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November 11, 2011

FSU's stellar depth adds mystery to the starting lineup

Here's what we know about Florida State's basketball team as it enters the 2011-12 season: It returns a lot of experience. It was picked to finish third in the ACC. It's a team with a legitimate chance at another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

What we don't know? The starting lineup.

So pleased with his team's wealth of depth, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said he doesn't expect to have a set starting lineup any time soon. He wouldn't even commit to one for tonight's season opener against Jacksonville University as the new campaign gets underway. Tip time at the Donald L. Tucker Center is set for 7 p.m.

"It appears that this team has eight or nine guys that are in close proximity to each other in terms of abilities, so we have to find the right way to utilize that quality of depth," Hamilton said. "We could not have a starting lineup for a while."

In his team's two preseason exhibition games, Hamilton has started out with Luke Loucks at point guard, Michael Snaer at shooting guard, Okaro White at the No. 3 spot along with Xavier Gibson and Bernard James on the posts. While that may be the safest guess as to the group taking the floor for tonight's tipoff, Hamilton expects it to change game-to-game.

"That's extremely fluid right now," Hamilton said. "I'm not sure we need to be set on one particular lineup right now. We practice that way since Day 1. I'm not sure we've had any one group of guys (practicing) together two days in a row."

For example, against opponents with smaller lineups, Hamilton could slide White, normally a small forward, down to the power forward spot and go with a three-guard lineup. The Seminoles also could go big by adding athletic Terrance Shannon as a third forward.

But after the (predicted) first five, there are several who will see significant minutes in a variety of roles.

At the point, expect to see a heavy dose of rotation between Loucks and senior transfer Jeff Peterson.

"There's a need for me and Jeff to step up if we're going to be successful," Loucks said Thursday.

The Seminoles will also trot out Deividas Dulkys, and freshman Terry Whisnant at the guard spots along with Jon Kreft and Shannon inside. Promising sophomore Ian Miller is out, and Hamilton had no timetable on his return.

All told, FSU returns nine players who logged at least 10 minutes per game a season ago, and that doesn't count the 21.8 minutes per game Peterson had with Arkansas last year.

So if nothing else, tonight will give fans a glimpse of what to expect from the team's rotation.

Until the next game, that is.

"We've prepared all year long with that in mind, and hopefully the strength of this team comes in our numbers and the quality of our depth," Hamilton said.



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