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Florida State Summer Notebook

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Just a few thoughts on FSU sports. Read at your own risk.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Florida State vs Xavier Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

These are just notes to keep you up to date on some topics that may be of interest to Florida State fans. I will also include my take where appropriate. The topics are in no particular order.

Basketball Recruiting

As I’m sure you have heard by now 5* forward Kevin Knox chose Kentucky over FSU, Duke, North Carolina and Missouri. This was a stunning decision. It was not surprising that he didn’t choose FSU but it was a shocker that he chose Kentucky. The Wildcats already had commitments from two other 5* forwards in this class and they have former 5* forward Wenyan Gabriel returning for his sophomore season. Most recruits would recoil from this depth chart but Knox said that he wanted to be challenged day in and day out in practice in the hopes that it would make him a better player and prepare him for the next level.

Kevin Knox, Sr said that there were no bad choices among the final five contenders and I agree with that assessment. UK is not a bad choice but it remains to be seen if it was the best choice. In any case good luck to Knox, Jr we hope that things work out for him in Lexington.

From FSU’s perspective, if he wasn’t coming to Tallahassee, this was probably the best place for him among his top five. Obviously it is best that he not go to an ACC school where FSU would have to face him on the court. FSU wouldn’t have had to face him had he chosen Mizzou but he is good enough to elevate the Tigers to the Tourney in tandem with Michael Porter. The Seminoles are likely to be a bubble team next year so having Missouri take a Tournament spot would not be ideal for the Noles.

Florida State now will focus its full attention (at least where 2017 is concerned) to 5* guard MJ Walker. I think FSU still has a legit chance for him but the Noles are not the favorite. Knox’s recruitment emphasizes how hard it is for non-bluebloods to get 5* players and it will also be an uphill battle to get Walker’s signature.

NBA Combine

The NBA Draft Combine takes place this week in Chicago. It officially starts today. There will be several activities taking place at the combine. They include interviews with NBA teams, basketball drills, athletic tests, measurements and five on five scrimmages. Draft prospects have the option of participating in any or all of the activities. Of course they can also decline an invitation.

All 30 franchises vote on who they would like to be invited to the combine. The NBA sends out invitations based on this vote. It is important to note that not all invitations are equal. For instance, Jonathan Isaac is seen as a top prospect (very likely top 10) therefore he was extended what is known as a “Tier 1” invite. This means that the NBA is implicitly acknowledging that he will have little interest in playing in the scrimmages (although he would certainly be welcome to play) so they are extending an invitation to come to Chicago for interviews. Most top prospects refuse even tier 1 invites and Isaac did decline. However, two other top prospects (Markelle Fultz and De’Aaron Fox) have decided to participate in the interview portion of the combine.

The pre-draft process is an exercise in risk (and reward) management. This is why it makes little sense for top prospects (like Isaac) to participate in the scrimmages. Even if they play great there is minimal room for their stock to improve because they are already rated so highly. However, if they play poorly they risk their stock dropping. This is why the top prospects will negotiate through their agent with teams to participate in private workouts which may or may not include scrimmages. If you are a top prospect like Fultz who many think has the inside track on the top pick, you may only participate in workouts for three or four teams. Others will participate in more workouts. I expect Isaac will do in the neighborhood of six to eight.

At its heart the combine is a huge exercise in information gathering. Every one of the 30 teams will be represented and they will all be trying to learn as much as they can about the prospects. On the other hand, the prospects will be trying to glean information about where they stand on the draft boards of different teams. Remember that many players who will participate have declared for the draft without hiring an agent so they are preserving their right to return to college. The combine will provide valuable information to them to help them make that decision.

Here is the list of expected attendees. Remember that this list only includes those prospects who are expected to attend and participate in at least one of the activities. There is nothing stopping a prospect from showing up just to talk to the numerous scouts, coaches and team executives that will be in attendance. Again, information will be the coin of the realm in Chicago this week.

As you can see Dwayne Bacon is the only member of FSU’s Big 3 that appears on the list. Jonathan Isaac declined an invitation and Xavier Rathan-Mayes unfortunately was not extended one. Bacon is currently expected to be a second round pick. Consequently he is scheduled to participate in all of the activities including the scrimmages. Bacon is just the sort of player who could benefit tremendously from a strong combine. It’s not completely out of the question for him to crack the first round with a strong showing in Chicago coupled with strong workouts later.

