Florida State University has been experiencing what can truthfully be deemed a basketball renaissance in the last three years. In the 2015-16 season FSU missed the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year and the FireHam hashtag became much less ironic and much more serious. Since then FSU has been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament. The Noles have earned three straight appearances and barring a complete collapse seem very likely to stretch the streak this year to four straight years. Also, Florida State has not just been making the Tournament, the Seminoles have been making noise once they get there. FSU has two straight second week appearances making the Elite 8 two years ago and advancing to the Sweet 16 last year. In addition the Noles advanced to the ACC Tournament Final last year.
The Seminoles seem determined not to rest on their laurels this year as they have compiled a 14-2 (4-1 ACC) record so far this year and have earned a #10 ranking in both the AP and Coaches polls. They have done this despite the fact that they lost a total of six important contributors from last year’s team - two of whom are currently in the NBA. Because of those losses many people thought that this would be a bit of a rebuilding year in Tallahassee. That obviously hasn’t been the case as FSU is sitting at tenth in the nation and second in the ACC. Therefore, it is apparent that head coach Leonard Hamilton and his impressive staff (Stan Jones, Charlton “CY” Young, and Steve Smith) have built a true program that is capable of contending for NCAA Tournament appearances (and perhaps more) year in and year out.
FSU has enjoyed a noticeable uptick in recruiting during these renaissance years. According to 247Sports, for the last five years (2015-2019) FSU has recruited a top 20 class every year except 2018 when the only player who signed was 3* Devin Vassell who is a linchpin of this team and on the road to being an NBA draft pick. In other words, since 2015 the Noles have gotten important contributors from every class. This type of recruiting success will allow a program to have consistency and avoid down years (missing the NCAA Tournament). This type of consistency is only possible with robust recruiting. Florida State has certainly not deviated from this rule and it has seemingly allowed the Seminoles to reload instead of rebuild.
However, this type of success/consistency was thought to be reserved for bluebloods and near-bluebloods. Does this mean that Florida State has now entered the ranks of the basketball bluebloods? Not exactly. Let’s begin our discussion by examining where Florida State currently fits into the national recruiting picture. Next (in subsequent articles) we will investigate exactly what makes a program a blueblood - at least for recruiting purposes - and why FSU is not one yet even with the recent success. Finally we will discuss some possible explanations for why FSU has been enjoying so much success lately on the recruiting trail.
Note: When discussing prospects, the number in parentheses will be the prospect’s current overall 247Sports composite ranking.
The current state of FSU basketball recruiting
The early signing period for the 2020 class has passed and Florida State has secured the signature of 5* guard/wing Scottie Barnes (9) and consensus top 5 JUCO prospect Sardaar Calhoun. The Noles also have a commitment from 3* guard Malachi Wideman (166) but Wideman is also a top football recruit and his commitment is seen by most to be quite soft as he has announced his intention to visit other schools. I would not count on Wideman actually sticking in this class.
Florida State is also technically still involved with 5* guard Jalen Green (3). However, Green is still considering all of his options (including foregoing college to play a year professionally overseas) and while he did officially visit FSU a few months ago (along with good friend Barnes) it would be a pretty big shock to see him choose to matriculate to Tallahassee.
Even without Wideman and Green, FSU is set to bring in a class that would feature a pair of players who are poised to have an impact from day one. Barnes is a complete stud who has been recording impressive performance after impressive performance this year playing for powerhouse prep school Montverde Academy. He is considered the ninth best player in the class right now by 247 but I fully expect him to receive a ratings bump when the new rankings are released. It’s unlikely that Barnes will crack the top 3 but I think he could easily end up in the 4-7 range which would make him the highest rated recruit that FSU has signed in the modern recruiting rankings era (circa 2000). He is currently tied with Jonathan Isaac. Calhoun is a 6’6 wing who is currently averaging 20.6 points a game at the JUCO level while shooting a sizzling 46.4% from deep. He is not likely to average 20 points a game in the ACC but the shooting should translate. This kid is a sharpshooter and he will likely be able to do that at FSU. This is the type of class that will continue the program consistency that we discussed above.
