In part one of the basketball preview I covered our offense, our defense, and a few other topics. For the 2nd part I'm focusing on the players and the schedule. First up, the players:
Bernard James 6’10 237 (8.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.4 blocks. 107.9 ORtg, 65.7 eFG%)
James started slowly last season, only scoring in double-figures in 1 of his first 7 games (including zero points against Ohio St), but then hit double-figures in 13 of the final 27. His offense was extremely limited as he essentially had one move. He had four double-doubles and only played three games all season in which he did not record a blocked shot. For the season, he finished 2nd all-time in blocked shots for the Seminoles. James was a force in the middle, and allowed perimeter defenders to play tight man-to-man, knowing that James would be there to apply pressure should their man break into the lane. His length and agility are a perfect fit for a Leonard Hamilton defense.
The bad news about James’ offense was how raw he was when he came into the program as JuCo transfer. The good news was that even though every team knew exactly what he was going to do, he still led the conference in FG%. With an entire offseason to work on his game expect James to show several new post moves. If Hamilton didn’t run such deep rotations it would be a safe bet to project James to average a double-double on the season, but it’s unlikely he’ll get the minutes. Ham plays everyone, and FSU has several talented bigs.
Jon Kreft 7’0 262 (3.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg. 81.8 ORtg, 41.5 eFG%)
The arrival of Jon Kreft was delayed last season as he struggled to become academically eligible. That happened after Fall semester, so he didn’t appear in his first game until December 15th. He was never able to find his game last year because of foul problems. Kreft committed 8.5 fouls per 40 minutes, which was the highest in the conference. He displayed a nice array of post moves and was able to step out to 15 feet, but was not productive, and was often unable to finish around the hoop. This was especially hindering because he only converted 51% of his free throws.
Like fellow JuCo transfer Bernard James, Kreft should benefit tremendously from an offseason in the system. He already looks more mobile. He is an excellent passer out of the post, and will challenge for serious minutes if he’s able to reduce his fouls and improve his ability to finish.
Xavier Gibson 6’11 248 (4.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg. 86.6 ORtg, 41.9 eFG%)
After a promising couple of years in the program it seemed as if Gibson was ready to break out as a junior, but instead, he turned in a very disappointing season. His injury just before Christmas pretty much ruined the 2nd half of his season, but even prior to that Gibson just wasn’t playing very well. He’s always had legitimate next-level offensive potential, but has not been able to consistently become a threat. The main issue is that he’s a 6’11 player who tries to play like he’s 6’6. With his athleticism he could be a match-up nightmare, but he’s not.
But Gibson’s failure to earn more minutes is not due to his offense. It’s his defense, or lack thereof. Unfortunately for Gibson the staff places very high expectations for players on the defensive end. And, for whatever reason, Gibson has not lived up to those expectations. A great example – which opposing coaches have learned to exploit – is his failure to hedge and recover. And that’s a basic requirement for Ham’s system. The big men have to be mobile. Here’s an illustration of where he’s failing:
The play starts with the ball on the perimeter, and the low post player sprints out to set up a ball screen.
In this case, the low post player screens Dulkys. Gibson's job is hedge the screen and disrupt the ball-handler. The proper technique for this is to keep his left hand on the screener and use his right hand to harass the dribble. Dulkys will use this bought time to fight around the screen and regain defensive position. By not switching Dulkys onto Gibson's man, the opposing low post player now has a clear path to the basket. And usually, he rolls that way (as opposed to popping to the foul line extended and being ready to shoot a three).
In Hamilton's system its necessary for Gibson to be able to effectively harass the ball handler, and still defend his own man when he rolls. Unfortunately, Gibson doesn't do either thing well - he fouls needlessly on the hedge, and gets beat to the basket by his man.
Luke Loucks 6’5 201 (2.9 ppg, 2.2 apg. 87.2 ORtg, 44.2 eFG%)
Loucks only played more than 20 minutes four times in 2010-11. Still, he might be the starting PG this year. With three years in the system Seminole fans know what they’re going to get. He’ll rack up considerable assist numbers with increased time, but he’ll do the same with turnovers. Last season his turnover rate was 37.1%, which was the worst in his career.
There are a couple misconceptions about Luke’s game. Number 1 is the notion that he has great vision. He doesn’t. While he’s always aware of which teammates are breaking free of their defenders, he doesn’t see secondary defenders at all. And so his passes are often tipped or stolen by help defense. The 2nd misconception is that he’s a defensive liability. He’s not. He’s got great size, doesn’t get caught out of position, and doesn’t gamble. He’s plays within himself. If he does that on offense he’ll be a legitimate high-major starting point guard.
