Three years ago Leonard Hamilton and staff won a major recruiting battle to land Okaro White. He was the consensus No. 43 player in the nation, and was being recruited heavily by Florida and Indiana in addition to a number of ACC programs. He was also an ex teammate of Luke Loucks, and was in attendance when the 2009 FSU team advanced to the ACC Finals.
Once on campus it didn't take the willowy 6-8 forward long to make an impact. In just his 2nd game he scored 16 points and grabbed four boards (all on the offensive end). He ended up starting the team's final 13 games as a freshman.
As a sophomore he upped his minutes from 16.5 a game to 22.6. But his role was similar to his first year. He started 12 games, and was used primarily off the bench. With FSU playing 3-guard lineups for most of the season, White had to share time with the Noles deep and talented front line players. Still, he averaged 7.7 points a game, and he mixed in two double-doubles.
Now he's a junior. And he's ready to bust out. He says he finally got into "starter shape" by the end of his sophomore year, and now he's able to just focus on developing his game. And if the two exhibition games are any indication, then teams are going to get burned with they focus too many resources trying to contain Michael Snaer. In the two preseason games White scored a total of 35 points off a ridiculously efficient 17 shots. He made 8-10 twos, 4-7 threes, and was 7-8 from the line. This follows up on the Seminole Madness event in which he won both the 3-point contest and the dunk contest.
On offense, look for White to shoot far more threes than he has in the past. In his first two seasons he attempted only 67. And with good cause. From his first game as a freshman until last year's Michigan State game, White shot just 24% from deep. That's not someone you want jacking threes. But from Michigan State until the end of last year, White shot 43% from deep. So the 3-point contest and 4-7 start to this year are real. It's a new feature of his game, and it's going to serve to open up his real threat, which is using his quickness to abuse bigger defenders away from the basket. He's also active on the offensive boards.
Defensively is where he's going to really be tested. FSU will once again be playing a lot of 3-guard lineups, which will often leave Okaro to guard bigger players. And as much as he's tried, he still hasn't put on the weight that he needs. He was listed at 6-8, 180 as a freshman, and now is listed at 6-8, 204. He's definitely stronger, but he still has a ways to go. When you're undersized it's all about footwork and communication with your teammates. And that's something to keep an eye on early.