Kevin C. Cox
From now until the opening game on November 9th, Tomahawk Nation will be previewing the FSU basketball roster.
Leonard Hamilton has a track record developing a wide array of players, but some of the ones who play through their senior years have been special. Tim James. Tim Pickett. Al Thornton. Toney Douglas.
Enter Michael Snaer, who might be next in the Hamilton line.
Snaer was the consensus No. 17 player in his class. But he was overrated by Rivals (No. 7), who - at the time - was very influential with Noles hoops. And so he came in with expectations which weren't realistic. So even when he was starting games as a freshman, fans wondered if he was a bust. He turned the ball over. He struggled with his shot.
And in his 2nd season that perception didn't change. Never mind that he had rebuilt his shooting motion. Nevermind that his exceptional defense was being overlooked. His on-court production just didn't seem to change. But Ham started him every game that year, and continued developing him. And the development part was easy. Because Michael Snaer works harder than any player on the team. It's all he does. He's a gym rat's gym rat.
And at the end of his 2nd season his work began to pay off. Coming down the stretch Snaer was finding openings on the 3-point line, usually during transition, and he began burying shots. He made 12 of his final 25 threes, putting him into the summer with some momentum.
And then last year happened. After his off-season Snaer suddenly looked much more comfortable on the court. He drifted into openings on the perimeter and knocked down 40% of his threes. With an added pump fake he went from a talented sophomore to a junior who could be leaned on. He beat Duke at the buzzer. He beat Virginia Tech at the buzzer. He bailed FSU out of countless bogged down possessions. He made a huge leap from his sophomore to junior years. And the thing was - when you broke down his game - he didn't make a giant improvement in any one area. He just got better. At everything. And with talented players, at some point that "better" reaches a critical mass, and that's when you see leaps forward. That was Michael Snaer, junior version.
So what to expect as a senior? It's not fair to think he'll make another leap. But he can get better. Offensively, he often uses his solid mid game as too much of a crutch - he needs to get better at getting to the rim and drawing fouls. And he needs to get better at going left. He needs to develop his jumper off the dribble. He needs to communicate better. And most importantly, he needs to understand that he has to begin every game aggressive. Too often last season he floated through first halves, trying too hard to involve all his teammates, and then turned it on in the 2nd. He needs to turn it on at the tip. Doing so will open up things for the rest of the team.
Defensively, he's a shoe-in for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. This doesn't mean he'll win the award (FSU is still in the ACC), but I'll be shocked if anyone means more to his team on that side of the ball. FSU relies on a pressure defense which often extends out to 30', and Snaer is usually the one applying that pressure. He frustrates opposing point guards. He keeps them from getting the offense set. And he's quick enough and big enough that he can get into the ball-carriers body and still recover and pressure the shot from behind should his man get by him. And he does this all without fouling. A simple way to gauge how good his is (and how the defense is as a whole) is to watch how many times the opponent never gets the ball inside the three point line until the shot clock is under :10 seconds.
But still, he needs to get better. Last year he made a solid jump in defensive rebounding (defensive rebounding % went from 8.2 as a soph to 10.2 as a junior), and his steal rate went up. But now he's playing with more inexperienced players around him, and he needs to communicate and be a coach on the floor. Leonard Hamilton has stated that Michael Snaer understands the defensive principles better than any player he's ever coached, and now it's time for him to use that knowledge to help his young teammates avoid consistent defensive lapses.
Tim James. Tim Pickett. Al Thornton. Toney Douglas. In their senior seasons all those players took over their teams. They became the man. Now Michael Snaer is a senior and his head coach has publically stated that he thinks this team won't take a step back from last year. For that to be true, Michael Snaer will need to add his name to that list.