Leonard Hamilton is entering his 16th season at the helm of the football first, everything else second school, and the 69 year old coach once again has a roster loaded with talent. Hamilton is coming off of his best season in Tallahassee, where the ‘Noles went 26-9 (12-6), good for a second place finish in the regular season ACC standings. While that seems like a fantastic season, some may have actually considered that underachieving. They were, however, lead primarily by underclassmen with the exception of Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Ultimately, to end the conference gauntlet they ended up losing on Friday of the ACC tournament to a very good Notre Dame team, but still earned a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament. That is where Hamilton earns his reputation, the NCAA tournament. After an uninspiring 6 point win against FGSU, the ‘Noles were flat out embarrassed by 11 seed Xavier losing 91-66.
Considered one of the best closers in College Basketball, Hamilton is a fantastic recruiter (though a ton of credit goes to AC Carlton Young). His reputation though, is that few coaches in the country do less with more. In his 15 seasons in Tallahassee, Hamilton has made 1 sweet 16, been eliminated in the first round twice, the second round twice and been to the NIT 7 times, a tournament in which he has never made it past the semi-finals, despite having landed players like Malik Beasley, Michael Snaer, Aaron Thomas, Montay Brandon, Okaro White, Chris Singleton and going all the way back to Jason Rich and Isaiah Swann. That said, the man has won 20 games or more nine times in his 15 seasons and has established Tallahassee as one of the four hardest places to play in the ACC, in my humble opinion.
The Seminoles do have another talented roster this year, as once again Young sets ’em up and Lenny knocks ’em down, but this team lost a ton of talent. Here is a look.
- Former burger boy Dwayne Bacon was actually thought to be disappointing in his sophomore campaign by some. The 6’7 wing averaged 17.2/4.2/1.7 and a steal per game, but never quite developed as a deep threat (33%) some thought he could have been. He declared early for the 2017 draft and was taken 40th overall by the Pelicans before being dealt to the Hornets. He could be the steal of the draft in my opinion.
- Xavier Rathan-Mayes, or XRM as he is often referred to, was a very good scorer in his three years on campus, but probably should have declared for the draft after his freshman year as originally intended. XRM saw his numbers (points, minutes, attempts, made threes, and steals) go down two consecutive years after averaging 14.9/3.5/4.3 per game as a freshman. He recently signed a 1 year deal with the New York Knicks, and is currently playing for team Canada in the FIBA Americup.
- Michael Ojo is also playing pro ball now, having recently signed a contract to play in Montenegro after graduating last season. The 7-foot behemoth of a man averaged 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while providing one of the most intimidating defensive presences in the country.
- Jonathan Isaac was last years big prize for Hamilton’s recruiting efforts. At 6’10, Isaac could play all over the court and was a good on the ball defender (1.2 spg), as well as a great rim protector (1.5 bpg). He was a lottery selection by the Magic after playing a single season in Tallahassee. 12.0/7.8/1.9 per game.
- Jarquez Smith was often overlooked by opposing fans but was a good four year player for Hamilton. As a senior, playing on a team with a ton of depth he still managed to be a solid contributor, providing 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game and getting almost a block per in only 13 minutes.
That is a lot to lose and is basically an upper tier ACC starting five, talent wise. Hamilton is trying to replace roughly 46 points, 21 rebounds, 8 assists, 3.5 blocks and 3.2 steals per game. It is a lot of weight to put on a very good, but also very young team. The remaining front court players, Phil Cofer and Jean-Michael Christ Koumadje do not have a ton of court time and in the time they do have, they have been largely ineffective.
- Pat Savoy joined FSU last season after a year of JUCO and was overshadowed a bit by some of his more highly touted teammates. He surprised most and quickly became one of the most feared shooters in the conference off of the Seminole bench making 40 of 100 attempts in only 8 minutes per game.
- Terrance Mann and CJ Walker both return, and will probably be the starting back court this year. As a true freshman, Walker averaged 4.9/1.4/1.3 per game in 12 minutes of play while Mann, a 6’6 former 4 star wing, averaged 8.4/4.5/1.7 in 25 minutes. In order to be effective Mann will have to improve his 3pt%, as he is only 30% shooter through two years, but he does have an overall fg% of 58% for his career.
- Trent Forrest, a 6’5 wing who only attempted 8 threes in over 500 minutes, returns and will be one of the key reserves on this team.
- Braian Angola-Rodas, a former JUCO player who played 12mpg and scored almost 5 per while shooting 42% from deep (50 attempts), is also back along with previously mentioned front court pieces Phil Cofer and JMC Koumadje.
As mentioned above, this program recruits the shit out of the southeast. Carlton Young walks into the state of Georgia like a mix between George Carlin at Carnegie and Raylan Givens into anywhere, and tends to walk out smiling. This year he pulled 5 star,McDonald’s All-American MJ Walker out of the peach state as well as 4 star seven footer Ikey Obiagu. Walker, a 6’5 shooting guard is a scorer at all three levels and is one of the few 5 star guys who is considered a multi-year player. Obiagu is a defensive center who saw his ranking take a tumble a bit before solidifying himself as a top 65 player.
Joining the two headliners are a couple of versatile 3 stars foundation guys. A 6’7 point-forward in high school, Wyatt Wilkes may be the steal of the class for FSU. He plays with a swagger and an intensity that as a fan you love, and an opponent you hate. Wyatt can shoot as well as post up and his ball handling is better than you would think. He will be a good four year player for the Seminoles.
Another in the long line of big guards for Lenny is 3 star point guard Anthony Polite out of Boca. The lefty lead guard with some flash to his game likes to get to the rim and will more than likely provide some top 10 worthy dunks in break away situations over the course of the season. He also has that pretty left handed jumper.
Joining the Seminole front court is 6’8 stretch 4, Raiquan Gray. This guy is interesting. He has some old man in his game, but he is also a damn freight train. A 3 star out of Ft Lauderdale, Gray has a mid range jumper but I don’t know if he will be able to get it off in the ACC without a lot of space. Where he will excel is when he gets down hill going to the basket. Already built like a man, few will want to get in his way. He has wide shoulders and a big base that should help him develop to back to the basket game which shouldn’t be a stretch considering he already has great body control and an ability to finish with both hands.
Rounding out the class is a JUCO combo guard from Eastern Florida named Jhery Matos. As a member of the Domincan Republic U19 team in 2016, the 6’5 180 pounder averaged 15, 5 and 4 before his JUCO season. He averaged 5.3 poings 3.4 boards and 2.4 assists per game for the Titans, while shooting 26% from three. He only played 19 games for Eastern Florida and missed a few large chunks of games, but I could not find if he suffered an injury or what that injury may have been.
There is a lot to like about this team, but they are fairly inexperienced and the front court is going to be a work in progress. As you may have guessed I am not a huge fan of Hamilton’s’ ability to either remain consistent or develop his talent. Lucky for him, a lot of these kids are already very good players. If FSU can get Cofer to be serviceable and Obiagu can live up to his early prep hype this could be a bubble team. The back court is sound, as Walker, Mann, Savoy, and MJ Walker are a very solid rotation. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some small ball this year with Mann and MJ manning the forward spots with Ikey or JCMK in the pivot. This will be an interesting team to watch, though I suspect very inconsistent.
Projected Starting 5: CJ Walker, MJ Walker, Terrance Mann, Phil Cofer, Ikey Obiagu
Thoughts to friends in southeast Texas. Be safe