Leonard Hamilton, Florida State at 2019 ACC Operation Basketball

florida stateQ. Coach, 17 seasons, heading into season No. 18. Just what you can say about the evolution of Florida State and your opinion, just where the program was and where it’s been taken in almost two decades here.
LEONARD HAMILTON: It appears that we’ve developed some consistency over the years. I think we’ve developed a culture that our players have bought into. We’ve been able to recruit to who we are. We’ve — early on, I thought we adjusted our system to the talent that we have available.

I think now what we’re doing, we’re recruiting the kind of players that fit the system that we feel comfortable in implementing into our system.

So we’re happy with where we are. We are still driven by the fact that we have not won a championship, which I’m not real sure, very many people feel like that should be a goal of our ours, but we’ve been knocking on the door the last several years. But the fact that we haven’t made it to the Final Four or had an opportunity to compete for a national title, I think our guys are extremely motivated. They’re consistently, sometimes maybe — we’re in a conference of some of the most rich tradition and successful programs in the history of college basketball, so we always have goals that we can achieve and great teams that we can compete against, and that just motivates us to work a little harder to continue moving our program forward.

We expect to have a good year now. We think that we have a good basketball team, and we’re looking forward to an opportunity to go in and show who we are.

Q. Coach, I don’t think any team lost as many great players to graduation in the NBA as you did, and yet you still have a really good core of players who got playing time, including the two men next to you. Is this the ultimate justification of your 10, 11-man rotation? Where would you be if you had not been playing so many players?
LEONARD HAMILTON: That’s the way we’ve been over the last number of years. We try to develop a system that, as we’re moving players on, we have guys with experience that are returning that can set the table and give us good leadership like we have with these two guys here. They have been tremendous, Trent and M.J. They’re great in the locker room, great before practice, after practice, setting the tone that these are our standards that everyone has to live up. We’ve been consistent with that.

I think we have four sophomores that are — we have four redshirt sophomores. We have a couple of juniors in Trent. We have two seniors, and we have several first year players that are in our system that seem to be buying in. I think the culture now will allow us to be consistent and successful year in and year out.

Q. Trent, going into your last year at Florida State, how do you make this year count?
TRENT FORREST: I would just say coming in every day, doing just the same thing I always did, work hard. The main thing, just being on my last year, is just to cherish every day. I mean, going out of college, I’ll miss Florida State. I’ll miss Coach and my teammates. So just cherishing every day. But to make it count, just come in every day, work hard, demand the most of myself and just demand the most of my teammates.

Q. This is for M.J. and Trent. Just what you can say about evolving through this and knowing the fact that some of the guys that came before you that have since moved on that you spoke about a little bit here today have had success, but you’ve had success behind them now, you’re passing the torch, kind of taking that, and just what you can say about this year’s team being leaders and maybe some of those guys you’re passing the torch to.
M.J. WALKER: I would just say the guys that left, the legacy that they left and the example that they left impacted us a lot. We’ve learned so much from them as far as just how they approach the game and their leadership styles and how they got us involved on the court.

I think for us as leaders, we learned so much from them, and we’re trying to continue that culture throughout the rest of our program, through our guys so that, when our time is done, that culture has continued to build. We’ll just continue to keep building.

TRENT FORREST: I would just kind of go along with what M.J. said. I mean, I’m pretty sure they feel like they left it better than what it was when they got here, and now just for me and M.J., we want to do the same thing, leave it better when we’re gone than what it was than while we were here. If we can do that, we’ll be able to be the best leaders we can be in the position that we are in.

We were able to learn so much from those guys because we were with them for at least two years. So it was — I mean, we got to see kind of the younger stage and then the maturity process that they went through from like junior to senior year, sophomore to junior year. So it’s kind of just the same thing with us. We’ve been able to see that, and we kind of went through the same process, just going from that junior to senior year or sophomore to junior year. So just leaving the culture better than what it was when we got here.

Q. Coach, can you talk about when you’re recruiting, the type of guys that you recruit because you get them to buy in to that ten-man rotation year in and year out?
LEONARD HAMILTON: I’ve been asked that question quite a bit, and I’m finding it interesting because we don’t seem to have any problem with our guys buying in to our system. That’s who we are, and we try to be honest with the prospects when we go into their homes, and they understand that works.

When we look back over the last eight or nine years, I think guys have been able to go on and realize the opportunities available for them. We’ve only had, I think, two youngsters not graduate in the last 17 years. They’ve been with us for four years, so they’re leaving with their degrees. They’re leaving with opportunities to play basketball at the next level. Many have gone on to Europe. Some have gone on to the NBA. Those that have not have successful lives.

So I think we try to be honest with the players that we are recruiting as to who we are, and the guys who come buy into the culture. So we’ve had very little issues, and we think that, in order for us to be successful, we’ve just got to play extremely hard on both ends of the court, and in order to be able to do that, you can’t play if you’re fatigued.

We have a motto that resting is the enemy of success. So we don’t rest very much. We try to play hard on both ends, and to be honest with you, I think if you’re on the court and you’re doing that, you can’t sustain that level of effort but for so many minutes, and our guys look forward to the rest.

Q. Coach, if I’ve done my count right, you’ve got eight newcomers, and of those eight, they each represent a class — freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. Quite a lot of diversity, the meshing, how do you take these personalities and put them together with the guys you’ve got coming back?
LEONARD HAMILTON: We understand each player is individual, and we try to give them rules that allow them to be successful within their abilities, and we try to play to their strengths. And those who need areas of improvement in the game, we work on those. So everyone realizes they have an opportunity to make a contribution to our system, and even some of the younger guys, it’s obvious in areas where they need to improve.

We’ve had very little issue. I think everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to contribute, and we give them the opportunities they deserve. We’ve had very little issues. You’re always going to have one or two, but those guys probably aren’t great fits. So we have — I don’t know of any issues, really issues that we’ve had that we haven’t been able to sit down and talk about and work things out. People seem to be accepting of who we are and how we have to play in order to be successful.

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