Fri Sep 02 09:00am EDT
For a guy who will be expected to become Florida State's primary perimeter scoring threat for the first time next season, Michael Snaer seems remarkably at ease about his increased responsibility.
There was a time his freshman year when Snaer admits he tried to do too much offensively in hopes of living up to his high school press clippings and putting himself on the radar of NBA general managers. The 6-foot-5 junior has pledged not to make the same mistake next season, preferring instead not to force anything and to see what the team needs from him in the absence of departed stars Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen.
Snaer, Rivals.com's No. 7 recruit in the nation in the Class of 2009, emerged as one of the ACC's best perimeter defenders his first two years, but he averaged a pedestrian 8.8 points per game both seasons and shot just 40 percent from the floor last year. The California native's ability to improve on those numbers next season will be crucial to Florida State's hopes of further separating from the muddled middle of the ACC and challenging Duke and North Carolina at the top of the league.
Snaer says the Seminoles have the talent to contend even without Singleton and Kitchen. He spoke to The Dagger earlier this week about his goals for the upcoming season, his unlikely love of country music and why he thinks Florida State can improve upon last year's Sweet 16 run next season.
JE: You guys lost both Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen, your two leading scorers from last year's team. Do you feel like there's an opportunity for you to have a breakout season offensively with those guys gone?
MS: I'm not really worried about it. If it comes, it comes, but it's not the end of the world if it doesn't. I'm just trying to play my game and have fun.
JE: Have the coaches talked to you about taking on more of the scoring burden next season?
MS: That's something I've been trying to do since my freshman year. It just takes time I guess. I'm not rushing it, I'm not worrying about it. I'm just trying to play. As long as we win, I could care less what people say about me. I just want to get to the Final Four — no, you know what, I don't even want to get to the Final Four. I want to get to the championship game and I want to win it.
JE: Have there been times the first two seasons where you did try to rush it and tried to do too much, or have you always been patient about taking more of the scoring load?
MS: There was a time my freshman year where I really wanted to be the guy, really wanted to prove myself and really wanted to score. I was trying to get to the next level, but now I've realized all I can do is the best I can with the talent I'm given. If that's enough, it will be shown. I don't have pressure anymore. I can just relax. If it doesn't work out for me, I'll know it's not because I didn't work hard enough.
JE: How did you try to improve your game this summer to prepare for an increased role next season?
MS: The important thing for me is to be consistent, knock down shots and get a bucket 1-on-1 when we need one. My midrange game, I don't utilize it enough. I'm an athlete, I should be able to get to a mid-range jumper, get my release point high and shoot it over people. I've really focused on adding that element to my game. I want to be the type of player where if you close out on me, you're going to be at my mercy. I'm going to pump fake, and if you don't go for it, I'm going to shoot it and if you do go for it, I'm going to take the one dribble and pull up so no help can get there.
JE: You've had a reputation since high school as an elite perimeter defender. Do you have to put the same level of work into your defense or does that come more naturally?
MS: That comes naturally. It's just dedication, that drive, that mentality that you don't want to let anyone score on you. I've always been one of the best defenders on my team and a defensive leader. When I'm off the ball, I try to let my guys know what's going on and where I'm at. ... And whenever I'm on the ball, I just try to make it hell for whomever I'm guarding. I just want to make it uncomfortable.
JE: You played a lot of soccer growing up. How did you get into basketball and when did you realize that was where your future was?
MS: I would say seventh grade. That's when I first started playing organized basketball and realized how fun it was. Then toward the end of that year, I started realize how good I was getting and I wanted to play for an older team.
JE: I recall you saying that your first organized basketball game, you were pretty horrible. Were you really that bad?
MS: Oh yeah, I was bad. I traveled every time I touched the ball. My teammates were laughing about it after the game. It was pretty bad.
JE: Eventually, obviously, you got a lot better and started hearing from some of the elite programs from all over the country. Why choose Florida State instead of a UCLA, a Kansas or one of the other established programs that recruited you?
MS: The opportunity, really. You can come into a place with existing tradition and try to add to it, but to try to build your own, as a competitor, why would you not want to take that chance? Why would not want to do something special, to do something that nobody in the history of the school has done? That's something that appealed to me. UCLA has such rich basketball tradition. We could have been good. We could have not been good. But regardless, I wouldn't have had the same opportunity I have here to make history.
JE: I've heard that you enjoy country music. How does a guy who grew up in Southern California and now lives in Florida get into that?
MS: I like certain country songs. I'm open to listening to new things — country, alternative, r&b, hip-hop — and if I like it, I'll keep listening to it. It's not just country. There's a lot of different types of music I like listening to.
JE: When you look back at the NCAA tournament last season, what did you learn from your run to the Sweet 16 and the overtime loss to VCU?
MS: Losing in the Sweet 16 the way we did is what I remember most. There's nothing that I did wrong where I feel like I'm carrying a burden or anything, but it's a lesson learned. I think about it like this. If I had made one more three, we never would have been in that situation. So if I shoot a few more threes during the course of the year, I might have made that three-pointer. Or if we would have worked harder in practice on defense, maybe one defensive letdown in that game could have been avoided. Then we would have won that game and been in the Elite Eight. That's how I think about it. I carry that with me, and it makes me realize I have to go hard every day in practice.
JE: The success the team had when Chris Singleton was injured late last season, does it make you confident you can win without him this year?
MS: We're definitely confident because players leave every year. We were confident last year with him. We were confident last year without him. If I had gone down, it would have been the same thing — my teammates would be confident without me or with me. It's how we have to play. Chris obviously was one of our better players, but people should realize we have a lot of weapons coming back next year. My point guard, Luke Loucks, you probably haven't seen that yet. Even me, I might not have shown my full potential yet. I know you haven't seen Bernard's full potential yet. Everybody hasn't seen Deividas Dulkys when he's on and he's shooting like a machine. When players leave, all that does is make room for other players to shine, so I don't feel like we're losing anything we can't replace.
JE: Florida State has always had a reputation as more of a football school than a basketball school, but do you sense more excitement for hoops on campus because of what you guys have accomplished recently?
MS: I feel like we have more respect as a team. Everyone knows we have rich football tradition, and now everyone knows we're on the verge of creating a new and exciting basketball tradition. We've already been creating a reputation for ourselves, and now at this point, I feel people expect a little more from us now. That's where you want to get to. Top-notch programs, people expect you to contend in the ACC or get to the Sweet 16 or further than that now. Hopefully our fans don't think it was a one-year thing. People should expect us to do better next year because we will.
JE: After the great season you guys had last year getting to the Sweet 16, how confident are you that you can improve on that and keep the program's trajectory heading in the right direction?
MS: I don't feel we should settle for anything less than a championship. There are teams that might look better than us on paper offensively, but we'll cut them down to size. We'll keep them in range to win the game with our defense. It's funny how all the great coaches and players say, 'defense wins games,' but people don't expect us to win well. We've been a top defensive team two years running and been ranked high years before that. So it's funny people don't expect us to do well, but at the same time we're not going to settle for anything less than a championship. A lot of the teams who do have a lot of offensive talent, those are the ones who get bothered the most when things don't go their way. They're not used to being shut down like that. It starts getting in their heads. That's what we have on our side.