Florida State’s women’s basketball program has been on an upward trajectory in the last few years. This trend is visible using several metrics. In the last four years the Seminoles have finished the season with the following records - year in parentheses: 32-5 (2015), 25-8 (2016), 28-7 (2017) and 26-7 (2018). The final results in the AP poll validated those records as the Seminoles finished ranked 7th, 17th, 10th and 11th. In those same years the Noles have earned the following NCAA Tournament seeds: 2nd, 5th, 3rd and 3rd. In the tournament FSU had the following finishes: Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Second Round.
The Seminoles hope to continue with that record of success this year but it will not be easy. Florida State lost their entire starting lineup from last season as the following seniors all graduated - Shakayla Thomas, AJ Alix, Chatrice White, Ama Degbeon, and Imani Wright. Those five players accounted for 75.3% of the points, 61.9% of the rebounds and 68.9% of the assists last year.
Those numbers would be very hard to replace under any circumstances but FSU faced even more off-season adversity this year. Izabela Nicoletti is a 5* recruit who was set to be the starting point guard this year. In July she sustained a knee injury in practice which will sideline her for the entire year. Iho Lopez is a sophomore forward who was making strides in the off-season program. She was on track to earn a starting spot in the front court this year but that was derailed when she sustained serious injuries in an automobile accident last month. Lopez will be out for an undetermined period of time but it is very possible that she will miss the entire season as well.
These losses leave Florida State with a roster that features only nine active players. This is similar to the situation that the Noles faced last year when they also only had nine active players on the roster. Last year I discussed how FSU found themselves in this situation. The story I discussed last year combined with the situation discussed in the previous paragraph explain how the Seminoles find themselves with only nine players again this year.
The losses were not just limited to on the court. The Seminoles also lost former Associate Head Coach Lance White when he accepted the head coach position at Pittsburgh. White was also able to recruit former Assistant Coach Danielle Atkinson to join him at Pitt. FSU Head Coach Sue Semrau hired Joy McCorvey (from Michigan) and JC Carter (Utah State) to replace White and Atkinson.
While those losses are certainly significant it is not all doom and gloom as Florida State is fortunate to have an outstanding recruiting class coming to Tallahassee as well as the return of several players who have the talent to make an impact. We will now examine the players FSU has on its roster and discuss some issues that may impact how much success the Seminoles will enjoy this year.
With the loss of Nicoletti, Florida State will turn to veterans and captains Nicki Ekhomu and Nausia Woolfolk to handle the ball handling duties. Neither player was recruited to play point guard but frankly Florida State is in a pinch with all of the injuries. Fortunately for the Noles both Ekhomu and Woofolk are talented players who will likely be able to handle the new roles. In fact Woolfolk served as the backup point guard last year for the Seminoles and she acquitted herself well.
FSU is likely to employ a three guard lineup this year. The third guard in the starting five will likely be freshman Kourtney Weber. Weber is a 5* recruit from New Orleans. She is an athletic guard who can get to the basket as well as pull up for the mid-range jumper. Sayawni Lassiter is a guard who will provide depth in the backcourt. Lassiter is a redshirt freshman who sat out last season due to injury. Another player to watch is former top 100 recruit Amaya Brown. Brown is known as one of the best perimeter defenders in the 2018 class. She could see significant minutes off the bench as her defensive ability is likely to be very useful for FSU this year.
The other tri-captain named by Sue Semrau is former Maryland transfer Kiah Gillespie. The redshirt junior will provide veteran leadership in the front court. Gillespie is a player that features a wide array of moves down low.
The other starter will likely be sophomore Savannah Wilkinson. The wing from London showcased a very nice three point shot last year in limited minutes. Wilkinson gained more experience competing with England’s U20 team over the summer and FSU hopes that experience will transfer over into ACC play.
Valencia Myers is a former McDonald’s All-American from Ohio. The 6’3 Myers offers excellent size and scoring ability in the low post. Morgan Jones joins Myers in the 2018 class. Jones is yet another top 100 recruit. She is very good in transition and has the size and versatility to help the Noles at multiple positions.
For the last four or five years the Seminoles have battled with Notre Dame and Louisville for ACC supremacy. Due to all of the losses detailed above FSU is not expected to be able to continue this trend. Both Notre Dame and Louisville are top 5 teams and the Noles for the first time in years are unranked in the opening AP poll.
For FSU to surprise people this year the Noles have to figure out a way to defend and rebound. The talent on the team is great - 8 of the 9 active players were top 100 recruits - but they all need to buy in on defense. It is sometimes tough to get younger players to be consistently on the same page.
Rebounding will also be key. In the last few years FSU has been dominant on the boards. With the loss of so many players that will likely change this year. How much it changes could very well determine how far the Noles can go this season.
The talent on this team is too great to have a precipitous fall from the standard set in the recent past. However this will be a transition year. The talent will get the Seminoles into the NCAA tournament. If this young team can reach the second round the season will be seen as a success.
Florida State opens the season tomorrow at 11am against Troy in Tallahassee. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.