Competing against a team wearing different colors for the first time this season, Florida State came out and did what it should do in an exhibition game against an overmatched opponent; they dominated. Of course, one game against one non-D1 opponent probably isn’t the most precise measuring stick for assessing strengths and weaknesses, but hey, who doesn’t love a good hot-take right?
The only way to actually see the action against Mississippi College was to be there in person and since this site is so expensive we decided to give the community its money’s worth and send three staffers to the Tuck. But instead of three different reaction pieces, we put together this roundtable to share our thoughts.
What was the most encouraging sign from the Florida State Seminoles’ first live action?
Matt Minnick: No injuries! But seriously, that’s always a great thing. In terms of players, I was encouraged that our veterans who played (Anthony Polite sat out) looked comfortable in their roles as team leaders. Malik Osborne was vocal and proactively coaching guys on the court and sideline. He also led by example, relentlessly attacking the offensive and defensive glass and swarming all over the floor on defensive switches. RayQuan Evans, as I suspected, looked much improved physically and emotionally compared to the difficult COVID-season, and he confirmed that to be the case in the post-game. He’s ready to be a leader, to call his own number when he’s open, and to face the challenge of defending top guards—all of which points to a great bounce-back year for him.
Brett Nevitt: Florida State’s scoring depth in the backcourt. Last season, the Seminoles struggled with the depth of their guards. Thursday night, FSU showcased numerous pieces in the backcourt that can score. New faces Caleb Mills, Jalen Warley, and Matthew Cleveland brought a breath of fresh air with the ball in their hands. All three guys showed the ability to move the ball and finish. Each scored at least eight points. Add those three to Polite and Evans, and you have yourself a pretty deep room of guards.
Max Escarpio: Everyone had the ability to move the ball up the court and I loved that there was mostly never a lead guard; Warley, Cleveland, Evans, Lindner and Mills all pushed the offense as soon as the rebound was taken and it looked very fast-paced. Also, we needed to see improvements from our veterans including Evans, Osborne, Ngom and Wilkes and they showed incredible leadership throughout the matchup on and off the court. Everyone was very encouraging and acting as a player coach which is going to be really important to develop the youngsters around them.
Which newcomer impressed you most?
Brett: Mills. He just looked extremely smooth with the ball in his hands. He seemed to control the game, and he did it efficiently. Mills dished out five assists while just turning it over once. He was 5-6 from the field for 11 points. The Houston-transfer showed the ability to finish from all three levels, as he scored in the paint multiple times, pulled up in transition for a mid-range basket, and also nailed a triple.
Matt: The answer to “impressed you the most” is definitely Mills. That dude can ball. And he’s longer in-person than he appeared on film, too, which is great for extending perimeter pressure on defense. But if I tweak the question slightly to “surprised me the most,” I need to give a shout out to Mr. John Butler. Yes, he obviously needs to add (significant) weight. That’s no secret. But despite his thin frame, he finds ways to impact, and even intimidate. His length is eye-popping, and more than that, he seems to have a strong sense of how to use that length and lateral quickness to mitigate his lack of strength. This allowed him to swat several shots and alter a few others just by being long. He also showcases a smooth stroke and advanced court-vision, meaning he can legitimately play on the wing and simply shoot/pass over the top of stronger, but shorter defenders. Over the summer I assumed he was almost guaranteed to redshirt, but now I’m not so sure. I can’t wait to see him against Penn in the regular season opener.
Max: It seems like Mills is the obvious choice for this answer. He already seems very comfortable in Hamiltons system and he has a knack for scoring in almost any range. Aside from Mills, I really liked what I saw from Jalen Warley. From the moment he stepped on the court he was a vocal leader and wanted the ball in his hands to push the offense. I saw him lead the huddle a few times as well as give a couple pointers to Ngom and Ballard. His confidence to attack the rim and be a leader on the court is something we usually don’t see from a players first game but I loved how involved he was on both sides of the ball.
Which returner looked most improved?
