TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State may have lost yet another ugly contest Saturday when it fell by 19 at home to Duke, but the Seminoles did learn something somewhat promising about themselves. Guard Aaron Thomas seems to be taking over in just the way coaches and teammates have been long projecting.
Vocal on the bench, productive on the floor, Thomas was what coach Leonard Hamilton called "a bright spot" in the defeat.
Our FSU reporting sidekick here in Tallahassee, Brendan Bures, has this look at Thomas' latest game and what the Seminoles are hoping he can bring the program moving forward from it.
Check it out.
By Brendan Bures
Orlando Sentinel correspondent
TALLAHASSEE -- Off the court, Aaron Thomas has always been a relatively mild-mannered guy. He glides, not walks. He's confident, but not arrogant. He knows how good his abilities and doesn't need anyone to tell him otherwise.
"It’s well-documented that Aaron is a very confident youngster," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He’s very fiery. He’s able to create shots for him and his teammates. There’s no doubt that in a game he has the ability to make kind of tough shots. I think his future is very bright."
Against Duke Saturday afternoon, the future became the present as Thomas showed a tease of the player he’s yet to become. Even though the Seminoles fell, 79-60, his team-high 14 points paced the program.
Offensively, the Blue Devils came out firing against the Seminoles, hitting five of their first six shots. Two of their made buckets were off assists, and the result of the potent offense they are capable of being, presented itself in full force early.
FSU veterans began to press. They were overreaching, forcing shots they’d normally hit in practice, but the added pressure they placed on themselves to stage an early comeback, their misses led to an 11-0 Duke run at the start of the game.
As the lead ballooned for Duke, the FSU players appeared dejected, like they weren’t capable of competing with a team like the Blue Devils. In their two previous home ACC contests, however, they had competed, and rallied when they were down. Getting a pair of late-game shots, they finalized a pair of comebacks.
On Saturday, though, it was the youngster who tried to make up for the failings of the veterans who were feeling the pressure.
Thomas was vocal on the bench. He screamed at his teammates during the first media timeout. He looked like he had been part of the program for more than four months. So just how does a freshman try hold in check thid- and fourth-year players like Michael Snaer and Okaro White?
"I was just telling my team: let’s pick up the intensity,. We were out there looking lackadaisical like we weren’t interested," Thomas said. "Every time we rested, Duke executed."
Junior Ian Miller added: "He was fired up. Whenever you see your team down like that, you're going to get fired up."
On FSU’s first possession out of the timeout, the shot clock was ticking down and it looked like another stalled offensive possession. But at the last moment, Ian Miller kicked it out to Thomas who was standing in the corner. He fired a 3 right before the timer hit zero. Swish.
Thomas remained that steady presence for FSU all night, finishing with a 4-for-7 performance from the field, two assists and a block on Duke's Seth Curry. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Thomas was able to do all of that, though. After all, his teammates have been saying it since Day One.
"If you take any guard we have last year and put them up one-on-one against Aaron Thomas, it’s over. Aaron’s going to win," Snaer said before the season. "He’s talented, he’s got that."
Even the man known for creating instant offense for FSU credited Thomas with his ability to create.
"He reminds me a lot of myself my freshman year; just an attack dog," Miller said. "He’s relentless on the offensive end and getting to the cup. And now, I think he’s getting out of that shy zone and he’s starting to speak up, try to make things happen for us to get us going."
For a guy so young to be unafraid to speak up and stand out among a crowd of newcomers and veterans who command the type of presence that Snaer and White have, shows the confidence and belief he has in himself. Thomas has one problem with his vocal afternoon, though. He wished it would have amounted to a team win.
"My 14 points go out the wind," he said. "We weren’t on the same page as a team so it really doesn’t matter what I did."
While the Seminoles (12-9, 4-4 ACC) may not feel necessarily ecstatic about their present situation, their future with Thomas leading has never been better.