FSU coach Leonard Hamilton speaks to the media after FSU’s 85-68 win over Southeast Missouri.
Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat
The Florida State men’s basketball program has come a long way in a short amount of time.
The Seminoles (10-1) didn’t even make the NIT during the 2014-15 season finishing 17-16. They went to the program’s first Elite Eight since 1993 in March, and fell four points short of beating Michigan (58-54) for a chance to make it to the Final Four.
“When I look back on the year during the (2017-18) regular season we showed some growth, but we stubbed our toe a few times along the way,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton told the Tallahassee Democrat.
“Like in most situations these kids showed a tremendous amount of growth. We learned from our shortcomings during the year, and at the end of the regular season the school of hard knocks had taught us some very valuable lessons that were useful once we got into the postseason and we were really able to come together as a team.”
FSU closes out the 2018 calendar year Saturday in the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla. against St. Louis (8-3).
With a win, FSU would finish 2018 with a 23-11 record across the final half of the 2017-18 season and the first half of the 2018-19 season. Some of those wins came against powerhouse basketball programs like North Carolina, Gonzaga, Xavier, Florida, and Syracuse.
FSU went 13-2 at home in 2018 with the only losses coming against Virginia (59-55) and Louisville (73-69).
The Seminoles are currently ranked as the No. 12 team in the country and considered one of the top teams in college basketball this season.
“What we’re hoping, this year, is that we don’t have to go to the school of hard knocks for us to start being a lot more consistent with the games,” Hamilton said.
“When we look back at the year we feel some sense of accomplishment but realize the fact that we still have a ways to go.”
It’s been an outstanding year by FSU’s standards, but don’t tell that to Hamilton.
He wants more for this program.
“I do feel that we’re making progress,” Hamilton said.
“I do feel we’re moving forward with where we are. I feel good about that. I guess I’m just the kind of person that’s realistic. I’ve been very fortunate during my career to have been at some places that have been able to accomplish some significant things.
“We want very badly for those things to happen here at Florida State. I’m just not allowing us as a program to feel a sense of accomplishment when we feel that there’s a lot more out there for us to achieve.”
Hamilton was an assistant coach at Kentucky in 1978 when the Wildcats won the National Championship.
The 2017-2018 season at FSU was the closest he’s ever come to doing that as a head coach.
But the 2018-19 Seminoles have a chance to improve upon that, and Hamilton and his players believe that they can.
It’s a different program than what it was just a few years ago.
“We have higher goals,” Hamilton said.
“We still have not reached our goals yet. We want to be a program of significance on a regular basis. We feel like we came up a little short last year by not getting to the final four and having a chance to compete for a national title. We feel like we’re making progress, but we have not accomplished some things on our wish list.”
No. 12 Florida State vs. St. Louis
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.
TV/Radio: FS2/103.1 FM