If you are new around here you might be thinking position previews! Sweet, that’s five basketball articles! but hold on. Coach Hamilton (as with most coaches in college basketball) doesn’t run a system where 1-5 is really applicable. On defense it could be argued that the Florida State Seminoles have just two positions. On offense, that probably stretches to three (or 13 if you wanna get weird). So three it is. Today it is the most important position for the Seminoles in the 2019-20 season: point guard.
Enter Trent Forrest. Last year we kept telling people that Forrest’s “turf toe” injury suffered in November wouldn’t heal until the season ended, and the reason is that the coaches were under-playing the severity. Cartilage in his big toe had been torn off the bone and had to be replaced in the off season. So now the senior, coming off a solid season despite playing through constant pain (9.3 ppg, 3.7 apg), will be expected to make a major leap. And frankly, the team will need it. Not since Toney Douglas’s senior season has one player meant so much to an FSU team.
He’s the only true point guard on the roster. Last year he was 7th in the ACC in assist rate, and FSU will need him to be a night-to-night stat stuffer similar to his final game from last year (20 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals in a loss to Gonzaga). Due to his injury (and a backup who couldn’t play fast) the Seminole run and gun offense had to back off the gas last year, dropping from 44th in average possession length in 2017-18 to 142nd in 2018-19.
Expect that the ramp back up this year. And the reason isn’t just Forrest being healthy. It’s also because Florida State doesn’t have much in the way of backups. One way to mitigate that weakness is to play fast, and minimize the number of half court sets where a point guard is most valuable.
RayQuan Evans, a physical (6-4, 210) combo guard out of North Idaho College, was brought in to be groomed as Forrest’s replacement, but he’s missed most of the pre-season with a hamstring injury. It’s uncertain when he’ll be back. And prior to his injury, even the best case scenario was probably similar to last year with David Nichols. Nichols really struggled early trying to learn to run the team, but came on late in the year. Evans is similar in style to Forrest, in that he is a downhill scorer without a great shot.
Anthony Polite (6-6, 215) did everything in high school, but the ACC is a different beast. He’ll be helpful bringing the ball up the court, but can he run the offense? The same could be said for point-forward Raiquan Gray who has a great handle for a guy his size (6-8, 260).
FSU should be solid in breaking any presses with so many ball-handlers, and they should be able to run after rebounds and live ball turnovers. The question will be any half court sets when Forrest is on the bench. Last year Forrest played 74% of the available minutes. In Douglas’s senior campaign he played 91%. How much Trent plays will depend on his health and conditioning.
If Forrest gets hurt for any extended period, then FSU’s season could rapidly fall apart. But if he stays healthy, he’s experienced and is one of the top point guards in the ACC. He’s a top perimeter defender in the conference (10th in steal % each of the past two seasons), and when he was healthy as a sophomore, he was the best player in the conference at getting to the line (last year fell to 3rd).
The key for his scoring will be how well those around him can knock down 3s. With the 3-point line moving back this year, more space could be available for driving lanes. Forrest’s offensive strength is attacking off the dribble, and if his teammates can make defenders respect their shot, then he should have plenty of room to drive.
Next up, we’ll take a look at the post players. Then it will be on to the wings, which is the bulk of the roster.