NICEVILLE, FLA. – Less than 40 days away, the countdown has begun for Florida State basketball fans along the emerald coast to have a dream fulfilled watching the Seminoles play in their own backyard.
In what shapes up as one of the premier matchups of the college basketball season, Florida State will play defending co-regular season Southeastern Conference champ Tennessee in a semifinal round game of the Emerald Coast Classic Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Arena on the Northwest Florida State campus.
With seven NCAA Tournament appearances since 2009, head coach Leonard Hamilton has built Florida State into not only one of the premier teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but also one of the most respected programs in the nation averaging 26 wins the past three seasons.
“We jumped at the chance to play in the 2019 Emerald Coast Classic,” said Hamilton, whose team posted a school record 29-8 mark in 2018-19 while ranked No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll. “Not only is it a great field of teams which gives us some phenomenal early season games but the tournament is in a part of our state where we haven’t played before.
“The opportunity to play great competition and bring our team to more of our fans is a winning combination for our program. We are excited about playing in the Emerald Coast Classic in one of the most beautiful areas in the state of Florida.”
Last year The Seminoles finished fourth in the ACC with a 13-3 record with their third appearance in school history in the ACC Tournament Championship game.
Despite losing yet another group of players that included two NBA draft picks in Terrance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele, there is a great deal of excitement for the Seminoles to have another tremendous season.
Veteran guards Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker will make the Seminoles dangerous this season, while the program has reloaded with a talented collection of freshmen and transfers.
Forrest, one of the top point guards in the ACC, was named to the NCAA Tournament All-West Region Team in leading the Seminoles to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament when he collected 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals against Gonzaga.
Forrest was third on the team averaging 9.3 points for the 2018-19 season and led the team averaging 3.7 assists. He also averaged 4.5 rebounds. Walker averaged a career-high 7.5 points, while making a career-high 44 3-point shots (second) as a sophomore in 2019.
Sophomore swingman Devin Vassell shot a team-leading .419 from the 3-point line and led the ACC’s freshmen with his .419 3-point shooting percentage. Sophomore forward RaiQuan Gray, who was a starter in the Seminoles’ NCAA Tournament games against Vermont, Murray State and Gonzaga, also returns after averaging 3.9 points.
Heralded 6-8 freshman Patrick Williams, a five-star small forward and consensus top 25 prep player, could help with scoring load immediately along with 7-1 freshman center Balsa Koprivica from Serbia. Junior college transfer guards RayQuan Evans, 6-4 from North Idaho, and Nate Jack from East Florida State, also will contribute.
“I love the quality of our depth,” said Hamilton, who is in his 18thyear at Florida State. “A lot of our newcomers are not inexperienced. Talent wise we are okay. We lack togetherness and the experience of playing with one another. That’s our biggest challenge.”