While this is called a “game recap,” the reality is this wasn’t a game. It was a practice session in which players get a chance to defend someone they don’t see every day and coaches get a chance to test out a few things they might be tinkering with this season.
That said, there was score being kept. Florida State, playing without several guys who will be expected to contribute, led comfortably the whole night and finished with a 74-66 win. The single most important objective was accomplished too, as there were no noticeable injuries that occurred. A slightly more detailed half-by-half summary can be found below.
But with the game not on television or radio, Max and I thought the best way to use this space was to have sort of a mini-roundtable where he and I banter on a variety of observations and questions.
What do you make of the starting lineup of Caleb Mills, Darin Green, Jr, Matthew Cleveland, Baba Miller, and Naheem McLeod?
Max: Florida State has an athletic starting lineup that can run the floor fairly well, but the inclusion of Darin Green Jr. may be forced in my opinion. I’d like to see Jalen Warely in that role to give the Noles a better ball handling lineup and help initiate a more structured pace.
Matt: My impression is that it won’t be the starting lineup. Or at least that’s what I thought pre-game. Obviously Jalen Warley is a guy who you’d imagine would be in there, assuming whatever he did that caused him to miss this game is rectified to Ham’s satisfaction. But as the game went on, and Green’s floor spacing and basketball IQ is readily apparent, I’m also not sure I want to remove him. Cleveland is a lock and Naheem will always start if for no other reason than to win the tip. I’d imagine Mills is a lock too, but can we go 3 guards, plus Cleveland? Is Mills the floor spacer you need if Warley runs point and Mills moves off-ball?
In a weird way, I left the scrimmage with more questions than answers about the starting 5.
Max, give me two things that stood out to you in a positive manner
There isn’t much to choose from aside from the improvement in shooting from beyond the arc. The Seminoles are definitely more confident form distance, which is extremely important if they’re playing from behind with such a young team. As a forced second option, I’d simply say the freshman. They were able to contribute right off the tip and give the Noles much needed energy.
Matt, what are two things that leave you with anxiety?
- Our defensive awareness and execution. Yes, this was a scrimmage and we were likely trying things out just to see how guys would respond. And yes, I don’t want someone like Mills risking injury by diving into the scorers table for a loose ball (he didn’t). But all those caveats aside, there were some rough possessions tonight. Shooters were badly lost. And when McLeod isn’t on the court, we have zero rim protection and limited defensive rebounding. Jaylen Gainey would have been a significant boost to this team, especially early in the season with his versatility, athleticism, and high hoops IQ.
Now there are ways to mitigate some of these issues. Be disruptive enough in your ball pressure and even flash some press, and you can speed teams up and turn them over. You can use substantial length on the wings with Cam’Ron Fletcher, Miller, Cleveland, and House to disrupt sets and deflect passes. And the guards are simply going to have to crash the boards. But yeah, there’s some anxiety.
2. Perimeter shooting IF Green missed extended time. On its face, FSU shot 48% from three on over 20 shots. Which is great. But the reality is, Tom House isn’t going to play 20 minutes a game in ACC play and Miller won’t shoot 3-5 every game. Mills didn’t attempt many and Warley didn’t play, so perhaps this is an unfounded concern. But when Anthony Polite and Malik Osborne went out last season we saw how much of a struggle it was at times to score from the perimeter. Having a true floor spacer like we did from 2017-2021 makes a massive difference in the pace-and-space offense. Let’s just hope Green stays healthy.
We are down 3 with 5 seconds to go—who do you want taking the shot?
Max: The Noles best three point shooter is Darin Green Jr. His confidence and ability to shoot on the move would put him as the best candidate for this situation. While he’s not a regular shooter from beyond the arc, Caleb Mills should be the second option.
Matt: I agree with you on Green. He just clearly has the smoothest, most repeatable stroke from deep and he’s also got the experience of taking big shots in high-level college games. In terms of the second option, I like Mills, but what about—and don’t call me crazy—Miller from the corner? His height allows him to shoot over any defender and his touch is surprisingly soft. Thoughts?
Max: The Miller option would definitely give the Noles a better shot opportunity if it’s schemed correctly. Miller’s extensive resume in pro basketball helps me have trust that he’s not worried about any opponent or “name,” so if it were against a top school there would be less nerves from Miller.
Matt: Interesting point about Miller’s background helping him stay calm. And as I type this, Green knocks down his 4th three on 6 attempts. He’s far and away option one.
Best option to play the 5 when McLeod is on the bench?
Matt: Yeesh. Offensively, I guess Corhen. He showed a willingness to mix it up a little, has soft hands to catch lobs, and is a capable scorer around the basket. Defensively, it can’t be Corhen yet. But unfortunately it can’t be Miller yet either. The loss of Jaylan Gainey really stands out here. Maybe Cam’Ron Fletcher as a small-ball 5 and just aggressively switch everything.
