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Florida State Summer Notebook Part 2

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We (temporarily) interrupt your normal football programming with a bit of news about other sports.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Florida State vs Xavier Kim Klement-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.

Women’s Basketball

Florida State took their overseas trip this year to Spain and Italy. The games weren’t very compelling. The Noles won the last game of the trip against a Sicilian team 122-36. However, these trips are always valuable as they provide a chance for team building and give the coaches extra practices to work with the squad.

Perhaps of more interest right now is the recruiting picture. Florida State has been hot on the recruiting trail. Florida State will likely bring in a large class (5 or 6 players) in 2018 as the Noles lose Shakayla Thomas, AJ Alix, Ama Degbeon, Imani Wright, and Chatrice White after this year. That doesn’t even count any unexpected transfers. Right now the Seminoles have arguably the best class in the nation for 2018 with three players currently in the ESPN top 30 (Izabela Nicoletti #4, Morgan Jones #27, and Kourtney Weber #28) and another (Amaya Brown) who would have been in the top 50 if not for an injury that forced her to miss her junior year. She is healthy now.

All of those players are guards or wings. FSU would very much like to add a post player. The Seminoles have been linked to four quality front court players this summer. In no particular order they are Olivia Owens, Queen Egbo, Victaria Saxton and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. Unfortunately Owens chose Maryland over FSU and Miami among others.

Queen Egbo is a 6’3 post player from Houston (prayers to everyone in Harvey’s path). Egbo is a 5* (#14 overall) player who has a final four of Baylor, Texas, Mississippi State and FSU. I think Egbo probably ends up at Baylor. The Texas schools have the advantage of geography and they are both highly regarded programs. Baylor probably has the edge over the Longhorns because of the depth chart. Texas has been recruiting like crazy the last few years especially in the front court. They have the #7 overall player in 2018 (6’7 Sedona Prince), the #1 player in 2017 (6’3 Rellah Boothe) and the #2 player in 2016 (6’3 Joyner Holmes). FSU has a shot because they can offer more playing time as well as a great chance to win with the talent being assembled in Tallahassee but it will be tough to get her out of the state.

Victaria Saxton is a 6’3 forward from Georgia. She is a consensus 4* top 100 level player. FSU has been linked to her but she has been pretty quiet about her recruitment so it is not known who else she is considering. She would look great in garnet and gold but she is probably not as much of a focus for FSU right now compared to Egbo or the next player on the list.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa is a 6’4 F/C from Georgia. She is a 5* (#3 overall) player. On April 24th she listed her top 12 schools and not much has changed. The top 12 is Duke, FSU, Georgia, Maryland, UNC, Notre Dame, UConn, Ohio St, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, and UCLA. We know she has real interest in the Noles (she visited Tallahassee on her spring break) but her final 12 has some serious bluebloods on it. It will be tough but certainly not impossible to get her signature. If Nelson-Ododa chose FSU she would be the highest rated recruit to join the program since 2010 when Natasha Howard (#2 overall) came to FSU from Ohio.

Whether or not FSU can land any of these players the 2018 class is already extremely strong. If the Seminoles don’t add anyone to the four players already committed the class will probably end up in the top seven nationally. If they can add one of these four post players the class is a top five lock and could be the top class in the nation (if Nelson-Ododa chooses FSU).

Men’s Basketball

We can now put a bow on the 2017 recruiting class. We had to wait a bit because of some last minute reclassification decisions (Marvin Bagley and Jontay Porter) but now everything is done.

According to the 247 composite FSU has the #12 class in the nation for 2017 (#4 ACC). This the third year in a row that the Leonard Hamilton led staff has reeled in a top 15 class.

McDonald’s All-American M.J. Walker is now the 28th ranked recruit in the nation. He is the top 4* recruit in the nation. This (just barely) breaks FSU’s streak of recruiting at least one 5* player. However, this is a very good class and will help ease the loss of the Big 3 (as well as Michael Ojo and Jarquez Smith).

Speaking of the Big 3, with Xavier Rathan-Mayes signing with the Knicks, every member of the trio - Dwayne Bacon (Hornets) and Jonathan Isaac (Magic) - has now signed an NBA contract. We will see how much time XRM gets with the big squad but even if he has to spend extended time in the G-League this is a great development for him especially since he didn’t get drafted.

The Basketball Tournament

The Basketball Tournament is a winner take all tournament that happens every summer. This year the top prize was $2 million. Overseas Elite won for the third time in a row. Several teams enter as alumni teams. This year that included teams from Syracuse, Villanova, VCU and Ohio State among others. We haven’t spent any time talking about this tournament because FSU alumni haven’t been heavily involved but I thought it would be interesting to try to come up with FSU’s ideal alumni team.

Here are the rules for picking the team.

