During his time at Florida State, Leonard Hamilton has given Florida State a definite identity and style: he uses athleticism, depth and really big guys to help FSU keep up with the ACC’s big dogs.
And he’s done a better job of that than any of his predecessors. Pat Kennedy had a brief run but ultimately wasn’t up to the challenges of ACC basketball. Steve Robinson seemed like a great fit but ultimately he was a mediocre head coach (after his FSU stint he soon resumed being Roy Williams’ assistant where he’s been ever since).
Last year, the Seminoles finished 26-9 overall and 12-6 in the ACC before falling to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament, third if you count the First Four.
But realistically second.
From that team he lost a lot: Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes are all off to the NBA.
Michael Ojo, the biggest man to ever play in the ACC in our opinion (built like Shaq with 5% body fat) is also done as is Jarquez Smith.
Benji Bell and Robbie Berwick transferred but they won’t be missed much.
All of those guys in the first paragraph had brilliant moments for Hamilton and in Ojo’s case, he was basically a big kid who played basketball. He was never great and honestly never seemed that into it until his senior year. Yet he became a solid player at the end too.
As usual though Hamilton filled up his shopping cart with new recruits. We’ll get to them in a minute.
Hamilton returns seniors Phil Cofer, Brandon Allen and Braian Angola, juniors PJ Savoy, Terrance Man and Christ Koumadje and sophomores CJ Walker, Trent Forrest, Justin Lindner and Harrison Prieto.
The 6-6 Mann is the most experienced returnee; he got 25 mpg last year. Keep going down the stats and there’s a nice bit of experience back: Forrest got 15.4, Walker and Cofer 12.5, Angola-Rados 11.8, Koumadje 10.1 and Savoy 8.1. Allen got 6.1.
He’s for real and will be a force for Florida State. He can score and create. Mann averaged 8.4 ppg last season and that could double this year.
He should be FSU’s premier player.
Don’t confuse him with Terrance Mann from Field of Dreams though and if he wanders off into a cornfield, someone please stop him.
The next best returning scorer is the 6-5 Forrest but he’s a better defender. Despite being fifth in minutes, he was first in steals and that’ll keep him in the rotation.
Walker, 6-1, is likely to inherit the point guard role. He has nice leadership qualities and that’s always a plus. He should fill in nicely for the departed Rathan-Mayes.
Cofer is a senior now but his output has never caught up with his abilities. He should be a steady performer and he could win minutes with so many departures, but his output has fallen every season. He did have a serious injury his sophomore year but still, you’d expect more improvement. Put him down as an X factor.
Angola is a senior too but as a JUCO transfer he’s just in his second year in Tallahassee. He shot 42% from three point range last year and if he can expand on that he’ll play. He’s one of those guys who has a bigger impact on his team than most people realize, somewhat like Marshall Plumlee had for Duke before his senior season.
We’ve poked fun at FSU over the years for having a collection of stiffs, but that’s really not the case now. Mfiondu Kabengele is talented as is Ike Obiagu. Neither is 7-4 though like Christ Koumadje.
Hamilton likes fairly useless big guys but Koumadje is becoming pretty useful. We watched him one time last season run down someone on the break and we can’t remember the last time we saw a 7-4 guy do that. He’s not as skinny as he used to be - he’s up to 233 - and like the other two big men, he’s a real shot blocker.
In fact, Florida State may have the best collection of shot blockers in recent ACC history.
Savoy probably had a very tough Monday as he’s a native of Las Vegas and was probably worried sick for family and friends who may have been in the vicinity when a man began to fire into a crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
On the court, Savoy was more than fair and provided some outstanding offensive firepower for the Seminoles. He racked up 27 points against Southern Miss, 18 against Nicholls, 12 against Notre Dame and 15 against BC.
We could see him carving out a bigger role.
Hamilton also has three redshirt freshmen - Travis Light, a 6-5 guard, Mfiondu Kabengele, a 6-9 forward and Will Miles, a 6-6 wing.
Light is said to be a good shooter and is likely to be a role player for his FSU career.
Kabengele is a guy with an impressive family history: his uncle is NBA great Dikembe Mutombo. At 6-9 he’s not as tall but he’s a good shot blocker and could probably borrow the finger wave from Uncle Dikembe.
Although you never know, we don’t expect a lot from Miles. The 6-6 native of Orlando is the fourth member of his family to play ball for Florida State, following his grandfather, his father and uncle.
There are five new players to work with too: 6-8 Raquian Gray, 7-0 Ike Obiagu, 6-6 Anthony Polite, MJ Walker, a 6-5 guard, and Wyatt Wilkes, a 6-8 forward.
Standard disclaimer: we don't take rankings seriously but use them as a reference point for expectations and projections.
Gray is seen as a 3-4 star recruit who’s drawn some comparisons to Draymond Green as an undersized power player.
He can shoot with range which will help open the court for FSU.
Anthony Polite is 6-6 and can play anywhere on the perimeter. He’s seen as a 3-star and is a good candidate for showing why that doesn’t mean much. His versatility will really help FSU and he could conceivably end up at point depending on how things shake out.
His high school coach John O’ Connell loved him: “Anthony Polite is a player that all his teammates are going to love playing with. I don’t think you can say that about everybody. I guarantee within a couple weeks, if they play a pickup game and two guys are captains, Anthony will be the first pick.”
Hamilton likes to collect big men and quite often they’re stiffs, so we always withhold judgement. However 7-0 Ike Obiagu could be better than that. He’s physically mature and highly regarded. His ceiling is much higher than, say Ojo’s. Hamilton uses guys like Ojo are used to stuff the middle and that’s about it. Obiagu is different. He’s a legit shot blocker and could develop into a significant offensive force.
Walker is seen as a 5-star guard and in high school the 6-5 star produced, averaging 27.8 points and 6.5 rebounds. It’ll be hard to keep him off the court.
Hamilton picked up an interesting kid and a name with an echo in Wilkes: he’s the grandson of legendary Stetson coach Glenn “Doc” Wilkes. His dad, Glenn Jr., coaches women’s basketball at Rollins, so you can reasonably expect the kid to have an understanding of the game. He’s 6-7 and seen as a 3-star.
Wyatt went to the same high school as former Blue Devil Austin Rivers. We’d expect him to be a four-year player and to possibly become a pretty nifty asset.
FSU lost a lot of talent last season but this is a team with a lot of potential. Hamilton has depth, versatility, multiple shot blockers, scoring and several guys who are or could be solid leaders.
Anyone who thinks FSU is going to be an easy out this year has another think coming.
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