Leonard Hamilton Compares Ja Morant to Magic Johnson Before FSU vs. Murray State

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2019

Murray State's Ja Morant (12) during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill/Associated Press

The Florida State Seminoles are the No. 4 seed in the West Region, but during their round-of-32 game Saturday, the No. 12 Murray State Racers will have the player who most resembles Magic Johnson.

At least according to Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton.

Hamilton offered plenty of praise for Murray State point guard Ja Morant in advance of their 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament game, per Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com:

"What I notice is he's one of the most exceptional players that I've had a chance to watch play. 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."

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Murray State handled the fifth-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles in an 83-64 victory in Thursday's first-round game largely because of his skill set. While it was billed as a showdown between Morant and Marquette's Markus Howard that would come down to the final minutes, the Racers left little doubt.

Morant stood out for more than just his ability to slice through the defense. His facilitating was critical in the victory because the Golden Eagles sent doubles his direction for much of the game, but he never hesitated to hit his open teammates.

Morant finished with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds on a mere nine field-goal attempts, joining the likes of Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Dwyane Wade and Draymond Green as the only players in NCAA tournament history to notch a triple-double:

Replicating that effort against a stout Florida State defense won't be easy.

The Seminoles are No. 11 in KenPom.com's pace-adjusted defensive rankings after dealing with superstars such as Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, De'Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Cameron Johnson in the ACC all season long.

Morant belongs right with that group and was the No. 2 overall pick in Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman's latest mock draft. He is now a household name and will have a chance to add to his lore by playing his way into the Sweet 16 against an ACC opponent.

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