It was Senior Night and the defeat essentially ended the Seminoles’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Realistically, White thought he and seniors Ian Miller and Robert Gilchrist would never play at Tallahassee’s Donald L. Tucker Center.
Now White and his fellow seniors get a shot at another swan song, a final farewell.
FSU (21-13) hosts Louisiana Tech (29-7) in the third round of the NIT Championship 7 p.m. Wednesday and the game can be viewed on ESPN2. The winner advances to the tournament semifinal, which will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“My last game at the Civic Center was a loss, so maybe my last game in the Civic Center can be a win,” said White, who set a school record with 137 career games played in FSU’s 101-90 victory against Georgetown on Monday.
“Definitely the younger guys are using it as more experience and as seniors, we’re using it to end on a good note.”
The real narrative of Wednesday’s game is that FSU’s core of underclassmen has arrived. Consisting of five sophomores and a freshman, the young Seminoles want to send the seniors out strong, while establishing themselves as the future of the program at the same time.
White and Miller have been dependable. But young players, like wing play Aaron Thomas and point guard Devon Bookert, have emerged as the season has progressed.
Thomas is now FSU’s most consistent and eclectic scorer. He tied a career high with 26 points against Georgetown, extending his double-digit scoring streak to 15 games.
Bookert, a sophomore point guard, displayed the assertiveness against the Hoyas that FSU coach Leonard Hamilton has been stressing to him play with all season. Bookert had 21 points, a personal best, and nine assists, which tied a career high.
“We still have a long ways to go,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Our inside guys [Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky] and you saw a little what [freshman] Jarquez [Smith] is capable of doing, those guys still have a lot of room for improvement.
“I think you’re going to see them grow up and mature, and us balance it out a little with guys that have the ability but haven’t matured. Now towards the end of the season, Bookert is playing with a lot more confidence, he’s handling the ball a lot better.”
FSU will need the sum of all its parts, from freshmen to seniors, to be clicking on Wednesday. The Seminoles fell to Louisiana Tech in the opening round of last year’s NIT and will be challenged against the Bulldogs’ full-court press.
High-pressured defenses have bothered the turnover-prone Seminoles this year, meaning ball handlers like Bookert and Thomas will be responsible for breaking the press and guiding FSU to the next round of the NIT.
“We couldn’t end our seniors well on senior night, we couldn’t win their last regular-season home game here so we want to go out Wednesday and play hard for the seniors,” Thomas said. “[We want to] send them out well on a good note in their last game in the Civic Center.”
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