Deividas Dulkys 6’5 196 (7.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.3 spg. 96.0 ORtg, 48.3 eFG%)
After a promising sophomore year in which Dulkys hit 40% of his threes with an offensive rating of 114.8, he suffered through a poor junior season. He was plagued by two horrible 3-pt slumps, one where he went 4-30 and the other was 1-16. Dulkys has always been an emotional player, and each of his three seasons his emotions have gotten the better of him and he’s gone through prolonged slumps. Still, his teammates call him the Machine due to the way he shoots in practice, and if he can relax and just shoot the ball he’s one of the better shooters in conference. He doesn’t do much else offensively. Despite winning the team slam-dunk contest in his sophomore and junior seasons, he hasn’t translated that athleticism onto the court. Instead, he’s a spot up shooter.
On the defensive end, Deividas is a high level pressure defender. His downfall on defense is losing position when he’s on the weak side. He’ll often sag too far into the middle and then not be able to close his man out when the ball is reversed. But this is nit-picking. He won’t make the All-ACC Defensive team, but he’s one of the better defensive guards in the ACC.
Jeff Peterson 6’1 195 (at Arkansas: 6.3 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2.2 rpg. 89.5 ORtg, 44.7 eFG%)
Peterson took advantage of the graduate transfer rule implemented last season to transfer to FSU, and is eligible immediately. The point guard has 1 year of eligibility remaining. He began his career at Iowa, but left for Arkansas following a coaching change. After John Pelphrey was fired at Arkansas, Peterson moved on once again. He’s a very smart player (originally committed to Princeton), who hasn’t been able to regain his scoring punch from his sophomore season. He’s a turnover prone point guard, who sometimes plays out of control. At 6’, he doesn’t have good size, though he is quick. He should share minutes at the PG postion.
Michael Snaer 6’5 202 (8.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.2 apg. 92.9 ORtg, 48.1 eFG%)
Snaer came to FSU with extremely high expectations, as he was the 17th ranked recruit nationally (in what has turned out to be a very weak class). Offensively, he’s struggled with turnovers throughout his brief career, but showed flashes last season that suggests he may be in for a breakout season. After rebuilding his shooting motion, he shot better from the free throw line as well as from behind the arc. And as the season progressed he made much better decisions with the ball. He now understands that he can’t just go to the hoop completely out of control. His turnover rate (26.5) is still terrible.
On the other side of the floor Snaer is the best perimeter defender in the conference. Ham’s system is extremely demanding on the outside, and Snaer always matches up with the opposing point guard and is able to exert ball pressure out to 25-28’. He disrupts the opponent’s ability to even get into their offensive sets and causes at least one shot clot violation every game. Snaer has good hand discipline and great footwork. He should be considered for the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, but he won’t because he doesn’t gamble enough to create stats, and John Henson will win as long as he stays healthy.
Terrance Shannon 6’8 240 (4.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg. 83.6 ORtg, 40.0 eFG%)
After missing his final year of high school to a knee injury, Shannon has struggled to stay healthy at FSU and has only played in 45 games in two years (has missed 34% of the games). With his energy, strength and size, Shannon has a unique skill set on this roster. He’s the guy that opposing players don’t want to match up with as they’ll go home sore and bruised. He doesn’t do anything one thing particularly well – but is a well rounded player who lives off his hustle.
Offensively, Shannon’s injuries have taken their toll. He doesn’t have a good fit with a motion offense, and is limited to scoring from 5-feet in. Still, if he can stay healthy, he’s a great counterpunch off the bench to replace Okaro White or one of the bigs.
Kiel Turpin 6’11 225 (JuCo transfer)
The two-time JuCo National Championship MVP is a long, rangy big man who should redshirt this season. He has a nice game out to 18’ but needs to get acquainted to high major basketball while gaining strength. He was 6’4 as a senior in high school, and is still getting used to his body.
Okaro White 6’8 204 (6.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg. 103.7 ORtg, 47.2 eFG%)
The highly recruited White came into Tallahassee with the reputation of high-major athleticism combined with a solid understanding of the game, and didn’t disappoint as a freshman. He shot 83% from the line and 49% on 2s. Unfortunately, like many freshman, he routinely took ill advised 3pt shots (converting 27%). He’s a much better offensive rebounder than a defensive rebounder, as his energy and effort overcome his lack of muscle on the offensive end. As he bulks up he should become more efficient keeping his man off the offensive boards. Aside from his questionable shot selection, White’s game has very few holes. If he stays focused he should have a future in the NBA.
With the departure of Chris Singleton, White should see a significant increase in minutes this season. He can play PF or out on the wing, and is equally skilled at either position. If he plays more on the wing this season he needs to tighten up his handle which will allow him to use the dribble to break down defenses.
Ian Miller 6’3 186 (5.5 ppg, 1.6 apg. 94.4 ORtg, 47.5 eFG%)
Leonard Hamilton scored a bit of a recruiting coup by luring Ian Miller out of the Charlotte area and getting him to Tallahassee. Miller has more upside than anyone on the roster, and has the potential for a long NBA career (if the NBA still exists). Unfortunately, Miller comes with a lot of downside as well. His immaturity has the potential to make Miller another in the long line of awesomely talented players who end up never going anywhere in the game of basketball.
