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What Anthony Edwards’ decision means for FSU basketball

You have questions. We have (some) answers.

Florida State v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As you may have heard, Florida State missed on what would have been its highest rated recruit in over 25 years when Anthony Edwards decided to stay close to home and sign with Georgia. This development left many FSU fans upset, disappointed, and confused among other emotions. Let’s discuss this decision and its ramifications.

These are real questions posed by real people in the sense that they are actual questions (they end in a question mark) and I am a real person (I have written all of the questions).

Let’s start with the basics.

Who is Anthony Edwards and why was his decision such a big deal?

Anthony Edwards is a combo guard from Atlanta, GA. He is arguably the top player in the class. There are many places on the internet to go if you want a scouting report on what makes him such a highly ranked player. However, we discussed him more fully in the comments to this article.

His decision was a big deal for several reasons. With his commitment to FSU, he would have been the highest ranked high school player to choose the Noles since at least Doug Edwards who was a top five recruit for Florida State in 1990.

His addition to the class already assembled by the Seminoles would have vaulted it into the top five nationally and would have made it the highest ranked class for FSU since the advent of modern era recruiting rankings (circa 2000).

His impact on the court would have been immediate and extremely significant. Florida State is already a consistent top 25 team this year and are on the cusp of achieving lock status for the NCAA Tournament. Adding a talent like Edwards to the roster that FSU is set to put on the court for next season would have lifted the Noles to the top 10 nationally and would have inserted them squarely into any discussion of Final Four contenders.

To be sure, Florida State will still have a very competitive team next year. The Noles will probably have a team that is similar in quality to the current edition - around the top 20 - next season but the addition of Edwards would have likely advanced them into the ranks of the national elite.

I thought that FSU was supposed to lead for him. What happened?

Edwards had been considered to be a strong FSU lean for months. This opinion was formed because Leonard Hamilton and his staff had forged a strong relationship with him. FSU has been recruiting him since he was in middle school. He referred to the Seminole coaches as “like family” more than once publicly. He also commented favorably on FSU’s system.

Therefore, for months it seemed like all signs were pointing to FSU. This was especially true considering that Florida State is currently enjoying success on the court not to mention the fact that the Seminoles are fresh off of an Elite Eight appearance. In other words, the Noles could plausibly argue to Edwards that he could come to Tallahassee and immediately compete not just for ACC championships but also for National championships.

Unfortunately for Nole fans the narrative began to change a few weeks ago. Whispers began that Georgia was making up significant ground in the recruitment. A couple of national recruiting observers changed their predictions from FSU to UGA. The Dawgs seemed to be picking up momentum. Edwards had an official visit to Tallahassee scheduled for February 9th. It seemed that if he kept that schedule and actually showed for the visit that FSU could reel him back into the fold. Unfortunately for the Seminoles Edwards cancelled that visit and he officially committed to Georgia yesterday.

Why did he “switch” to Georgia?

I have switch in quotes because of course he never officially committed to FSU. Although perhaps he did so unofficially.

Recruiting is a tricky business. We are dealing with 16-18 year old kids who are making the toughest decision of their young lives. Adding to the difficulty is that they have many people (some of whom have vested interests in the outcome) advising them on the decison. There are often many factors that go into making the decision. If that wasn’t enough they are making the decision in public with thousands of people watching.

In this particular case it seems that Edwards simply wanted to stay at home to be closer to his family. He makes that clear here:

My sister just had my nephew, I want to see him grow, so [staying close to home] was a big factor.

To be sure, that wasn’t the only factor in the decision but it is clear that it was the biggest one. In essence Edwards chose staying at home over what FSU offered (the chance to play for coaches he regards as family as well as the chance to win immediately and compete for championships) and over what Kentucky offered (the chance to go to a blueblood school and compete for championships). Every recruit has different priorities and it is obviously perfectly fine that Edwards chose family over other considerations.

Some have speculated that Edwards chose Georgia because they don’t have much talent so he would get hundreds of shots there. I don’t agree. First, Edwards is not a selfish player. He is not afraid to play with other talented players. In fact, he views that as a positive. He has already said that he plans on trying to recruit fellow top 100 players Precious Achiuwa and Lester Quinones to Georgia. I don’t like his chances but the point is that he wants talent around him.

Secondly, he would have been the focal point of FSU’s offense if he would have come to Tallahassee. He would have gotten all of the shots he wanted while he was on the floor if he would have picked FSU.