Women’s Basketball

The women have also been busy since the season ended. Florida State saw two of its seniors drafted by the WNBA. Leticia Romero was drafted with the 16th overall pick by the Connecticut Sun. Center Kai James was drafted by the New York Liberty with the 34th overall pick. Romero has chosen to skip this year’s WNBA season to concentrate on her obligations with the Spanish National team. Guard Brittany Brown was invited to attend the Los Angeles Sparks training camp while forward Ivey Slaughter will join James in the Liberty camp.

It’s never too early to talk about next year’s draft. Some websites have already published 2018 mock drafts. This site has Shakayla Thomas going to San Antonio with the 13th overall pick.

Of course those departures were expected. Unfortunately the Seminoles have seen a couple of unexpected departures. Freshman guard A’Tyanna Gaulden has informed the coaching staff of her intent to transfer. This will be the third year in a row that the Seminoles have seen a point guard transfer from the program. Rachel Antoniadou returned to Australia last year. The year before that Shakena Richardson graduate transferred to Seton Hall. Sophomore Maria Conde will also not be returning to Florida State. Conde will be returning to her native Spain.

Fortunately the Noles have been able to compensate with a couple of incoming transfers. Rising junior forward Hatty Nawezhi (13.4 pts, 9.7 reb) from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M will join the team and will have two years of eligibility remaining. The Noles also secured a commitment from former TCU point guard AJ Alix who chose FSU over Texas A&M. Alix (13.1 pts, 4.6 asts) led the Horned Frogs in points and assists last year. Alix is a graduate transfer and will have one year of eligibility in Tallahassee.

It can’t be overstated how important both of these commitments are to the program. FSU is getting quality players at positions of need. Alix will be the starting point guard from the second she sets foot on campus. You can make the case that she will be the second best point guard in the ACC next year. I would rate only Lexie Brown from Duke ahead of her in the preseason.

Nawezhi will challenge for a starting spot. She and Ama Degbeon will compete to be the starting power forward. If neither is ready the coaches may opt to play small and have Nicole Ekhomu start in a three guard lineup. I think it would be best for Nawezhi or Degbeon to earn the starting spot and have Ekhomu provide scoring punch off the bench. However, that will only work if one of them earns the starting position.

Update:

Olivia Nelson-Ododa is a 5* C/F from Winder, GA. She recently took a visit to FSU on her Spring Break. The 6’4 Nelson-Ododa was formerly ranked the #1 player in the 2018 class by ESPN. She is currently ranked #3. If FSU could somehow secure her commitment she would join Kourtney Weber (currently ranked #28 overall by ESPN) in the 2018 class.

Florida State also has a commitment from 6’5 center River Baldwin who is currently ranked #17 overall in the 2019 class.

Softball

The Florida State Softball team (48-6-1) has been rolling this year. They finished undefeated at home (25-0) and in the ACC (24-0). However the team suffered a disappointing end to the regular season dropping three straight to #5 Oregon in Eugene by scores of 11-0 in five innings, 3-1 and 2-1 in nine innings. It was frankly shocking to see the Noles lose a mercy rule game. I would have never thought that would happen to this team.

However, it was good to see them bounce back and play much better in the final two games. Although the last game was frustrating because FSU should have won it. The Seminoles had runners on second and third with no outs in the eighth inning and failed to score. Against the top teams FSU must take advantage of these types of opportunities. Hopefully they have learned from this and won’t repeat that mistake in the NCAA Tournament.

Although the west coast trip didn’t go well for FSU it was still a wise decision to schedule the games. FSU needs to play top teams out of conference because the ACC doesn’t provide enough opportunities for impressive wins. FSU is currently seventh in the RPI. The next best ACC team is North Carolina at #34. There are 13 SEC teams ranked higher than UNC. That is the whole conference.

Even with this late stumble the Noles are well positioned for a top eight seed in the NCAA Tournament and should therefore host a super regional as long as they don’t have a hiccup in the ACC Tournament. This bodes well for their chances to reach Oklahoma City because they are so strong at home.

FSU will next play in the ACC Tournament against Virginia. The game is scheduled for 11am on Thursday in Chapel Hill.

If there is interest we can do more of these. The comments are yours.