Key Departures: Scottie Barnes (NBA); Raiquan Gray (NBA); Balsa Koprivica (NBA); MJ Walker (Grad); Sardaar Calhoun (àTexas Tech);
New In Town: Cam’Ron Fletcher (<–Kentucky); Caleb Mills (<–Houston); Matthew Cleveland (#24); Jalen Warley (#42); John Butler (#70); Naheem McLeod (JUCO)
State of the Program:
Leonard Hamilton is the most underrated Coach in the country as he’s elevated a football school into one of the elite contenders in the ACC year in and year out. The last hill he needs to get over is to get to a Final Four and compete for a National Championship but he’s brought conference championships, multiple trips to the Sweet 16 and an Elite 8 run to the program and is now recruiting high level talent year in and year out. His unique style of playing 9-10 plus guys, and having multiple 7-footers to roll out every year have helped him establish the Seminoles as one of the best programs in the country. 4 guys from last year’s team have been drafted or signed to an NBA team, but it’s next man up for this program, as they’ve lost multiple players to the NBA each of the last several season’s and continue to not miss a beat. They get back several veterans including G Anthony Polite (SR), F Malik Osborne (SR), G Rayquan Evans (SR), and F Wyatt Wilkes (SR) as well as some returning 7-footers Tanor Ngom (SR) and Quincy Ballard (SO). It will once again be a deep roster, something Leonard hangs his hat on, and the incoming group will look to fill the holes left behind by the departing group.
There several players with a chance to heavily impact this team coming in, with 2 transfers leading the way. The first is former Kentucky commit Cam’Ron Fletcher (SO), who was buried a season ago but came in as an incredibly physical wing who can play the 3 or 4 and plays with intensity. He’s 6’7” and is tough and athletic, he just struggles to shoot it consistently and has a ways to go as a playmaker, but he impacts the game with his motor and ability to attack the basket. His mid-range shot shows promise to expand to beyond the arc, and his athleticism and length are exactly what Hamilton loves in his wings. He will need to develop but shows a ton of promise as an impact wing for this program. The other transfer is G Caleb Mills (SO), who was All-AAC his Freshman year at Houston but chose to transfer just 4 games into last season. He can fill it up at all 3 levels, and will provide a much needed scoring option for Hamilton’s group this season. He will likely start in the backcourt as he will be the most proven consistent scorer on the roster. JUCO signee Naheem McLeod (JR) is a 7-footer who originally committed to FSU out of high school but had to go the JUCO route before becoming eligible. He will join a talented battle for the 5 spot with 4 7-footers on the roster. 3 Freshman also come to campus, led by 5-star wing Matthew Cleveland (#24). Cleveland is a great athlete that finishes with strength inside, and at 6’6” can play the 3 or 4 at this level. His jumper has shown promise in the mid-range, but will need to expand to the outside to fully take advantage of his potential. He’s the perfect Hamilton wing, similar to Fletcher as he is a tremendous athlete that will make him a versatile defender and lethal in transition and when on the attack in the half-court. He will play right away for Hamilton. Next up is 6’4” CG Jalen Warley (#42), who comes to campus with a versatile offensive skillset as he can play both a scoring role and a facilitating role, and has the size and athleticism to defend multiple positions in the backcourt. He can shoot well enough to force defenses to respect it, but he really excels when on the attack, as he can score with creativity and make the correct read to set up his teammates. He will be used off the bench this season and has a bright future ahead after all these Seniors leave town. The last newcomer is yet another 7-footer in John Butler (#70), who has the highest ceiling of any of the big men on the roster due to his unique combination of size, athleticism, and ball handling. He clearly grew up as a G/F that handled the rock, but he’s shot up north of 7 feet and is skinny as a rail. He needs to fill out his frame, but his face-up ability and vision as a passer are evident. If he grows into his body and develops his jumper he could be elite down the road.
Leonard Hamilton once again has an extremely deep roster with which he can deploy his 10-11 man rotation. Normally I worry when a team doesn’t have a go-to scorer or star they can turn to, but the Seminoles under Hamilton have never had that when they’ve had success. In fact, the last 3 tournaments they have reached the sweet 16 with no player averaging more than 13 ppg, and only 1 averaging more than 30 mpg. He will again rely on a high pressure defense anchored by 7-foot shot blockers inside which they will use to create transition opportunities. On offense they’ll continue the ball-screen drive and kick offense that has made them successful. The beautiful part of this Florida St program is the seamlessness with which they turnover their roster and continue to play the same brand of basketball. If you watched the different squads over the last several years, you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference besides the changing names on the back of the jersey. Their projection is on Hamilton and Hamilton alone, as he brings in the exact guys he needs to fit his culture and style, and they will once again be a factor in the ACC and nationally because of it.