Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 26, 2016

Leonard Hamilton

Florida State Seminoles

LEONARD HAMILTON: I feel like we've gotten off to a real good start, obviously. For us we had some errors we felt like we needed to improve on over last year, and one was we needed to improve the quality of our depth so we could sustain our defensive effort for longer periods of time. I think we've improved in those areas.

I think that we've been able to get a couple of -- three of our guys back healthy that didn't get a chance to play last year in Michael Ojo and Phil Cofer who has started for us the years before, along with Brandon Allen, so we feel we should be a much improved basketball team.

This team has been a real fun bunch to work with because they're high energy and have tremendous chemistry.


Q. To speak on Ojo as well as Cofer coming back, just what you can say about what they do to this team this season, the dynamic, and then also you said returning to junkyard defense, just what you meant by that.
LEONARD HAMILTON: Well, what has happened with Cofer and Ojo, they were our most physical guys. Both had been starters, and Ojo is a fifth-year senior. He's completed his undergraduate degree. He's in graduate school. He's gotten himself in tremendous condition. We expect a lot more out of him from a defensive standpoint and rebounding. We're not going to call on him to do an awful lot of scoring, but he sets great screens, he takes up a lot of space, and we're counting on him to really, really be a force in the middle.

Phil Cofer I thought really improved. He utilized the season of setting out to improve all his skills, and we've tried to become a positionless team with the only position that we're counting on is our post player, and all the other players are interchangeable. We've changed our style a little bit more, a lot more aggressive, so I think that fits a little bit more. We're giving Ojo a little bit less responsibilities and feel he's become a little bit more of a perimeter player with his defensive energy that he brings to our team, and I think that's making a big difference in how well we're practicing.

Q. What's making the next step for this basketball team, and what's it going to take to get there?
LEONARD HAMILTON: Well, I think we've improved ourselves offensively. I think we averaged about 78 points a game last year. Obviously we did not come anywhere close to playing the level of defense that we've become accustomed to. And I think we've implemented that. We're trying to get our culture back from a defensive standpoint because we have more depth.

I'm not real sure that we're that far away. When you look up, I think we might have been successful against three of the teams that played in the Elite 8 last year, and that's not to say that we had a great season, but we showed that at times that we were capable of playing very good basketball.

I felt that there was so many times when I had four freshmen on the floor that just didn't quite understand how to finish games at this particular level. I think the experience they got last year was invaluable, and I think that we'll return some of our veterans, and the addition of I think five or six new kids have far exceeded our expectations and helped us improve our depth, so we're excited, and I think that we don't have very much to do other than just continuing to keep work hard.

Q. We asked Dwayne Bacon about the fun of his last name, the type of style of ball that he brought to the arena last year. Does the coaching staff have as much fun, or do you note that type of excitement that he brings both on the floor and in the stands?
LEONARD HAMILTON: Well, Dwayne is a very skilled player that has great ball handling and passing skills. Obviously he's a good scorer, and he's one of the best finishers around the basket that I think I've coached over the years.

What he's done as of late, he's really improved his perimeter shooting. We've corrected some of his shooting form. He's shooting the ball very well, which I think is going to make him more dangerous.

But I also feel that the challenge that we've given him is to be more and more of a complete player with deflections and steals and rebounds and high-energy stops. We've challenged him to make that more of a part of his game, and he's responded very well.

Q. We'd heard a lot of good things about Jonathan Isaac; can you give us some specifics on what we might expect to see?
LEONARD HAMILTON: Jonathan Isaac was a 6'2", 6'3" guard early on in his career. He's one of those youngsters that grew to be about 6'10", 6'10 1/2". He maintained his perimeter skills, his dribbling and passing skills. But I think what separates him is his high basketball IQ. He's a very unselfish, very humble youngster who has a team spirit, is a great teammate. He only needs to get bigger and stronger. He's a tall and slender youngster, just as his body matures, I think you'll see him continuing to improve.

He is more of a complete player from a skill standpoint, but what separates him, I believe, is his IQ and his team effort-type spirit, and that's really contagious, and I think it's rubbing off on all the other players, to have a guy who's been given that much recognize who comes in and he fits right in and tries to be more concerned about the overall betterment of the team as opposed to himself.

Q. You've had a storied career dating back to when you were recruited for Joe Hall at Kentucky. You built a program at Miami, made them very competitive in the Big East, you've coached in the NBA, and now a lot of success at Florida State. At this point in your career, what excites you about coaching? What's left to do?
LEONARD HAMILTON: That's a great question. I am excited every day I come to work. I love what I do. I love working with young people and trying to communicate with them during what I think is probably most important period of their life, when they're teenagers going into young adulthood.

Yes, I'm excited about wanting to win ACC championships and get to the NCAA Tournament, but I'm happier when I am invited to their weddings, when they ask me to be the godfather to their kids. I'm more concerned about when I look at my trophy case and I've got lots of awards, but the awards that I'm more concerned about is what kind of husband, what kind of fathers, what kind of neighbors, what kind of citizens these guys are going to become.

Fortunate or unfortunate, when you have youngsters under your supervision at that age, they mostly emulate you and the program, things that they've been taught in the athletic arena, and so I look forward to every day trying to be a part of making a difference in these guys' lives and hopefully we can win enough basketball games along the way.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #166 at 2016-10-26 18:29:00 GMT

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