Football season has come to a close, and for many of you, there has been a piece of you missing since the thrilling 33-32 victory against Michigan at the end of 2016. Over the course of about a month you may have also realized that there is no number of 5-star football recruits that can fill that void, but what if I told you there is something that can? That’s right folks, welcome to basketball season. Not just any basketball season, a season unlike any other, a season that has seen Florida State become one of the top teams in the country, and possibly the best Florida State men’s basketball team ever.
This Florida State men’s basketball team is something special, and you should buy in right now. The team plays an unprecedented 11-13 players per game – one of the deepest squads in the nation – and their starting lineup is loaded with talent. Let’s break these players down so that you too can hop on the FSU basketball bandwagon.
These five players all have out of this world talent, as you’ll see at least three of these players in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Point Guard – No. 22 Xavier Rathan-Mayes:
Xavier Rathan-Mayes aka “X-R-M” is a pure unadulterated scorer, but only when he wants to be. This junior from Ontario, Canada bypassed the NBA draft twice to come back and try to lead this talented squad deep into the postseason. You may have heard his name before, as he became an Internet sensation at the end of the season two years ago after he put up 30 points in the final four minutes against rival Miami. 30 points in 4 minutes. So yes, he can score at will, but he has used this season to showcase his ability as a point guard, as he leads the team in assists with 84. Don’t let those assist numbers fool you though, X-R-M can get it done in crunch time, so look to see the ball in his hands at the end of close games.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward – No. 14 Terance Mann
Just saying his name can sum up Terance Mann’s play style: he is a man among boys out there. Celebrated for the havoc he creates on defense, gritty offense, and hustle plays, Mann is every coach’s dream player. Tell him to get the job done and he will. Known as FSU’s “Stat-Stuffer,” Mann’s personality on the court will get the crowd on their feet, as he is fourth on the team in points per game, first in field goal percentage, and second in rebounds per game.
Small Forward/Shooting Guard – No. 4 Dwayne Bacon
Sharing the same number as another Florida State superstar – – Dwayne Bacon is the man to watch on this team, as he stands on the top of several Wooden Award watch lists and consistently dazzles fans night in and night out. His talent on the court far surpasses my ability to describe it on paper, but he’s the guy that’s going to lead the Florida State basketball team deep into the postseason. Bacon leads the team in minutes played, points per game, and 3-point percentage. Entering FSU as a five star recruit, he never fails to deliver.
Power Forward – No. 1 Jonathan Isaac
If there was any FSU player that had higher expectations coming out of high school than Dwayne Bacon, it’s this guy. Jonathan Isaac’s Kevin Durant-esque play style is incredible to watch, and yet he isn’t even close to peaking. The 12th ranked recruit for 2016 is maturing quickly. His season may have started off slow, but he most recently had his best game yet against 15th ranked Notre Dame as he went for 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 blocks, including a block that saved the game for the ‘Noles right at the buzzer. This kid is tall (standing at 6’10”), defensive minded, has the wingspan of a pterodactyl, and can pop it from deep. If Isaac keeps playing anything like the way he played against Notre Dame, then FSU’s offense will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
Center – No. 50 Michael Ojo
Ojo, without a doubt the most recognizable player on this team, has returned as well, and the Nigerian native looks to have a profitable season. Standing at 7’1”, Ojo is a force on the inside. Whether it be blocking and altering shots, or slamming home a lob pass off a pick and roll, this fifth year Senior is an experiment gone right for Leonard Hamilton and his coaching staff. Ojo doesn’t play a lot of minutes, but his veteran talent has proven invaluable to the success of this young Seminole team.
The Second Wave:
The battalion of bench players, known as the “Boom Squad”, is just as, if not more, valuable to the team’s success than their starters.
Point Guard – No. 2 CJ Walker
Walker is the epitome of a perfect backup point guard. He’s pesky on defense, can dish the ball exceptionally well, and can hit big threes when he needs to. Walker, who averages around 6 points per game, serves as a well-moulded backup for X-R-M and is a source of new energy for both the crowd and the team.
