December 16, 2002 TALLAHASSEE In an attempt to temper unreasonable expectations following his team's solid 4-1 start, first-year Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton was quick to remind anyone who was listening that the Seminoles have very little margin for error. That margin was reduced even further when sophomore starter Andrew Wilson tore a ligament in his right (shooting) wrist while diving for a loose ball in the Seminoles' 72-55 win over Miami. Wilson underwent surgery Dec. 13 and probably will be lost for two months, putting a strain on a team that needs every able body to play at the intensity level Hamilton expects in order for this group have success.
The Seminoles won't necessarily miss Wilson's offensive contributions (7.8 ppg) much, but they will find it difficult to replace the 6-5 swingman's defensive intensity and grasp of the system. Though he had yet to find his shooting stroke (29.5 percent), he was responsible for shutting down Florida freshman standout Matt Walsh and Miami's Darius Rice in consecutive games as the Seminoles jumped off to their best start in five seasons.
The burden of filling the void likely will go to sophomore forward Anthony Richardson, who was averaging 9.8 points a game off the bench. The former McDonald's All-American must get a quick handle on Hamilton's expectations at both ends of the floor in order for the Seminoles to survive the loss of Wilson. As always, Richardson is confident he can get the job done.
I feel like I can step in right now and fill (Wilson's) shoes, Richardson said. I'm not going to take it as I've got to take it on by myself. We're a team. Ö It's going to take a team effort to do whatever needs to be done.
Hamilton has been most encouraged by Richardson's willingness to ask questions, as well as his commitment to improvement. The athletic part of the slender 6-7 swingman's game is not a problem. Through five games, he was shooting 64.5 percent from the floor and was second on the team in blocked shots (1.4 per game).
Galloway One Pleasant Surprise
When Hamilton arrived at FSU in mid-March, he inherited a team that had labored through four consecutive losing seasons. He also inherited a diminutive point guard who he wasn't sure would immediately fit into his plans Todd Galloway, a Steve Robinson recruit from last year's early signing period.
Galloway's standing with the new staff appeared tenuous at best when Hamilton went after and landed steady juco Nate Johnson, who has been solid in five starts this season. But Galloway's early play, both spelling Johnson and playing alongside him, provided a significant boost to the Seminoles.
I think he is doing a tremendous job for us, Hamilton said. I can't tell you how pleased we are with Todd Galloway and the play that he has displayed. He has given us a comfort zone.
The Baltimore native certainly looked at ease in the Seminoles' biggest week of the early season at home against Iowa, Florida and Miami. He had 14 points in 19 minutes off the bench as the Seminoles knocked off the Hawkeyes 80-67. Then, after getting shut out against the Gators (a 58-57 loss), he bounced back with 11 points in the win over Miami. Fifth on the team in scoring (7.8 ppg), Galloway was shooting 58.3 percent from the floor and had a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.
Clearly, Hamilton Knows Defense
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The Seminoles are vastly improved defensively, quickly living up to the reputation of Hamilton's old Miami teams. Through five games the Seminoles led the ACC in field goal defense (.330), three-point field goal defense (.275) and steals (12.2 per game), while ranking second in scoring defense (54.6 ppg) and blocked shots (6.4 per game).
To give those numbers some context, consider this: It has been 45 years since the Seminoles have held their opponents under 40 percent in field goal shooting for a season. The team held three of its first five opponents under 30 percent from the floor, including the Hurricanes, who were limited to a two-year-low 28.3 percent. Meanwhile, since the advent of the three-point shot in 1986-87, their previous best effort in that category was 31.5 percent.
Still, the biggest surprise of all was the scoring defense. While that was aided by routs of horrid Savannah State (79-46) and Mercer (83-47), you have to go all the way back to the first three seasons of FSU hoops (1948-50) to find a team that allowed fewer than 60 points per game. In fact, FSU's scoring defense has held the opposition under 70 points a game for a season only three times in the last 25 years.
No Easy Answers For Post Play
Hamilton's search for production in the post has yet to turn up the kind of results so desperately needed in order to compete successfully in the ACC.
Senior Trevor Harvey has shown promising moments at both ends, but seldom have they come in concert. After grabbing nine rebounds in each of his first two games, Harvey had just 10 total over the next four. He also had nine blocked shots.
Harvey averaged 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in just over 16 minutes per game in the early going. Offensively, he was shooting 78.6 percent (11-for-14) from the floor in four games as the starting center. His scoring average should have been better, considering that he led the team in free throw attempts with 19, but he made only 11 of those.
Sophomore forward Adam Waleskowski led the post players in minutes per game (17.8), but he averaged just 3.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.
The real disappointment in an otherwise promising start for the Seminoles was the disappearance of senior center Mike Mathews from the lineup. He fell into a role where he was the last player in Hamilton's 10-man rotation, largely because he just isn't able to think and play quickly on his feet.
That development was particularly troubling because he is FSU's most experienced big man. Still, it was hard to justify playing time for an athletic, 6-10 center/forward who averaged 2.8 points and 0.6 rebounds when he did see the floor.
Unless the light switch comes on for Mathews, Hamilton is going to be hamstrung inside. As it is, the coach already is counting on 6-7 Michael Joiner to play power forward. With Wilson out of the lineup, he may be forced to use an even smaller three-guard lineup at times.
Given the vastly improved post play around the league, the Seminoles are going to have a hard time in ACC competition unless than can improve on their combined three-man center production of 13.6 points and 11 rebounds a game.