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2021 five-star Bryce McGowens decommits from Florida State — where does FSU stand?

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Breaking down the effects of the South Carolina prospect’s decision.

Bryce McGowens (Instagram)

For the first time in a long time, Florida State’s men’s basketball program had some breaking news of the negative variety when prized five-star recruit Bryce McGowens decided to decommit—at least for now—from the Seminoles. McGowens, who became the first member of FSU’s star-studded 2021 recruiting class back in February, has seen his stock rise considerably since pledging to compete for Leonard Hamilton and company.

Here’s what we wrote about him last winter:

Like most FSU recruits, McGowens has length for days and he’s able to use that length to shoot over the top of smaller defenders. Though he isn’t an elite athlete in the Malik Beasley mold, he displays a good basketball IQ and is able to both finish above the rim in transition and get to his spots where he’s comfortable with his jumper. Like his brother Trey, he’s more a combo-guard, or “lead-guard,” so while he is listed as a shooting guard he is showing developing skills as a passer.

As he continues to develop McGowens will want to add weight to his naturally thin frame (he’s currently listed around 165-175 pounds), as well as continuing to tighten up his dribble and extend his range—though it’s worth noting that he can already shoot in rhythm out to 22-23 feet.

If you follow TN’s ongoing hoops discussion board, or listen to Michael Rogner and I on the TN Hoops Pod, you know we’ve been extremely high on McGowens from the get-go. In fact, I called him the recruit I was perhaps most excited about in the entire 2021 class and suggested the recruiting services were significantly undervaluing him a month or so ago.

Unsurprisingly, McGowens saw his stock skyrocket and is now a top 25 player on the consensus ranking...a ranking that still might be 5-10 spots too low for this long and silky smooth guard/wing hybrid.

What changed?

At this point, anyone giving definitive answers is simply speculating. McGowens has been actively engaged with fellow FSU commitments Matthew Cleveland, John Butler, and Jalen Warley and even communicates with soon-to-be lottery picks Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams. His family has also been transparent about FSU being a great fit for Bryce, with McGowens and his father even doing interviews with TN’s Josh Pick a few months ago.

So, to say this comes as a surprise would be an understatement. My best guess would be that established powerhouse programs finally took notice of what FSU’s “new-blood” staff has known all along—McGowens is an ideal weapon for modern basketball, and a guy who’d increase their odds of winning a championship. And given McGowens’ rapid development, I suppose even the G League has possibly expressed interest.

Is this common?

Not really. Unlike football, most big time basketball prospects start the recruitment process in 7th or 8th grade. This leads to deeply established relationships and familiarity with programs. Case in point: FSU assistant Steve Smith has been cultivating a relationship with McGowens (and his family) for years. So by the time a basketball player commits, it’s fairly uncommon to see a lot of flip-flopping. In the last few years, there have been several cases of guys de-committing before re-committing to the original school, but it’s certainly not the norm.

However, recruiting in the COVID landscape is new and some unique dynamics have evolved. Whereas it might’ve been tough to get a kid to visit your campus after they’d already committed elsewhere, Zoom meetings are fairly easy to accomplish and might open a prospect’s eyes to something they didn’t previously consider. Add in a classic case of a kid exploding onto the national scene, and this could become a more frequent occurrence.

What does this mean?

In the current moment, it means FSU’s ballyhooed recruitment class goes from “absolutely bonkers” to “great”. Five star prospects Cleveland and Warley are immediate contributors, JUCO Naheem McLeod provides size and rim protection, and four star John Butler is the guy who just might have the highest long-term ceiling of all.

However, make no mistake, losing McGowens would be a blow. McGowens is the best perimeter shooter of the current class and possesses a near perfect combo of length, slashing, and playmaking ability for Hamilton’s system. Additionally, his positional overlap with Cleveland is actually a positive for a team with championship aspirations as it increases lineup flexibility and creates more margin for error should there be foul trouble or injuries. (And we have already seen proof that you don’t even have to start games at FSU to be a first round pick).

Hopefully, McGowens is being honest when he says he just wants to make sure FSU is the right place. Hopefully, we’re writing a re-commitment article in a couple weeks. And as of this time, I still think there’s significant mutual interest between McGowens and FSU. But the longer the de-commitment lasts, the more concerned I’d become.

On the flip side, FSU’s 2021 class is so loaded it was actually having to turn away top 75 kids who normally might be a headliners. So if the de-commitment turns permanent, I wouldn’t be surprised to see FSU go back to guys like Josh Minott or James Graham and see if they might make a de-commitment of their own.

Either way, we know one thing is sure. Never count Ham’s scholarships.