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November 16, 2011

Snaer stepping in as FSU's team leader

According to his head coach, Michael Snaer is not only Florida State's best perimeter defender, he's also the team's hardest worker.

"Michael Snaer is the ultimate gym rat and our team is full of some serious gym rats," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said during ACC Media Days in Charlotte, N.C. last month. "He spends more hours working on his game than anyone our team. He is (at FSU's practice facility) early. He is there late. He's there on the weekends. He is there all the time."

This season, Snaer, a 6-foot-5 junior, is working on adding another title: Team leader. It's showing already through two games as Snaer leads the Seminoles in scoring entering tonight's 7 p.m. tilt against Stetson. He scored 15 in the 73-50 win over UCF on Monday.

"Michael has always been more of a leader by example on the court," Hamilton said. "But, now he's boisterous out there. When he gets a deflection or makes a play in practice, he gets pumped up. He's taking it upon himself to be more verbal and he's challenging other players to step up."

The loss of Chris Singleton - the No. 18 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft - and veteran point guard Derwin Kitchen explains the change in Snaer's demeanor. While replacing their production will be a cohesive effort - the Seminoles return eight of the other top 10 scorers from a Sweet 16 run - Snaer is largely seen as the player most capable of taking charge offensively thanks to his size and skill set.

"I think he's going to be our leading scorer," senior center Bernard James said. "He's a guy that can score in so many ways and he has more opportunities now. It's his show with Chris and Kitchen gone. The last couple years he's been the No. 2 or No. 3 guy. Now he's a guy that is looking to score and he has all the tools. He can shoot and he can drive and create contact and get to the (free throw line)."

Snaer can also play great defense, which is what he was known for best last season. Often asked to guard the opponents' best perimeter player, he was a key reason the Seminoles led the nation in field goal percentage defense for a second straight year at a stingy 36.3 percent.

On offense, Snaer was also a steady contributor, ranking third on the team with 8.8 ppg. The veteran developed a reliable mid-range jumper and was also dangerous from beyond the arc, hitting a career-high five 3-pointers against Florida.

When Singleton went down with broken foot in the first half against Virginia, Snaer stepped up with a season-high 16 points. he raised his free throw percentage to 77 percent, a jump of 11 points.

In the offseason, Snaer worked tirelessly on his outside shooting, finishing around the basket and ball handling.

But Snaer doesn't like to talk about looking for his own shot more and quickly shoots down talk of being the "go-to guy." Two years in the ACC has taught the former McDonald's All-American a more humble approach.

"Not at all," said Snaer when asked if he feels a responsibility to handle more of the scoring load. "I'm much more relaxed. I've been that way past years and it didn't work. I've realized I just have to go out there and play hard and have fun. I'm not feeling like I have got to step up or that this is my year. I put the work in during the offseason and I've just got to trust that it's going to pay off."

That kind of attitude shows in the way Snaer practices.

"Michael has the same mentality as Singleton (the 2009-10 ACC Defensive Player of the Year) in that he just loves to play defense," Hamilton said. "He talks about it and he backs it up. We have him defend our point guards in practice because if they can handle the pressure he puts on them they will be a lot more prepared once they get into a game."

Even with the chance to jack up more shots, Snaer somehow keeps the attention on his defense and makes his teammates look better.

Sure sounds like he has this team leader stuff down.



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