Miller can score from anywhere on the court, and he has the ability to break down defenses with penetration. Once he learns how to play within the offense he has all the ability of a young Toney Douglas. Will that happen? Who knows, but the talent is real.
Defensively he was a liability. Whether it was laziness, inability to grasp the scheme, or lack of fundamentals, Miller was generally getting lectured about something defensive every time he came out of the game.
There’s also a question as to his eligibility. Coach Hamilton makes Jimbo Fisher seem like a fountain of information, and not only won’t answer questions about eligibility (or any of 83 other topics), but won’t even acknowledge the question. Jeff Cameron has stated repeatedly that Miller will be playing from game one, while a source in Miller’s family contradicts that. I expect him in mid-December.
Terry Whisnant 6’3 185
Whisnant comes in with the well-deserved reputation of a shooter. He averaged 32 points, 8 rebounds, 5.2 assists and three steals as a senior. Had 61 dunks and hit a school-record 124 3-point shots; scored 40 or more points in three straight games. At the end of the year the 1A player was named Mr. Basketball in North Carolina, and he leaves Gaston County as the all-time leading scorer.
The good news about Whisnant is that he'll be the best shooter on the team from the moment he steps foot on campus. The bad news is that he played high school ball against suspect competition with very few legit college players. However, he has played well in summer leagues against better competition, but transferring his game to the college level will be a challenge. Never in his life has he had to make a jumper with someone like John Henson closing him out. His shot is a bit unorthodox, but mechanically, it’s sound and repeatable. He'll just need to work on a quicker release and realize that the open looks he was getting in high school rarely exist in college. He'll also need to tighten his handle, and develop a pull-up game to compliment his shooting.
FSU has desperately needed shooters (211th in 3-pt %) to help open lanes for the likes of Mike Snaer and Okaro White. Whether or not Whisnant will get to be that guy next year depends largely on his ability to pick up the defense. Whisnant has made it known that one of the reasons he chose FSU was to enhance his defense which is currently pretty weak.
Antwan Space 6’8 218
Antwan Space is the classic Leonard Hamilton recruit - an athletic freak who has a significant flaw. He has point-forward skills in that he can use his size while slashing, has a very good handle for a wing, and has a solid touch out to the 3-pt line. What he lacks is consistent effort, and if that doesn't change don't expect many freshman minutes out of Mr. Space.
Transferring his game to the college level he relies too much on his size to shield defenders from the ball, and doesn't appear prepared for the level of weak-side help he'll face in the ACC. He also has nights where he settles for mid-range jumpers rather than attacking. Still, anytime a player is being recruited by both Mark Few and Billy Donovan, you know the kid has something. He could be another Uche Echefu (minus the injuries), or he could become a more athletic version of Kyle Singler, and that's why he had offers from nearly every major and mid-major conference.
For years I’ve ranted about our schedule, because for years it has been stupid. I’ll spare you my standard rant, though if you want to know why our schedule is so dumb read this.
Here’s the part of the schedule that we cannot control – the conference schedule – and it’s a tough one. FSU has the most difficult road in conference this season. None of the teams FSU plays twice are projected to finish near the bottom of the conference, and the only saving grace is that the Noles only draw UNC once. The other teams they only play once I have pegged at finishing 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. Which means that the teams I have finishing 2nd-7th (minus FSU) FSU has to play twice.
Now, for the part of the schedule the Noles can control – out of conference. And as usual, it’s
horrible, wait, what? (oh my god it’s actually pretty good could be better but seriously holy crap what the hell this is FSU). We open with Jacksonville, who has a decent chance to finish better than 200 in the RPI. Then a smart match-up with UCF. Then two really dumb games against Stetson and South Alabama (note to FSU hoops: playing teams that are guaranteed to be worse than 250 RPI hurts you even if you win. This isn’t football). The Battle 4 Atlantis has some very good teams, and if we can beat UMass and get into the winner’s bracket then we have a chance of crushing it with Harvard and UConn. We go to Michigan State which is awesome (though negotiated by the ACC rather than FSU). Charleston Southern has a chance to be decent. UNC Greensboro is absolutely unforgivable. We played them last year to get a shot at the Greensboro Coliseum (that worked out well) but this year we play them at home. I can’t even begin to describe how dumb this is. So I won’t. I’ll save my blood pressure. Luckily, we finish strong: Loyola Marymount at home (should be better than last year), at Florida (legit top-10 team), then home games with Princeton and Auburn. Princeton is the ideal opponent: they’re consistently overrated by RPI. And Auburn will be much improved this year.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the schedule. It might actually work in our favor come Selection Sunday, and at worst will be neutral. I’m glad FSU got the memo.
SEASON PREDICTION: 22-8 (11-5). 3-seed in the ACC Tournament. The basketball season kicks off two weeks from today, and the Seminoles open on November 11th.