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March 6, 2006Audio
"Our team has had two tremendous efforts in our last two games out. We realized that we had stubbed our toe a couple of times along the way and the last ten games our youngsters have seemed to really be focused and we won seven of our last 10 games and we seemed to be getting better. Winning a game on the road was a good experience for our players as we go into the ACC Tournament. Once you get into the ACC Tournament anything is capable of happening so we are kind of looking forward to it and coming in and see whether or not we can continue to improve."
Q: Did you feel after yesterday's game that you had locked up an NCAA Tournament bid or do you feel you are going into the ACC Tournament with something still to prove?
Leonard Hamilton: If our aspirations and goals are only to win 19 games and finish fifth in the ACC I guess we probably would have felt somewhat relieved but we still feel like our best basketball has not been played. I think we are a team that is still developing and I think we are a team on the rise. So this gives us an opportunity to go into the ACC Tournament and earn the respect that I think a program like ours needs to earn so that we won't be one of those programs - so that we will be one of those programs of a little more significance in the ACC. There is a lot of history and tradition in the ACC and we just want to make sure we earn a right to be a part of it.
Q: How much do you think you strengthened your NCAA Tournament resume in the last two games and do you think you are in?
Leonard Hamilton: It is so interesting as you go through this process. I feel very confident we are one of the top 64 teams. It appears as though we are using more statistical analysis to evaluate the value of the team. At least that is what it appears to be from the outside not knowing what all the criterias are that the committee will be using. I am just hopeful people will just have a healthy respect for the ACC and the quality of the league we have and realize that when you start adding up the quality of the games that we have played coming through the ACC and I am sure we could have done better but we have lost to some very good basketball teams - Duke in overtime and they were number one, a very good North Carolina who finished second (in the league), a Boston College team that finished third (in the conference) we lost by three, and we beat Duke. I think that does strengthen your resume but it appears that there is a sentiment that we are only going by certain statistics and I really don't know what all of them are so what we are going to do is put all that behind us and come to the ACC Tournament feeling that what we have to do is continue to keep staying focused and playing like we have the last couple games and hopefully all of this will take care of itself.
Q: This is the first time since the days of Sam Cassell that Florida State has not lost at least 10 games in the ACC, what kind of things went into turning that around this season?
Leonard Hamilton: It was a tremendous motivator when we were picked 11th or 12th by all of the media and by just about everybody else, all the magazines who picked us to finish 11th or 12th in our league, that motivated us. The fact that we have a healthy respect for the people in our league motivated us. The fact that we didn't have a double figure scorer returning, we lost our leading scorer as we had only one kid averaging in double figures last year and he went to the NBA so we had a lot to prove. Deep down inside we felt as though we were developing into a pretty good basketball team. The scenario was created with a lot of built in motivators that made it easy for our kids to at least do all the little things that would give us a chance. We faltered a little bit in terms of executing but I think we are coming together with that and executing a little better. It wasn't necessarily a whole lot that we did but I think the scenario motivated us and kept us focused and understanding that we had to do what we had to do to earn the respect.
Q: Is there one guy you would point to as the catalyst for your team?
Leonard Hamilton: I said before the season that we had to win games by committee. One thing that is interesting to me but different and pleasing to me is that they all like each other more than any group I have been around. They don't have cliques. Whenever they come into eat, wherever there is a seat, they all sit down. They are a bunch of guys who really seem to be happy for one another. Alexander Johnson gladly gave up his starting position and was happy for Diego Romero to start on senior night. We have had times where Isaiah Swann has come to me when Jerel Allen is playing well and I want to take Jerel out of the game and Isaiah is tapping me on the shoulder and telling me 'Coach, let him stay in, he is playing well'. That type of spirit doesn't always exist on teams and so I think that has done as much, the camaraderie, togetherness, and respect they have for one another has done as much to help us improve our program as much as anything - Just having the right kind of kids with a single minded focus.
Q: You have had some success in the last couple recruiting classes getting kids from down south Florida, as with most of the state is known more for it's prep football, but what do you think of prep basketball down here now?
Leonard Hamilton: I think prep basketball over the entire state has gotten better. You will see different basketball programs around the country springing up with players from Florida. You want to know where did this guy come from. You have one at Vanderbilt, one at Nebraska, kids up in Massachusetts, a couple kids at other ACC programs, and South Carolina. There is good basketball in the state. It has not been as popular as football but I think it is getting better and as a state institution we need to make sure we are getting our fair share of them. For whatever reason, Florida State's football program being as successful as it has been and Tallahassee being such a great college environment for youngsters we find selling Florida State basketball has been not very difficult at all.
Q: With getting Ryan Reid and Jon Kreft from down here in the last two years, has it been more of a focus for south Florida lately or is it just a reciprocal thing as there has been more talent down here the last couple of years?
Leonard Hamilton: What we are doing is we are focusing on the entire state. There are not only players in South Florida that we are interested in, but we are recruiting all over the state and all over the nation and virtually all over the world.
Q: Can you talk about the impact Todd Galloway will have with the experience he has in the ACC Tournament?
Leonard Hamilton: There is no doubt that the leadership that we have gotten and received from our seniors has made a big difference in this team this year. Todd is a kind of a quiet leader, Andrew is a little more vocal, and Diego leads by example. Todd has given us being the point guard has been a very solid performer for us this year. Whenever we have needed someone to step up and make plays for us, he has always rose to the occasion. He has done a very good job under the circumstances. He is very, very important and he has been there before. When he speaks he has the attention of his team.
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