when Terry Whisnant goes Dulkys on someone. How well those 9 fulfill their roles will have a huge impact on the season.
But now it's time for the core - Michael Snaer, Okaro White and Ian Miller. These guys are the stars. They're the leaders. Coaches can only do so much. Successful teams have players who make sure that everyone else stays focused on the task at hand.
Five months from now - when we're evaluating the season - a large part of that evaluation will be looking at how well these three handled the transition from solid players to team leaders. FSU has made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history, and right now that fact doesn't matter in any way at all. That's old news. This is a new year. This is a new team.
And so we'll start at the point. For the 2nd straight season FSU is transitioning to a new starting point guard. Luke Loucks became the starter last season after sitting behind Toney Douglas and Derwin Kitchen, and now Ian Miller takes over. Friday night will be his first career start in a Seminole uniform.
Not only is his starting role new, but his role on the court is new as well. Last year he came off the bench to provide an instant spark, and now he's responsible for knowing where all five players are supposed to be, and doing his best to make sure it happens. As soon as last season ended the coaches began harping on him that he needs to speak up. He needs to tell his teammates when they mess up. If needed, he needs to get in their faces. And that's not his natural personality, but he's had role models from two previous seasons, and he has two other players that are in the same boat (Snaer and White). Most of this happens in practice, but you should see signs of it in games as well. If you see him yelling at a teammate who deserves it, don't expect anyone to step in.
Defensively, he was awful as a freshman. He was bad as a sophomore, at least prior to ACC play. But somewhere around mid-season the light came on. He's no Michael Snaer. But who is? He was good enough toward the end of last season that I'm cautiously optimistic he'll step it up another level this season. He still plays too high at times. And he still struggles through screens. But his days of looking like a matador on defense are over.
On offense, he's a very smooth player. When possessions bogged down last season the concept was often to give the ball to Ian and give him one screen. From there he was on his own. He's one of the few players on the roster than can be handed the ball and be expected to beat his man one-on-one. But that's what he brings to the court. He's not a great 3-point shooter. He's not great at getting to the line. But give him the ball and he'll find a good look.
Now he needs to hone that skill further and have the vision and understanding necessary to know when the team needs him to find his shot, and when the team needs him to break down the defense and open up a scoring possibility for someone else. It's the Toney Douglas/Derwin Kitchen role, only surrounded by more talent.
And that's his biggest challenge for the season - understanding and then executing what his coaches and team need him to do on any given possession. He's that guy. He's the point guard.