FSU Basketball: Seminoles using NIT to build for next season

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Devon Bookert scored 21 points in Florida State’s win over Georgetown on Monday. (Garry Thompson/Sneakin’ Deacon)

Early NIT success has FSU with promising outlook for 2014-15

For a team like Florida State that sat on the bubble on Selection Sunday, it was a mystery as to how the Seminoles would respond at the opportunity of playing in the NIT. After a lackluster 58-53 victory over Florida Gulf Coast, FSU broke the century mark against Georgetown on Monday night, winning 101-90 with big nights from underclassmen in the process.

Seniors Ian Miller and Okaro White finished with 18 and 16 points respectively on Monday, but a pair of sophomore guards had career-nights. Aaron Thomas tied a career-high by scoring 26 points for the third time this season while shooting a remarkably efficient 8-for-10 from the field. His colleague in the backcourt, Devon Bookert, finished with 21 points and nine assists in the win over the Hoyas — both career-highs.

Bookert was as in control of the offense as he had ever been in Monday’s victory and put up 21 points while attempting just five shots from the field. Bookert made four of his five field goal attempts, but also earned himself 12 trips to the foul line. As a team, FSU shot better than 68 percent for the contest.

While it’s hard to imagine that Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team is absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to be playing in the NIT, FSU has given its fans and students reasons to be optimistic about next season on the hardwood. With so many heartbreaking losses, the Seminoles came very close to being part of the field of 68 and putting forth a great effort in the NIT may have not been the easiest thing to do.

Though Aaron Thomas has been stellar all season long for Florida State, Devon Bookert has endured more of an up-and-down campaign. Monday’s career-night however, gives FSU reason to believe that the Seminoles could return one of the best backcourts in the ACC next season.

Florida State will not only return Thomas and Bookert next season, but six of the nine regulars in Leonard Hamilton’s rotation will have at least two more years of eligibility remaining. FSU will also have the services of Xavier Rathan-Mayes — its top recruit who was ruled academically ineligible prior to the season — to add much needed depth to the guard position next season.

While the NIT is little more than a consolation prize, the Seminoles have used the extra games to build toward next season. On a night in which Okaro White became Florida State’s all-time leader in games played, it was a pair of sophomore guards that stole the show. FSU will look to make its first trip to the NIT semifinals in nearly two decades with a win over Louisiana Tech on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs defeated Florida State in the NIT a season ago, 71-66.

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