Even with how good the 2020 class looks the 2021 class has the potential to be even better. The prospect list that is being compiled by the Florida State staff is impressive. Before we discuss this list we need to include a few caveats. First, it is really early. Things can and probably will change. Second, just having a player on the list obviously doesn’t mean that FSU will eventually land the player. It doesn’t even mean that the Noles are one of his top options. It basically just means that FSU is one of the options that he is seriously considering. In other words, he is listening to Florida State’s pitch. Lastly, all of the players that we will mention are in the top 50 and most of them are five stars. Weird things can happen when recruiting five stars especially when the school in question is not a blueblood. This is all to say that recruiting is a marathon not a sprint and FSU has a long way to go to land any of the players that we are about to mention. However that doesn’t detract from the fact that Florida State is off to a great start.
We will strictly use 247Sports’ prospect lists in order to have consistency when comparing programs. For those who are unaware of 247’s nomenclature, “warm” means that the recruit has shown some type of concrete interest in the program. This is usually evidenced by the players putting the program in his final five or ten or by scheduling an official visit. According to 247Sports, FSU has a status of “warm” with the following players in the 2021 class.
- 5* forward 6’8 Jonathan Kuminga (1); St. Patrick (Elizabeth, NJ)
- 5* forward 6’8 Jabari Smith (5); Sandy Creek (Tyrone, GA)
- 5* forward 6’9 Michael Foster (6); Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, AZ)
- 5* forward 6’9 Moussa Cisse (9); Lausanne Collegiate School (Memphis, TN)
- 5* guard 6’1 Kennedy Chandler (15); Briarcrest Christian (Memphis, TN)
- 4* guard 6’6 Matthew Cleveland (23); Pace Academy (Atlanta, GA)
- 4* guard 6’5 Chance Moore (43); Holy Innocents Episcopal School (Atlanta, GA)
- 4* guard 6’5 Bryce McGowens (48); Wren (Piedmont, SC)
That adds up to five 5*s, eight top 50 players and four in the top 10. I won’t give detailed scouting reports on these players here but Michael Rogner and Matt Minnick discussed several of them on their most recent podcast. If you aren’t listening to it you are missing out on an excellent basketball discussion. Check it out here. That is a list that any blueblood program would be proud to have at this stage of the process. In fact it is arguably the best list in the entire nation at this point in the recruiting process.
Let’s compare that list to what the bluebloods (and other interesting teams) have so far on their prospect lists. Due to time constraints I will give summaries of the competing prospect lists around the nation.
The Blue Devils have six 5*s, seven top 50 players and four in the top 10. Included in that is a commitment from 5* forward 6’7 AJ Griffin (8).
The Tar Heels have three 5*s, three top 50 players and two in the top 10.
The Wildcats have four 5*s, five top 50 players and three in the top 10.
The Jayhawks have three 5*s, five top 50 players and one in the top 10.
The Bruins have one 5*, two top 50 players and zero in the top 10.
The Wildcats have zero 5*s, one top 50 player and zero in the top 10.
The Spartans have zero 5*s, two top 50 players and zero in the top 10.
The Wildcats have zero 5*s, two top 50 players and zero in the top 10.
The Bulldogs have two 5*s, two top 50 players and two in the top 10.
The Gators have one 5*, three top 50 players and one in the top 10.
The Cardinals have two 5*s, four top 50 players and zero in the top 10.
The Cavaliers have zero 5*s, three top 50 players and zero in the top 10.
As you can see, the only list that even remotely compares to FSU is Duke. I would put the Blue Devils ahead of FSU at this point especially considering that they have an actual commitment from a top 10 player. Other than them FSU is clearly off to the best start regarding the 2021 class. However, starts don’t mean much if you can’t finish. We will see how well the Noles actually do in reeling in these players but it can’t be denied that they are in great position to have a program defining class coming to Tallahassee.
In articles coming soon we will discuss some reasons that help explain the success that FSU is experiencing on the recruiting trail. We will also delve into why FSU still can’t be considered a recruiting blueblood even if they manage to secure signatures from several of the players on their impressive recruiting list. Stay tuned.