However, while I don’t think that he was that concerned about the number of shots he was going to get I do think that it is at least possible that he could have considered something else. FSU under Leonard Hamilton is known for being one of the deepest teams in the nation. In the last five years, FSU has not had a single player average 35 minutes a game. The closest was Xavier Rathan-Mayes (34.69 in 2014-15). It’s possible that he was concerned that he would only get around 28-32 minutes a game at FSU while he would get at least 35 minutes a game in Athens. Frankly, I don’t buy this explanation either. I think Occam’s razor applies here. He just wanted to be close to home.

Why did no one see this coming?

The main reason is that (as we discussed earlier) Edwards seemed focused on FSU over the other schools. It also made sense for him to choose Florida State. In my Guide to Recruiting article (that’s right, I’m linking to it twice) I discuss many factors that recruits consider when deciding on a school. Florida State seemed to check a lot of the boxes (personal relationships, style of play, level of coaching and talent, etc.) that are normally important to recruits.

However, in the second paragraph of the article I wrote the following sentence that seems to have relevance here:

[D]egrees matter. In other words, if one school has a huge advantage in a category that particularly matters to a certain recruit then he may pick that school even if a rival school has the edge in more of the other categories.

Obviously Georgia had the advantage in that Athens is closer to Atlanta than Tallahassee. The edge in the geography factor trumped all of FSU’s perceived advantages. As Edwards said:

The reason I picked the University of Georgia is because it’s my home school.

The other reason that this is a bit of a shock is that Georgia is simply not good at basketball right now. The Dawgs are currently 10-13, (1-9 SEC). They are struggling as a program to put it mildly. Top recruits generally like to win so they are very reluctant to choose schools that are struggling in the way that Georgia is right now.

UGA also doesn’t have much of a history of attracting 5-star recruits. Edwards is only the third 5-star recruit ever to pick Georgia according to 247Sports.

Edwards bucked all of those trends. Recruiting is a very idiosyncratic business.

Is there a chance that he could flip to FSU?

Not really. Basketball recruits seldom flip and when they do it is usually for an obvious reason. The two most common reasons are that the coach leaves or is fired and the recruit gets recruited over by better talent. There is basically no chance that either of these things are happening. Edwards will be a Dawg.

So where does this leave FSU?

While this stings, Florida State is still in pretty good shape. This decision obviously has no effect on this year’s team which seems to be barreling toward a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance after a five game (and counting) winning streak.

Next year’s team won’t be as good without Edwards but FSU is still bringing in a top 15 quality class even if they don’t sign another player. However, they are still in the running for top 100 wing Terrence Shannon, Jr. If they can somehow reel in Shannon the Noles will have a top 10 class that will be arguably the best class Leonard Hamilton has ever recruited to Tallahassee.

Should FSU continue to recruit super blue chippers?

Yes, if they have a reasonable chance to land them. Recruiting is in part about allocating scarce resources properly. In other words, it makes no sense to spend time, money and effort recruiting a player that isn’t really considering your school no matter how talented he is. If you don’t have a real chance at him those scarce resources are better spent on a recruit that you have a better chance of landing even if he is less talented.

Basically, we need to trust the staff here. Without being on the inside it is impossible to know exactly how the resources are allocated among the recruits.

However, I have no problem with them going all in on Edwards. He was a super talented player who they had more than a real shot at signing.

Also, you never know what might happen. Luck matters in recruiting. FSU could have had a stroke of good luck or UGA could have had a stroke of bad luck. In that case the Seminoles needed to be in a position to capitalize. Unfortunately for FSU it was Georgia who was lucky in this recruitment.

Bottom line, was this whole recruitment a failure?

The obvious goal when recruiting players is to get them to sign with your school. Florida State didn’t get that done here so, just focusing on results, this recruitment can be considered a failure. However, that doesn’t mean that the staff “failed” or that they were wrong to have pursued Edwards in the first place.

If you don’t recruit great talent you won’t get great talent. Having the most talent is the best predictor of future success. Therefore, it is paramount that teams do their best to secure top talent. I have no problem with FSU going all in with Edwards especially considering his stature as a recruit and the relationship that the staff was able to forge with him. Other than moving the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center to Buckhead the Noles couldn’t match what UGA had to offer. It’s just unfortunate for FSU that he placed so much importance on staying close to home. There’s not much you can do about that other than wish him well and move on.