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August 2, 2009

Basketball team looking forward to Spain

Florida State's men's basketball team, which advanced to the ACC championship game and the NCAA Tournament last season, will head to Spain on Aug. 11 for a series of exhibition games stretching from Aug. 13-22

The trip will be financed by Nike, as will a similar trip to South Africa for the women's basketball team.

"I think it is going to be an incredible adventure. I can't wait - I have never been outside the country. It is going to be neat for me," sophomore forward Chris Singleton said. "It isn't a vacation though. It is a chance to go and compete against professionals who play together and get paid to do it and see what we are made of."

Singleton's business-like approach is shared by the head Seminole, Leonard Hamilton, who last took a team abroad in 2005 when the Seminoles visited Trinidad and Tobago .

"We are going to utilize this as glorified practices and an opportunity to grow kind of under fire," Hamilton said. "We have some specific emphases that we are going to be working on, but that is what you do when you have these opportunities available to you."

With star point guard Toney Douglas moving on to the NBA's New York Knicks, the Seminoles will be looking to replace their leading scorer this upcoming season.

The August trip provides an opportunity for the squad, sans freshmen Michael Snaer and Terrance Shannon who are unable to participate on the expedition due to NCAA rules, to work on parts of their game they will need to utilize later in the fall.

"We really want to zero in on the areas of our game that we feel we need to improve on as we look ahead to the upcoming season," Hamilton said. "Obviously, any time that you are going on and competing against international teams you are representing your school, conference and the United States.

But the most important thing that you can get out of these type of opportunities is to come in and try to improve in those areas where you feel like it will make you a better basketball team come the fall."

For some, like sophomore center Solomon Alabi, the summer trip will allow him to show the strides he has made since last March. Alabi mentioned that this summer has marked the first time he has had a full off-season to practice since high school. And it shows, with an added 10 pounds of muscle on his lanky, 7-foot-1 frame.

"I am really, really excited because it is the first time that we get a chance to go away together for so long," Alabi said. "We plan to come out and work hard together and see what we can do. We feel like it is a great opportunity to improve now for the upcoming season and see what we have done to get better since the end of last season."

"It is a great chance to get more experience as a team against somebody else," Alabi added. "I am really looking forward to it."

While the basketball portion of the trip will be beneficial to the team, Hamilton also believes it will enrich the minds of his players and give them an opportunity to see something different.

"It is a culturally enriching opportunity, and we are very appreciative that Nike has furnished the funds for us to take this trip," Hamilton said. "It is good for the kids from an educational standpoint to be exposed and then compete against outstanding competition. It's a very worthwhile opportunity for us."

While the Seminoles became a close-knit group a season ago, when they outdid numerous preseason prognostications, a trip abroad provides an opportunity for the family atmosphere to flourish even more on and off the court.

"Any time you can spend time working together and traveling and going through the types of challenges that we will face over there, it is worthwhile to help with our team," Hamilton said. "We are going to start a different lineup every game. We are not going to try to determine anything other than trying to give the kids some opportunities to play and get better."

Most of all, the players and coaches are looking forward to getting back to what they love, playing basketball. For junior Derwin Kitchen, who has been working hard on improving his conditioning this offseason, he is interested in the litmus test of sorts for him and his teammates.

"I am really looking forward to it to see where we stand," Kitchen said. "Just to get the chemistry and everything going to see what we need to improve on, that is the main thing about this trip I am looking forward to. That and playing basketball."


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