Brett: Evans. Last season, Evans looked like he lacked confidence at times. He shot just 36.6% from the field and was 9-25 from deep. Evans got the start at point guard and looked much improved as a scorer. Evans was 3-4 from beyond the arc and led the Seminoles with 17 points. He looked comfortable with his high-arching deep ball and didn’t hesitate to let it fly when open. If the ‘Noles could get a more confident Evans who’s a threat from deep, it’d do wonders for Ham’s offense. (Also shout out Osborne, who was all over the place with 16 points and 13 boards).
Matt: I totally agree with what Brett said on Evans, but just to give a different answer, I’m going to say Quincy Ballard. Last season, there were only six games where Ballard played more than four minutes, and only three games where he played more than five. It’s not his fault, he just didn’t fully grasp where to be, or what to do within the system. And while he still has a long way to go, he appeared more aware of his role and where he’s supposed to be. On top of that, his conditioning appeared better, and it also looked like he added significant muscle and weight. I’m not suggesting he’s going to be a 20 minute/night guy, but he absolutely looks like someone who’ll play non-garbage time minutes. Defensively, he made his presence known with two emphatic blocks, while also showcasing physicality. Offensively, he ran the court well and only took opportunities that came to him within the flow, going 2-2 from the field and drawing multiple fouls.
Max: Evans was definitely the star of the show last night with what looks like a brand new burst of confidence and he even looks more conditioned to be able to play more than 25 minutes with a leaner body type and speed that helps push the offense into their set very quickly. Aside from Evans lead role we saw redshirt-senior Malik Osborne lead the team with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds. While offensive rebounding is usually a huge factor to secure second chance points and ultimately win the ball game, Osborne was extremely active on the defensive end grabbing 10 rebounds on that side of the ball. He was the key to keeping a comfortable lead and also looked very confident in his shooting ability. Last year he started to shoot 15 footers and and maybe one three point attempt per game but last night he finished 6-9 from the field, 2-3 from three and 2-2 on free throws. These two veterans showed a huge leap to what they can become and their leadership will be important to build this young group of guys.
What will you be looking for in the Seminoles’ second exhibition game? (Friday, Nov. 5th at 6pm against Florida College)
Brett: Better defensive rebounding. The Seminoles allowed the Choctaws to snag 16 offensive boards. Despite being an undersized team, they were able to haul in 32% of their misses. Osborne was the only Seminole with more than five boards.
Matt: One, I’d like to see Cam’Ron Fletcher and Naheem McLeod play. It was clear from Hamilton’s post-game comments that they were in the doghouse for something, so I hope they rectify that quickly because FSU needs them to get some game action before the regular season.
Second, I want to see what game two looks like for Warley and Cleveland. These youngsters are clearly talented and will see sizable minutes this season. Both of them flashed at times, as well, with Cleveland already showing a knack for jumping passing lanes with three steals (and I love that he has his head up, looking to push pace after the steals, too, hence his 5 assists), while Warley showed an ability to finish in a variety of ways, one time through heavy contact and another time with great body control on a reverse layup. But both guys also looked like they were still doing some feeling out, which is totally natural at this stage. I hope to see one or both of them come up and demonstrate they got in the film room, worked to clean up some mistakes, and take the next step into fully internalizing that they belong and will be counted on for major impact this season.
Max: Just like Matt I’d love to see Fletcher and McLeod involved to see how deep this team can really be. We definitely need to use the fact that we’re one of the tallest teams in the nation to our advantage on both ends and that includes boxing out and being ready for the rebound as well as feeding the bigs when the opponent doesn’t have a player over 6’8. I really like how Ngom and Osborne played when they had to switch and guard a smaller player; most of the time they kept their feet planted and didn’t let the shooters get off easy buckets. Knowing we’ve already seen incredible guard play I would love to see the bigs get involved in the offense more so we can find the open man outside the paint. Ngom forced a lot of fouls when he was handed the ball on the block but I need them to attack the rim and be dominate off the tip so we can take advantage of our guards and help them get wider shooting gaps.
If you have other questions, or were also in attendance, please join us in the comment section.