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Florida State’s Big Man Tradition

Leonard Hamilton is rarely without a 7-footer or two.

Florida State v Duke
Florida State’s Michael Ojo talking to a teammate

Don’t tell the feds.

On second thought, nobody’s trying to hide anything. Team rosters are published for everyone to see, complete with player numeral, name, position, height, weight, academic class, and hometown/high school/previous school.

Yet there’s no question something is going on at Florida State. Several somethings.

One has drawn widespread notice: Other than 2019, every FSU roster since 2012 has had at least a pair of seven-footers, this year included. These guys are hard to miss, particularly in an era when prominent very-big men are neither numerous nor especially coveted in college ball at the highest levels (no pun intended).

In a break with recent years, six other ACC teams combine to have seven players who stand 6-12 or taller. Virginia has two, Francisco Caffaro and Jay Huff, who toyed with going pro this past summer.

In Mark Williams Duke has a seven-footer listed on its roster for the seventh time in eight seasons, missing only 2020, after Marshall Plumlee (2014-16) and Antonio Vrankovic (2016-19).

However incidentally, coach Leonard Hamilton also appears to be running his own immigration program, bringing in a regular stream of towering young men from Africa and Eastern Europe.

Over the past decade Florida State has boasted eight basketball giants, filling 23 roster spots. Six of the seven-footers were from abroad: Nigeria, the Slovak Republic, Chad, Poland, Senegal, and Serbia. The other two bigs hailed from Florida and Illinois.

This year FSU has 7-1 Balsa Koprivica, a sophomore who attended the estimable Monteverde Academy in Florida. Apparently not as wooden on the court as his first name might indicate, Koprivica played 10.3 minutes in 27 games for the ACC leaders in 2020.

FSU’s other twin tower is Tanor Ngom, a 7-3 senior who previously attended Canada’s Ryerson University. Elhadj Abdoulaye Tanor Ngom first took up basketball at age 14 and was discovered in Senegal by the Ryerson coach, for whom he played for three years before heading south.

Our personal recent favorites among Florida State seven-footers were 7-1 Michael Ojo and 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky.

Ojo, a five-year player, was a highly mobile athlete who never quite fulfilled his coaches’ estimation of his potential. The genial big man did balloon to an impressive 304 pounds as a senior and grad student in 2015 and 2016. Sadly Ojo died this past summer at age 27, felled by a heart attack while playing professionally in Serbia.

Bojanovsky, a product of the Slovak Republic, played regularly from 2014 to 2016. A solid performer, he was notable for how easily he was distracted by female cheerleaders, even during team huddles.

Kiel Turpin was listed as a junior for two years and a senior for two years, sitting out in 2012 and 2014.

Seven Footers at Florida State, Last Decade
Name Height Weight Native Land Class
Balsa Koprivica 7-1 260 Serbia So
Tanor Ngom 7-2 236 Senegal Sr
Balsa Koprivica 7-1 260 Serbia Fr
Dominik Olejnicek 7-0 260 Poland Sr
Christ Koumadje 7-4 230 Chad Sr
Ike Obiagu 7-0 240 Nigeria Fr
Christ Koumadje 7-4 233 Chad Jr
Michael Ojo 7-1 304 Nigeria Gr
Christ Koumadje 7-4 304 Chad So
Boris Bojanovsky 7-3 248 Slovak Republic Sr
Michael Ojo 7-1 304 Nigeria Sr
Christ Koumadje 7-4 233 Chad Fr
Boris Bojanovsky 7-3 240 Slovak Republic Jr
Michael Ojo 7-1 292 Nigeria Jr
Kiel Turpin 7-0 245 Normal, Illinois Sr
Boris Bojanovsky 7-3 240 Slovak Republic So
Michael Ojo 7-1 290 Nigeria So
Kiel Turpin 7-0 225 Normal, Illinois Sr
Boris Bojanovsky 7-3 240 Slovak Republic Fr
Michael Ojo 7-1 290 Nigeria Fr
Kiel Turpin 7-0 225 Normal, Illinois Jr
Jon Kreft 7-0 262 Parkland, Florida Sr
Kiel Turpin 7-0 225 Normal, Illinois Jr