Hamilton likes FSU’s basketball mix of talent

Xavier Rathan-Mayer sets for a layup as Michael Ojo (right) towers over him during Friday’s Jam With Ham. Photo courtesy FSU athletics

Xavier Rathan-Mayer sets for a layup as Michael Ojo (right) towers over him during Friday’s Jam With Ham.
Photo courtesy FSU athletics




By James Foster
Outlook Writer

After coming off a season that fell short of making the NCAA tournament, FSU men’s basketball coach Leonard Hamilton in hoping the Seminoles will bounce back as a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I think we have a real good balance of inexperienced talented players and experienced players that can give good leadership,” said Hamilton. “We also have a lot of young humble guys that will allow the older players to lead which is a good feeling.”

Hamilton made his assessment after the Seminoles’ first public appearance in their annual Jam with Ham event, their version of midnight madness, in front a packed Tully Gym.

The Seminoles competed in a scrimmage, dunk contests and other events to entertain the crowd. The Seminoles threw a twist on the event with a retro theme that brought a lot of excitement, as Hamilton appeared in a 1960s styled plaid suit.

But while the fans got a kick out of the outfit, their attention was squarely on 6-foot-10 freshman Jonathan Isaac. He is coming into the season as the ninth-ranked freshman, according to ESPN. He lived up to the accolade, throwing down some vicious dunks.

Isaac showed even more versatility during the 3-point contest. He nailed nine treys in 40 seconds.
He’s had the attention of his teammates long before his latest demonstration of talent, though.

Dwayne Bacon, the leading scorer of the team last year (averaging 15.8 points per game), was one of the first to notice what Isaac brings to the Seminoles.

“He’s a man-child” said Bacon. “He could go top five in the (NBA) draft. He can shoot it, he can put in on the floor (and) he can pass.”

Isaac also is one of the reasons that the Seminoles are going into the upcoming season as with the 12th-ranked recruiting class. They also are ranked in the preseason top 25 team by USA Today, Sporting News, SBNation and Campus Insiders.

While the ranking is a good indicator of the talent on Hamilton’s squad, staying in the top 25 will require solid individual play.

Bacon in particular is looking to have an impressive year himself after coming off a season that ended with speculation he would enter the draft.

While the stakes are high for Bacon and Isaac, Michael Ojo, a 7-foot-1, 304-pound graduate center, gained the attention of the fans with his new ability to shoot from three-point range.

Ojo probably will never shoot from behind the arc in a single game, but he repeatedly gave the crowd a sampling of what he could do from long range.

After missing all of last season due to injury, Ojo is eager to make an impact this year. He’s put in the time during the off season to assure that, Ojo said.

“I was able to become a student of the game” he said. “I asked the coaches a lot of questions to see if I can find different ways to lead this team.”

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