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Player development: Montay Brandon finds his role

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about FSU's tough early season is that Montay Brandon is figuring things out

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When Montay Brandon was a freshman you could see why recruiting services ranked him where they did (the consensus No. 60 player in his class). He was big and strong, and he played with great effort. He had a decent handle for a guy 6-7. Beyond that though, he was raw. He didn't have a good shot. The game moved too fast. But you could that there was a player there, waiting to be molded.

That first year was an adventure. He was forced to play point guard even though he wasn't ready, and for the year he posted the 2nd lowest offensive rating of any freshman in the Ham era. Only Michael Ojo had a lower rating. But he finished the year doing something special. In the last game of the season, in a loss to Louisiana Tech, he suddenly started driving with aggression and using his unique skill set to get to the rim. FSU lost, but Montay was in double figures for just the 3rd time in his career, and he finished with two Sportscenter worthy drive and dunks. That was a start. That was something coaches could point to.

As a sophomore, he got a lot better. He scored with more efficiency. His work on his mid-range game paid off. But that team had Ian Miller and Okaro White and Aaron Thomas, so Montay was never more than a valuable role player.

But this year's been different. This year he's been the best player on the court for Florida State.

Unfortunately, it wasn't supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be a three-headed attack with Devon Bookert firing 3s, Montay slashing to the rim, and Aaron Thomas doing a little bit of everything. Then Book needed foot surgery, AT went down with a mysterious illness, and a few games later AT was gone for good.

Now the season is in danger of falling apart, and though Montay can't carry the team alone, he absolutely has to be one of the guys who figures out how to be an anchor every night. He has to be consistent. He has to lead.

Looking at the numbers it's clear that he's ready.

PPG Ortg %Shots DR% TORate Stl% FD/40 2-pt%
Freshman 4.0 77.0 13.8 8.5 34.2 1.0 2.9 47.1
Sophomore 7.7 100.2 16.1 12.3 17.0 1.9 4.2 44.9
Junior 14.5 119.2 19.8 14.8 14.0 2.1 5.4 65.4

As a freshman he scored 4.0 points a game. That went to 7.7 as a sophomore, and now he's scoring 14.5 as a junior. The last three games have been particularly interesting. Entering the UCF game Montay had taken more than 10 field goal attempts once in his career (11, last year vs Michigan). In the past three games he's averaged 13 shots a game.

So he's stepping up to a larger role, and the best thing is that he's doing it efficiently. His offensive rating (119.2) is higher than any season Okaro White ever had. He's also rebounding at the highest rate of his career. He's rarely committing fouls, and he's drawing a ton. He's made over 65% of his 2s, which is ridiculous.

The reason he's shooting so well is that everything is coming at the rim. 73% of his shot attempts have been layups or dunks. That number was below 50 last year, and below 40 as a freshman. FSU wants to get the defense moving - either in transition or through ball reversals in the half court - and then get the ball to Montay. He's not waiting until the catch to make his move. He's attacking the pass so that he can get to the rim more quickly.

In other words, he's figured it out. He's found his niche. He has a unique skill set and that skill set screams "attack the basket."

After the last game, coach Driscoll from UNF summed it up about as well as I've heard.

"There’s an old saying: "Don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can." He doesn’t. He does not have a clouded thought in his brain. The only thing he knows is "when I get the ball, I’m driving to the rim until somebody stops me, because that’s what coach wants me to do. If I don’t, coach is going to take me out of the game. So, I’m just going to do what coach tells me to do because I’m really good at it." That’s what he does."