Max: I would have to say Corhen because of his physicality and resume against blue-chip centers in high school. Miller and Fletcher would be other options, but they’d likely get in foul trouble and it might take them away from scoring on offense. Corhen will definitely in foul trouble as well, but he’s more of a replaceable piece than a player like Miller.
Player who you’ll be asking to get more minutes?
Matt: The same guy I clamored for last season, Cam’Ron Fletcher. He was first off the bench tonight, which is fine. Starters don’t really mean all that much in Hamilton’s system, so I don’t really care if he’s on the court for tip or not. But if he doesn’t play at least 55-60% of the minutes this year, I’ll be calling for more. (Last year, despite all the injuries, he played 37.7%). All the dude does is make plays around the ball. Deflections, rebounds at both ends, blocks shots, makes threes and transition plays. I understand that he’s been out of control at times, but at least in this scrimmage that was less of an issue. Good things happen when he’s on the court.
Max: As he gets comfortable in the college game, Baba Miller needs more opportunities for the Noles. He’s a pro for a reason, meaning he’ll have an instant impact on both ends of the floor, while giving FSU’s coaching staff comfort in his all-around ability. Miller was in the game for 27 minutes, scoring 11 points on 4-6 from the field. He could average around 12 points with a solid number of attempts, in my opinion.
Matthew Cleveland is entering his sophomore year, which is a year we’ve seen guys start to emerge as leaders (Trent Forrest, Mike Snaer) or explode as full-on stars (Devin Vassell, Dwayne Bacon). What were your initial impressions?
Max: Cleveland looked like he improved his shooting form during warmups with a smooth follow through, but that didn’t translate to the game. If he’s able to continue with his shot development he may enter the star range, but as of right now he’s a leader that plays through athleticism.
Matt: I agree that he’s asserting himself as a leader on the team. He is vocal on the court, pointing out rotations, diving on the ground, and just generally being a steady presence. And I’ll also say that his form, while not a finished product, does look improved. His hand placement on the ball is better and more consistent, which is a sign he listened to Stan Jones this off-season. But while the results didn’t show up in the box score, the biggest difference I saw was his confidence in his shot. He pulled the trigger without thinking on several threes and pull-up jumpers, and used a tighter handle to attack the basket off the bounce. Confidence is not something to take for granted either. FSU fans watched for years as Trent Forrest and Terance Mann steadily improved their shots, but still passed up open threes, breaking the rhythm of the offense.
Defensively, he looked like you’d expect a second year player to look. More aware and more consistently in the right spot. Should be able to generate 4-6 points a game just off deflections, steals, and run-outs.
Caleb Mills is in his second full season too, how did he look?
Matt: He looked solid when he played, but he was in foul trouble all night, including a rare three-foul first half. His playmaking was outstanding. The first possession of the game was a perfectly executed ally-oop on a set play, but he also dished quite a few assists off his ability to breakdown a defense off the bounce, get in the paint, and kick out to a shooter. Defensively he was solid. Which is all he needed to be in a scrimmage. I’d like to see him be a bit more vocal, but again he only played 9 first half minutes. I’ll be interested to see what happens with his playmaking when Warley is in uniform. Do they play together as a dynamic duo or do you go with the luxury of always having a strong lead guard on the court?
Max: I wanted to see more from Mills. He’s always been a great ball handler, but the shooting needs to improve and his attitude needs to get better. I’ve seen Mills as a stand alone player for many games and it looks like that hasn’t changed.
We mentioned Green’s shooting above, what about his all-around game?
Matt: I was pleasantly surprised. He isn’t Trent Forrest in terms of breaking a defensive down and getting in the paint, but he’s not a pure catch-and-shoot guy like PJ Savoy either. He’s not quite the level of athlete that some FSU shooting guards have been, but he already seems to have a decent grasp of where to be in Ham’s system at both ends. I honestly could see him playing 28-30 minutes a game given his floor spacing, free throw shooting, and situational awareness. He’s a close-out player for sure. Max, admitting that we will have 3-4 players in the low double-digits for scoring, what would you say about the chances of Green leading the team in scoring?
Max: Green’s shooting is exactly what the Noles have been looking for, and I can’t say that enough. He can shoot off the catch and off the dribble, playing phenomenal off high screens. If I had to pick a player to lead the Seminoles in scoring it would be Mills, because of his ability to create shots anywhere on the floor. Green seems too one-dimensional to be the leading scorer for the Noles.
Baba Miller came over from Europe to gain experience in the American game before turning pro. Did he impress?
Max: The most impressive component to Miller’s game was his guard ability. He’s a guard with the ability to knock down a consistent three and create opportunities for his teammates, he just happens to be 6’11 in addition to his skill.
