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Florida State hope lessons learned will pay off next season

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State hopes the lessons learned by freshmen Dwayne Bacon, Malik Beasley and other Seminoles this year will pay off next season.

After not making the postseason last year, the Seminoles made it to the second round of the NIT before losing 81-69 to Valparaiso on Thursday. Florida State finished the season 20-14, the eighth time in coach Leonard Hamilton’s 14 seasons the Seminoles had 20 or more wins.

The Seminoles won 10 of their first 12 games and were in position for their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012 before losing five straight in February. It was also the second straight year they were 8-10 in conference play.

”It was a good year. In some respects, we could have made the tournament if we had won one or two more games,” Bacon said.

Bacon and Beasley combined to average 31.4 points, which is the second-highest for a freshmen duo in Atlantic Coast Conference history. Both made the ACC’s All-Freshman team and are the first freshmen in school history to score over 500 points in a season.

Bacon led the team in scoring (15.8 points) and rebounding (5.8) and led the conference with five rookie of the week honors. Beasley averaged 15.6 points and scored in double figures in his first 24 games.

At the beginning of the season, both were expected to emerge as the Seminoles’ leaders, but they didn’t have much help in the frontcourt. Center Michael Ojo missed the year due to a knee injury and forward Phil Cofer played in only 11 games before having surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle. Both are expected back next season.

”This team grew up without the protection of veterans. They learned a lot of the things ate in the season we were trying to teach early on,” Hamilton said.

Whether Bacon and Beasley will be back is unclear.

Both could take advantage of a new rule that allows underclassmen to attend the May 10-15 NBA Draft Combine to get feedback from teams and then decide their future as long as they haven’t signed with an agent. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 25.

The freshmen struggled defensively and were inconsistent in conference play. Both say they have not made a decision and that they haven’t looked at draft projections.

If they return to school, they should have plenty of help next season.

The incoming class features five-star forward Jonathan Isaac and four-star guards Trent Forrest and C.J. Walker. It is ranked in the top 10 by most recruiting services. In hopes of keeping the group together, was part of the impetus behind the school giving Hamilton a two-year contract extension last month.

”We just feel that we are in a position now where we can put ourselves in with the elite,” Hamilton said. ”We’ve taken a step back and had some challenges but I know we can get this done and we will. We’ve made progress and now it’s just a matter of us going and getting it done.”

The Seminoles will be losing at least two starters in senior center Boris Bojanovsky and forward Montay Brandon. Guard Devon Bookert will finish ninth in ACC history in career 3-point percentage.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes could also decide to leave. The redshirt sophomore was third in the ACC in assists but saw his scoring average drop to 11.8 points per game as he became more of a distributor as the point guard.

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