The freshman learning curve proves to be a steep one

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

FSU's defense hasn't looked much like FSU's defense, but it is beginning to come around

Michael Snaer spent much of the season in disbelief, and it showed. He was frustrated. He yelled at teammates. And several times he just stood anchored to a spot on the floor, utterly shocked at what the rest of the team was (or wasn't) doing on defense.

For his first three seasons Snaer had the luxury of playing with teammates who understood the defense. They made the same reads. They worked together. He knew if he forced his man to the middle, that one of his teammates would be there to help. He knew when to switch. And so did everyone else - it was a team concept being executed at a very high level.

This year, all that changed. He would force his man to the middle only to watch him have an uncontested lane to the basket. He'd make what felt like a natural switch, only one of his teammates wouldn't switch and they'd watch yet another uncontested three. A point came where he couldn't trust his teammates, and it caused his own defense to suffer. He'd spent so much effort trying to defend everyone that he'd have dead legs late in the second half. Ask him about North Carolina. Ask him about Miami. He was worn out.

But this ragged band he was playing with began to grow up. They began to understand. Aaron Thomas was probably the first to really begin grasping things, and then Kiel Turpin was right behind. Now the rest of the youngsters have at least a solid understanding of the basics, and it's showing. The FSU defense, for the first time all year, is beginning to look like an FSU defense.

Take a look at this first video and tell me what you see.

The effort is pretty good, right? And that's some of what was missing. But really, it was the scheme.

Watch the video again, only focus on no one but Montay Brandon and Michael Snaer.

They switch three times before the first shot is even taken. During the scramble, everyone gets lost, and then Ian Miller steps out and fills Brandon's spot. These switches don't come natural to most high school players, and this is where FSU was getting in so much trouble early on. But these switches are also Defense 101 in the Ham scheme. He can't even begin to really teach the defense if those switches aren't natural.

Here's another. Focus on Ian Miller. NC State tries to isolate him but he stays in front of Brown. And then when Purvis attempts the layup, he has Bojo attacking from the front and Okaro attacking from the back. That is FSU basketball.

Again, the effort is solid. Now, one more time. Watch Snaer and White. Snaer is a 2-guard and White is a stretch 4. In the vast majority of defense, these players generally don't switch. And you can throw that out the window if you want to play for Coach Hamilton.

Watch how they communicate. Watch Snaer telling White that the player is about to pop out from the wing before the player makes any move at all.

It's been a frustrating year, but the understanding is coming around. And better late than never.

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