Shooting Guard/Point Guard – No. 3 Trent Forrest
Bacon is to Rathan-Mayes as Forrest is to Walker. This point guard/shooting guard hybrid is the perfect bench player: he does what he’s asked, he hustles, and he has a high basketball IQ. Growing up in the Tallahassee area, Forrest understands the heavy hitting, uptempo pacing that is a hallmark of the Florida State basketball program. His pass-first mindset and athleticism make him a prodigious force on a titanic offense.
Small Forward – No. 11 Braian Angola-Rodas
Angola-Rodas is the perfect bench defender. He’ll come off the bench, bust his butt down the floor, and create havoc just as well as a starter. He also isn’t afraid to pull up and knock down a huge three-pointer like he did earlier in the season to pull ahead against the UNiversity of Florida. Averaging around 14 minutes per game, Angola-Rodas is no joke and is perfect for Leonard Hamilton’s “Boom Squad.”
Power Forward – No. 00 Phil Cofer
Cofer has been on the team for what seems like decades. Having been a starter just two years ago, Cofer is now a key bench player after being injured for the entire 2015-2016 season. Cofer is another defensive spark off of the bench, as his height, length, and athleticism makes every pass by the opposing team a difficult one.
Center – No. 23 Jarquez Smith
Jarquez Smith is almost everything that Michael Ojo isn’t – in a good way. Where Ojo lacks speed Smith excels, where Ojo lacks finesse Smith glides, and where Ojo lacks a jumper Smith has developed a solid midrange game. The first player off the bench in almost every game, he defends as well as Ojo and runs the floor even better, and is even dangerous from beyond the arc – an ability that Ojo severely lacks.
The Pure Role Players:
These players aren’t in the usual rotation but their role on the team cannot be understated.
Center – No. 21 Christ Koumadje
This 7’4” center is tall – like really tall. His primary role is to get in there and offer the other big bodies a rest, as well as be a shot blocker. Koumadje is another one of Leonard Hamilton’s “super tall guy” experiments, which we can only hope pays off as well as it did with Ojo.
Shooting Guard – No. 5 PJ Savoy
PJ Savoy aka #ThreeJay Savoy is a marksman like no other. When he gets the ball in his hands beyond the three-point line, he’s a sharpshooter. Savoy is clutch like no other and his three-pointers get the crowd to their feet game after games, as evidenced by his stellar performance against 15th ranked Notre Dame when he knocked down three huge three-balls, ending the game with 12 points.
Small Forward – No. 40 Brandon Allen
Brandon Allen continues to be a defensive force off the bench, as his largest amount of playtime came against Notre Dame this past Wednesday night. His minutes continue to increase;Coach Hamilton specifically praised Allen’s performance after the game, saying that Allen played “great defense” coming off the bench.
Recap of the Season thus far:
So now that you’re familiar with the team, you might find yourself asking, “Well how good are we, actually?” And the simple answer to that is “Really good,” but let’s go more in depth than that. As of now the team is 17-2, and is sitting on top of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC is arguably the best conference in college basketball; Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has said, “We’re the best league, we’re the deepest league” and “I think we have a ten-bid league,” meaning that 10 ACC teams will make to March Madness. The only ACC team who has managed to beat FSU has been North Carolina,with the other loss coming to Temple in an early season holiday-tournament. This FSU basketball team is almost done with arguably the toughest stretch of six games that any team will go through this season, playing six ranked opponents in succession including the likes of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Louisville. The fact that this Florida State basketball team is 4-1 so far in this gauntlet with one more game to play is something that cannot be overstated. This first half of the season has been a great success for the Seminoles, as winning five games against top 25 opponents is the strongest résumé builder a team can have.
Looking Forward to March:
Florida State is wrapping up a competitive schedule, with Louisville as the cherry on top of this ACC powerhouse pie. That being said, the rest of ACC play will not be easy. Leonard Hamilton made that very clear in his press conference after the Notre Dame game, saying, “This league is the best basketball league ever assembled in the history of college basketball, and every night out there is competitive.” That being said, get out there, get yourself a ticket, and check out this incredibly talented group of players. Florida State is ranked number 10 in the country and is projected to be a very high seed whenever the tournament comes around, so instead of sitting on the couch and waiting for football season to drag itself around again, get out to the Tuck and cheer on one of the best teams in the nation.
Florida State’s next game is against a 12th ranked Louisville squad this coming Saturday at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center at 2pm.