There’s been a lot of disappointment when it comes to cancellations and postponements within sports around the world over the past 11 months.
Anyone involved with the Florida State’s men’s basketball program could tell you all about the frustration that comes with having scheduled games, or a season, wiped away in an instant.
Through no fault of their own, they’ve had two 14-day periods of no action on the court in a two-month span. Fans and the Tallahassee community haven’t had the chance to fully enjoy yet another polished, high-energy FSU squad capable of a deep run in March.
Near the top of the list of misfortunes is missing out on a complete season of FSU guard Scottie Barnes. That’s because the likely one-and-done, explosive young talent has been so impressive in his first 12 games as a Seminole.
From acrobatic layups to chase-down blocks, Barnes frequently amazes with eye-popping plays on both sides of the court. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton says Barnes’ rare personality off the court is what really stands out.
Even something as small as making an effort to speak to and hug the other 17 players on the roster before a team meal is an example of what Hamilton calls uncommon traits for a true freshman.
“He is clapping, he is talking, he is energetic. He loves to play; he loves the atmosphere,” said Hamilton. “He has that personality that I’m proud of as it relates to what he brings.”
After a stretch of three straight road games to begin February weren’t played, his team’s absence from the schedule has been the only thing to halt the quick development of the 6-foot-9, 227-pound phenom.
In the five games back from the first layoff, Barnes averaged a point below his average for the season but his field goal percentage from the field was up to a gaudy 51-percent. Hamilton noted that he is shooting the ball much better from the perimeter with each game he plays, and the release and form on his jump shot has improved all the while.
“He is making big shots for us. Just the management of the game. Understanding where everybody is. It’s a tremendous challenge,” said Hamilton. “He has made tremendous progress.”
While it is true many programs around the nation have been forced to miss games because for coronavirus-related reasons, few have missed more than the Noles. 22 of the members of the current AP Top 25 have played at least 17 games. At 10-3 overall, FSU has played the fewest number of games of any ranked team in the country.
A disjointed season has been a slight distraction from what is really the biggest storyline of the 2020-21 Florida State team: the rare opportunity that comes when possessing a player that has the immense ceiling of Barnes.
Every current projection agrees Barnes is a surefire top-ten pick (and most say even higher) in next year’s draft if he decides to declare. FSU may get just one shot at a tournament run with the dynamic freshman playmaker.
What might be most exciting is Hamilton said Thursday that Barnes still has a lot of room for improvement. The West Palm Beach, Fla. product wouldn’t be the first Florida State freshman to elevate his play even further as the season wore on.
Last year, frosh forward Patrick Williams averaged 9.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in his first 10 games, scoring in double figures 3 times. In the last 10 games of the 2019-20 season, against the likes of Duke and North Carolina rather than out-of-conference play, Williams averages rose to 11.5 points and 5.5 boards, and he scored in double figures 7 times.
An even-better Barnes would scare any team in the country, including Wake Forest (6-8, 3-8 ACC) who the Seminoles draw first in their return Saturday at noon. Hamilton described FSU as “anxious to get back on the court” heading into the weekend.
After the matchup with the Demon Deacons, and barring any further disruption to the season, there will be just six regular-season games left in Barnes’ freshman year. For Hamilton and the entire Florida State squad, the hopes are that Barnes could lead them to play in, and win, six straight NCAA tournament games as well.
“I think the sky is the limit for him, and he has a very, very high ceiling. He is a sponge; he is eager to learn. He is very coachable,” said Hamilton.
“When the game is on the line, he normally plays his best.”