HARTFORD, Conn. — Coach Leonard Hamilton knows his Florida State squad will have its hands full when it faces star Ja Morant and Murray State on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Hamilton said Morant, who recorded the eighth triple-double in NCAA tournament history in a win over Marquette in the opening round on Thursday, reminds him of NBA legend Magic Johnson and other “throwback” players.
“What I notice is he’s one of the most exceptional players that I’ve had a chance to watch play,” Hamilton said Friday after watching Morant on film. “He’s kind of a throwback to guys who have the ability to score points. But also has the passion and the excitement about creating opportunities for his teammates, guys like a Nate Archibald who can lead the NBA in scoring and lead in assists at the same time. A guy like Magic Johnson, who got so much joy making the game easy for his teammates. Even a player like Muggsy Bogues, who has an uncanny way of making things easy for his opponents.”
Morant finished Thursday’s win over Marquette with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds.
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Hamilton said, however, Morant is not a one-man show. Murray State’s other starters connected on 23 of their 42 attempts from the field. Murray State made 50 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.
“My opinion is you have to be careful because he’s not winning the games by himself,” Hamilton said. “He’s surrounding himself with good players who feed off of who he is and what he is about as a player. And I’m excited for him and for their team, because I enjoy watching guys play with such an unselfish spirit, that they actually get excited about it. You can just see the gleam and the joy in his eye. It motivates him.”
Morant also credited his teammates for the success he’s experienced. An NBA executive told ESPN.com on Thursday that Morant had risen to No. 2 on his board.
“I’ll say we just have a very talented group,” Morant said Friday. “We have a lot of people who can score the basketball, and we are very unselfish.”