  1. All players have to have played for FSU.
  2. No players with current NBA contracts are eligible.
  3. Obviously no current players are eligible.
  4. All players must be young enough to play (so Charlie Ward, Bob Sura, Sam Cassell, and of course Dave Cowens are out).
  5. We will assume that all players who meet the above rules are in reasonable shape to play.
  6. We are picking a team, not necessarily the 10-12 top players so we can’t have 10 guards.

With those rules in mind here is my team.

Guards - Michael Snaer, Luke Loucks, Ian Miller, Deividas Dulkys, Aaron Thomas

Wings - Chris Singleton, Al Thornton, Von Wafer, Montay Brandon

Bigs - Michael Ojo, Bernard James, Terrance Shannon, Boris Bojanovsky

Just missed the cut: Isaiah Swann, Jason Rich, Xavier Gibson, Ryan Reid, Jarquez Smith, Derwin Kitchen and Devon Bookert.

Let me know who I forgot in the comments.

One last thing about the basketball tournament. I only saw a few games but from what I saw the officiating was noticeably better than what we see in college. Keep in mind that most of the refs used were college refs. The games had better flow and rhythm because the refs didn’t call every little foul. I understand that the NCAA doesn’t want the game to turn into a clutching and grabbing fest but fans don’t want to see a parade to the free throw line either.

Soccer

Florida State played Alabama yesterday in Tuscaloosa and lost 1-0. The #6 Noles are now 3-1 on the young season. I won’t reinvent the wheel by recapping the entire game as the linked article above does a good job. However, I do have some observations.

FSU is a true title contender this year. The team is loaded. They have multiple players who have earned caps with their senior national teams - Deyna Castellanos (Venezuela), Gloriana Villalobos (Costa Rica), Emma Koivisto (Finland), Natalia Kuikka (Finland), Megan Connolly (Ireland). This is in addition to all of their home grown talent (Cassie Miller, Kaycie Tillman, Olivia Bergau, etc.) Therefore, they have no business losing to a soccer minnow like Alabama. The Tide have only two NCAA tournament appearances in their school history. FSU has 17 in a row and had a five year streak of College Cup (Final Four) appearances broken last year. This win over FSU is probably the best win in the history of Alabama’s program. They were 1-11 all-time against the ACC before this game.

So how did it happen? Bama is led by third year head coach Wes Hart. Hart spent two years in Tallahassee as an assistant to head coach Mark Krikorian before taking the job in Tuscaloosa. Hart had a good game plan for this game and the Tide executed it to perfection. Basically they kept 10 (sometimes 11) players behind the ball and let FSU have all the possession they wanted. They put a thicket of bodies in front of goal and dared the Noles to score through all of the traffic. They relied on counter attacks (sometimes to great effect) for their offense.

Another problem FSU had was a very slow start. Alabama could have easily led 2-0 in the early going but Nole keeper Cassie Miller saved FSU’s bacon with two exceptional saves. The Seminoles were very lethargic in attack (only two corner kicks for the game) and they were vulnerable in defense. Alabama exposed FSU’s defenders more than once with speed. Against more skilled strikers FSU could be in trouble if these defensive issues aren’t fixed. It should be noted that the Noles were the victim of a bit of bad luck as Megan Connolly shot a rocket that beat the keeper but hit the post.

FSU has the talent to play much better but it looked like the Noles just didn’t take Bama seriously and they got burned. FSU had plenty of company in the upset column as every team in the top six that played lost this week. Only #5 USC avoided the upset bug because they didn’t play this week.

FSU will play Kentucky on Sunday at 1pm at the Seminole Soccer Complex. Admission is free so check out this team if you get a chance. They will almost certainly play better against the Cats.

On a brighter note, FSU striker Deyna Castellanos has been nominated for The Best FIFA Women's Player in 2017. It’s really hard to overstate how big a deal this is. It is a huge honor for Castellanos just to be nominated for this award. At only 18 years old Castellanos is the youngest of the 10 nominees. Keep in mind that this is not the best college player or best player under 20. If she wins, FIFA would be naming Castellanos the best female footballer on the planet for 2017. Other nominees include Carli Lloyd (American national team captain), Wendie Renard (French national team captian), and Dzsenifer Marozsan (German national team captain).

Castellanos is the only current college player on the list. Here is what they say about her on the FIFA site.

Since starring at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016, where she spearheaded Venezuela’s challenge with such élan that she collected the adidas Bronze Ball and the adidas Bronze Boot, Deyna Castellanos has continued her footballing education in the USA. After a spell with college team Florida State Seminoles in Division I of the NCAA, she joined Santa Clarita Blue Heat in United Women’s Soccer at the start of the year. Not content with making the UWS All-League First Team at the end of the season, Castellanos was also voted the league’s Player of the Year. An instinctive, free-scoring striker, the 18-year-old has plenty of power and pace to go with her impressive array of skills.

The comments are yours.