The Florida State Seminoles are coming off a rough year. Just 18-16 a season after winning their first ACC Tournament title, they missed the NCAA Tournament after an impressive four-year run. Sadly though, this offseason is not going to help those who argue last year was a fluke.
After losing Michael Snaer to graduation, they lost depth when Terrance Shannon and Terry Whisnant II both jumped ship. Then Andrew Wiggins decided FSU was not for him, despite the fact most experts had him coming to Tallahassee. Luckily most Florida State fans are thinking about football and probably missed most of the bad news.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
G – Devon Bookert (SO), 6-3/180
G – Ian Miller (SR), 6-3/190
G – Montay Brandon (SO), 6-7/216
F – Okaro White (SR), 6-8/205
C – Kiel Turpin (SR) 7-0/225
Inside, Okaro White is the anchor, even if he’s as light as a feather. He’s the high energy guy, a freak athlete, with a scary wingspan, who has gotten better every year at FSU. He averaged 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in under 30 minutes per game last year. If he can continue to add much needed bulk, he’s the guy the ball needs to go to in every possession.
Along side him in the paint will be Kiel Turpin, who started at the end of last season. An excellent defender (8th in blocks in the ACC), Turpin has a soft touch and is not afraid to hit a jumper. The problem is, he’s afraid to bang down low. This is due to the fact that he was 6-5 coming into college, thus he still plays like a guard. However, it’s been three years plus a redshirt and head coach Leonard Hamilton is desperate for a real man inside.
At the 3-spot, Brandon is an ideal small forward. He’s a versatile athlete, capable of covering a lot of ground in a hurry and able to create his own shot. Yes, like any freshman, he had plenty of flaws last year, but I really expect him to make a nice jump during his second season. You see, his problem was his free throw shooting. He couldn’t even hit 50-percent (unacceptable for a wing player), thus he purposely shied away from contact. This often got him in trouble in the paint, which turned into turnovers. If he can improve his FT percentage, then look for a more confident player.
In the end though, it’s the guard play that will decide how far Florida State will go. Devon Bookert did a surprisingly good job once he became a starter, especially after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. He’s the perfect point guard for this squad. He keeps his head up and never looks flustered. While he loves to find an open teammate, if a defender goes underneath during a ball screen, he’ll make them pay. With a little weight gain and a lot less fouls committed, he could be one of the better point guards in the league.
Speaking of point guard, I’m also going to throw Ian Miller back into the starting lineup. Coming out of high school, he was considered by some to be Leonard Hamilton’s top recruit. He was the next Toney Douglas, a score-first point guard, with the kind of quickness that would scare small children. All was progressing well after two seasons, but a foot injury that refused to heal killed his season. He couldn’t get into the lane, he certainly couldn’t shoot, thus his point production was nearly cut in half.
Heading into 2013-14, Miller will be a senior. With the foot injury behind him, I look for his production to jump back to what it was prior to the injury. However, I also don’t think Hamilton can bench Bookert, so I suspect he’ll roll out two point guards at the same time (much like N.C. State will probably do). In reality, look for both to handle the point guard duties, as both are more than capable to play the role of the two for stretches.
G – Aaron Thomas (SO), 6-5/195
G – Xavier Rathan-Mayes (FR), 6-3/180
C – Boris Bojanovsky (SO), 7-3/240
If Ian Miller doesn’t get the start at the two-guard spot, then it comes down to Aaron Thomas and Xavier Rathan-Mayes. For now, I have them being the best options to come off the bench at the wing. Obviously Thomas has a year under his belt, so he’s got the experience advantage over Rathan-Mayes. A solid athlete, he moves well without the ball and prefers to slash to and finish at the rim. Look for him to spend most of his time backing up the three spot, since he is a tragically bad three-point shooter.
Rathan-Mayes is probably best known for being Andrew Wiggins’ best friend, but he’s also a great player. The 8th rated shooting guard (according to ESPN) is a scorer first and foremost. He loves to push the tempo, capable of playing both guard spots and can nail some deep threes. The freshman should see plenty of minutes, but don’t be surprised if he makes a ton of freshmen mistakes. He already has a reputation for taking bad shots and turning the ball over, two things freshman excel at.
Inside, Bojanovsky is one of three seven footers Leonard Hamilton has to play with. At 7-3, he’s got great length (tallest player in the league) and has developed some pretty nifty post moves. The problem last year was that he struggled with contact. Any decent sized big man could knock him around. All the greatest posts moves in the world mean very little when you can simply get pushed off the block. A season in the weight room will help, as Bojanowsky will be asked to be the primary backup to Turpin.
PF – Robert Gilchrist (SR), 6-9/220
C – Michael Ojo (SO), 7-1/290
Robert Gilchrist is yet another long (7-3 wingspan) and athletic player. A classic stretch four, Gilchrist is a big man who prefers to play small ball. He’s the kind of guy who will make a offensive move or block shots that will make you say, “how is he not getting more minutes?” Then you’ll see him try to rebound or watch him shoot a jumper and answer your own question.
Ojo is the third seven-footer. Thanks to a 7-8 wingspan, he can nearly touch the rim without jumping, which helps, because jumping isn’t really his thing. Fact is, he’s not what you call an athlete. As a player, he’s so damn raw. You can see it in his footwork and how poorly he defends in Hamilton’s system. He’s a four-year project, so if he cracks 10 minutes per game, consider it a victory.
PF – Jarquez Smith (FR), 6-9/210
Leonard Hamilton isn’t afraid to go deep, so Smith could certainly see more minutes than I’m predicting,but the rookie will need to face two facts. First, he shares a position with Okaro White, the Seminoles best player who leads the team in minutes played. Second, Smith is practically a clone of the guy (Gilchrist) he is competing with for minutes. Like Gilchrist, Smith is a good athlete with length, who is a face up four. While he has shown the ability to put his back to the basket, Smith still prefers to float outside. He will need to add some strength before he can handle heavy minutes inside.
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