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Basketball Early Signing Period: FSU inks star-studded quartet

The Seminoles just informed Tobacco Road they enjoy the view from the top and plan to renew the lease.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional Practice
Coach Ham has a lot to smile about these days.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020-21 college basketball season tips off in roughly two weeks, with Florida State playing a delicious home schedule. But while the Seminoles gear up to defend their ACC Championship, Leonard Hamilton and Co. just let the rest of the league know that while the crown might be heavy, they don’t mind wearing it.

College basketball’s early signing period for the 2021 high school class tipped off Wednesday, November 11, and it didn’t take long for FSU fans to start feeling giddy. All four of the ‘Noles commits signed the dotted line, opening up capacity for Hamilton’s staff to get a critical jump on evaluating the growing transfer market, as well as a jump on building relationships with the 2022 and 2023 classes.

And what a quartet it is. With two five stars, a solid four star, and a highly regarded JUCO big man, FSU’s class of signees currently checks in at number two in the nation on 247’s composite class rankings. It’s easy to see why USA Today named FSU as one of the “winners” of the early signing period.

Here’s a quick rundown of all four recruits, along with photos from their big day:

Matthew Cleveland, Wing, #21 on the 247 composite

The long and explosive five star out of Pace Academy in Atlanta appears to have been built in a lab for FSU’s system. Cleveland oozes NBA potential, is known for a strong work ethic, and should continue FSU’s tradition of two-way wings who can score at all three levels, put the ball on the deck, and be a disruptive force on defense. Read/watch more about Cleveland’s scouting report from earlier this summer.

Jalen Warley, Combo Guard, #24 on the 247 composite

Depending on how you classify Scottie Barnes, Warley could be the best point guard ever signed by Leonard Hamilton. I don’t have a full scouting report of him yet (coming soon!), but the single best word to describe the 6’4 lead guard’s game is “smooth.” Our own Michael Rogner said it best on a recent podcast, noting that he’s the type of player who doesn’t seem like he’s really doing much, and then you look at the box score after his team wins and you realize he controlled the whole thing.

Hailing from the Westtown School in Norristown, PA, Warley exploded onto the scene over the last 12 months and drew attention from all over the country. He signed with FSU over offers from Michigan, Virginia, Oregon, Seton Hall, Louisville, Marquette, Creighton, and Xavier, among others—all schools that know a thing or two about great guard play.

John Butler, Center, #55 on the 247 composite

Butler represents where the game of basketball is going. Standing 7’1 and with a wingspan that goes for days, he alters shots and passes on defense, while making for an easy lob target on offense. But he’s far from a back-to-the-basket big man. Butler also possesses high level vision and passing skills and is a legitimate threat shooting from the perimeter. He will need to add strength and weight, as highlighted in this full scout, but he just might have the highest ceiling of any member of this class.

Naheem McLeod, Center, #6 JUCO on the 247 composite

Originally part of FSU’s 2019 class, McLeod needed to complete some coursework at Chipola Junior College before being fully eligible. Given how many top 100 prospects FSU was connected to in the 2021 class (the Seminoles had to turn away multiple top 75 guys), it says something about how much Hamilton likes what McLeod brings to the table that he still ended up signing with Florida State. And why not? He’s 7’3, 230 pounds, and brings a ferocious, rim protecting presence to the garnet and gold. While Butler might need a year in the weight room, McLeod should play meaningful minutes right away.

FSU still has space for at least one more in the 2021 class (don’t go trying to count Ham’s schollies) and they remain at least moderately involved with some top high school prospects. But given the emerging transfer market, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the staff wait to see who becomes available later in the season. Especially since we will still learn more about which FSU seniors might want to use their free season.