Matt: He definitely impressed. I’ll say this right now—in terms of ability to impact the total game, he’s already better than John Butler. I don’t know if he’ll be a 40% shooter from three, but he clearly has a stroke that makes him someone you have to defend out there. And his sturdier frame allows him to contribute in so many other ways. He can rebound, he looks comfortable in the open court, he flashed playmaking ability with several nice dimes. His defensive awareness is clearly a liability right now, but the guy has been in our system 2.5 months. He should keep improving all year long.
Due to injuries, Cameron Corhen and Tom House were the only other freshmen to see action. How’d they look?
Max: Both freshman have the confidence needed to excel in their first year, but there were definitely noticeable nerves from both of them. Corhen is incredibly strong, with a clean hook shot on the offensive end, but his aggressiveness may lead to foul trouble or turnovers for the Noles. House looked great and he looked comfortable in the offense. They both knew their responsibility on offense, but it’s going to take time to adjust to the speed and tactics of college basketball on defense.
Matt: I agree about the nerves, which is the beauty of these exhibitions. But both of them have skills that will allow them to be a contributor this season. Given the lack of options behind McLeod, Corhen is gonna have to give us minutes at the 5. We don’t have another choice. And while he had some bunnies that didn’t drop this game, you have to figure some of that was just jitters. House impressed me with two things: 1) His stroke is fast and crisp. He made three shots from deep and none of them hit the rim. 2) He is a fiery competitor. Coach Jones has raved about his mental toughness and it’s easy to see why. This dude was chirping at defenders after hitting threes in their face and calling over teammates during stoppages in play.
Player of the game: Darin Green Jr. led the Noles in scoring with 15 on the night, serving as the go-to shooter they’ve long been yearning for.
Florida State started the game with Darin Green Jr., Caleb Mills, Matthew Cleveland, Baba Miller and Naheem McLeod.
The Newcomers set the pace for the Noles, with Green connecting on two threes in less than two minutes. FSU felt the jitters to start the game, missing a few open opportunities at the rim. After the Wolves knocked down their first three ball, both teams headed to the bench for the first timeout of the game. Florida State led 8-5 with over 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
Forwards Cameron Corhen and Cam’Ron Fletcher were the first off the bench for the Noles. Corhen broke the dry streak for the Seminoles offense, but Newberry went back on the other end to plug in an and-one. Miller came into the game with about 10 minutes remaining and changed the tone for the Seminoles. He was able to score a three from the corner, while getting his team involved in the passing game.
With 7:53 left in the half, the Noles were up 20-14. The connection in the Noles offense was lacking, as well as communication on help defense. FSU continued with their sloppy offensive showing, until Miller hit his second three pointer of the night to put the Seminoles up 28-22. There were definitely growing pains on both ends of the floor that’ll take the Noles time to fully develop.
The Noles got a comfortable lead with one minute left in the first half after freshman Tom House Jr. poured in a three from the corner. Florida State headed into the half with a 38-26 lead. The biggest takeaway from the first half is the Noles commitment to getting better from beyond the arc, but they may be forcing that too much with the physical assets they have rostered.
One of the biggest stories from the Seminoles performance was letting the Wolves get second chance opportunities, which led to open threes or fouls forced on FSU. The Noles played a more organized offense to start the second half with high ball screens to give their guards shots in the midrange. Florida State led 45-34 with 16:42 left in the game.
The Noles were constantly putting Newberry on the line, mainly because FSU was biting on pump fakes or held the height advantage and wanted to secure the block. Midway through the second quarter Florida State had Tom House and Darin Green Jr. on the floor to spark up the offense.
Florida State held a 57-41 lead with 10 minutes remaining. Green had a team-high 15 points, while Fletcher had nine rebounds and Mills recorded seven assists up to that point. Newberry cut the deficit down 61-51 with seven minutes left in the game, pouring in corner threes from offensive rebounds and FSU’s turnovers. Miller clapped back with a three of his own to hand Florida State the momentum back.
House and Mills were able to put a couple points on the board for the Seminoles, securing a 14-point lead with 4:42 left in the game. The freshman were a combined 6-9 from three as both were deemed reliable options from the corner. FSU’s defense was simply just poor; they were pretty much incompetent on help defense. There were two things the Noles needed to improve on after last season on defense: defending the three and boxing out, which looks like an ongoing issue for FSU.
Florida State had a 68-63 lead with 2:35 left in the game. The Seminoles were playing iso ball and forcing three on offense, giving the Wolves an opening to win. Hamilton had his starting lineup on the floor with two minutes remaining, excluding Miller who was replaced by Fletcher. That seemed to be a great choice by the Noles staff since Fletcher plugged in an and-one to ice the game. FSU defeated Newberry College 74-66.
Next game: Florida State basketball’s regular season will tip-off on Monday, November 7th against the Hatters. The Noles are favorited in the matchup, serving as yet another “warmup” game with a handful of newcomers on the roster. The game will be featured on ACC Network Extra.