The Daily Nole

FSU Basketball: What’s Coming In/Back is Better Than What’s Going Out

Colin Abbey/FSU athletics

One week after Malik Beasley shook the Florida State fan base with his decision to declare for the NBA Draft, Dwayne Bacon helped set its collective mind at ease on Monday with the announcement that he would return for a sophomore season.

The news came less than a week after Bacon declared that he would explore going pro. Bacon led the Seminoles this past season by averaging nearly 16 points and six rebounds per game.

Despite sporting the nation’s highest scoring freshman tandem in Beasley and Bacon, the 2015-16 season was a disappointment for FSU. The Seminoles finished 20-14, but missed the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight season before being ousted in the second round of the NIT by Valparaiso.

Fans became a bit more disgruntled in late February when head coach Leonard Hamilton was given a 2-year extension through the 2018-19 season. Hamilton is the winngest coach in school-history and a 2-time ACC Coach of the Year, but too often, Hamilton has fallen short of reaching the NCAA Tournament and too often, he’s had the talent to do it.

Regardless of how the fan base may feel about Hamilton, there is reason for optimism heading into next season. The loss of Beasley, who averaged better than 15 points and 5 rebounds this season, won’t be easy to compensate for and neither will the subtraction of Devon Bookert to graduation. Overall however, what’s coming in and returning still seems to be better than what is going out.

With Bacon coming back and Jonathan Issac coming in, Florida State will have two former 5-star recruits in the same lineup. That hasn’t happened at FSU since Michael Snaer and Chris Singleton helped the team reach the Sweet 16 in 2011.

With 34 college games under his belt and world of athleticism, it’s hard to imagine that Bacon won’t be improved as a sophomore next season. Bacon is extremely tough to guard off the dribble, but can become a more consistent jump-shooter and make better decisions with the basketball.

Despite being a high school All-American, there is no guarantee that Isaac will replace Beasley’s scoring production from last season, but at 6-9, he’ll add more size and probably more rebounds. At four inches taller than Beasley, Isaac is also more of a match-up nightmare.

Replacing Bookert will also be a challenge for the Seminoles. Bookert not only led the team in 3-pointers made, but in steals as well. Replacing his defense will be a bit tougher, but on the perimeter, senior-to-be Benji Bell and incoming freshman Trent Forrest can both fill it up from deep.

Bell shot nearly 43 percent in limited action a season ago. Both will be candidates to replace Beasley at the starting shooting guard position. Beasley and Bookert combined to make 114 of FSU’s 220 3-pointers this season.

As it stands right now, it appears as though guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes will return for a junior season. With Beasley and Bacon entering the lineup this past season, Rathan-Mayes took a step back, but still has the potential to be an All-ACC caliber guard.

Rathan-Mayes is naturally a shoot-first guard, but has platooned into more of a facilitator for the Seminoles, ranking among the ACC’s leaders in assists. With C.J. Walker, who is more of a natural point guard, coming in behind him, Rathan-Mayes should be able to play more within himself next season.

The other two Seminoles that FSU will have to replace next season are slasher Montay Brandon and center Boris Bojanovsky, who are each graduating.

Brandon is a solid defender, but had his worst statistical season offensively as a senior. Brandon averaged a career-low 3.2 points per game after a junior season in which he averaged nearly 12 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field.

Bojanovsky on the other hand, enjoyed a career-year as a senior. Bojanovsky averaged career-highs of 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while ranking among the ACC’s leaders in blocks with 1.7 per contest.

At 7-3, it will be hard to replace Bojanovsky’s shot-blocking ability, but FSU should still have two 7-footers on the roster. Michael Ojo, a 7-1 center, will likely receive a redshirt after missing all of this season. Chris Koumadje is the tallest player to ever play for the Seminoles at 7-4.

Neither Ojo or Koumadje are as skilled offensively as Bojanovsky, but Ojo is much more stout on the inside. That was one of Bojanovsky’s biggest weaknesses. When it comes to blocking shots, Koumadje actually averaged more per minute than Bojanovsky last season.

Ojo and Koumadje however, won’t be the only ones getting some of the minutes left behind by Brandon and Bojanovsky. Jarquez Smith and Phil Cofer will each spend time at the power forward and center positions. Both are better athletes and better offensive options.

Smith, a 6-9 senior-to-be, averaged 5.1 points per game this season while shooting an efficient 55 percent from the field. Cofer, a 6-8 forward, appeared in just 11 games because of a foot injury, but as a freshman during the 2014-15 campaign, averaged nearly seven points and 4.5 rebounds.

As mentioned before, Beasley’s production will be tough to replace next season, but with the graduating senior trio of Bojanovsky, Brandon and Bookert, the biggest loss might be on the defensive end. That however, was an area where FSU struggled mightily across the board and can be fixed with better effort and communication.

With a recruiting class currently ranked 10th nationally, its leading scorer returning and two serviceable bigs returning from injury, there is reason to believe that Florida State can have a successful 2016-17 season. If that doesn’t happen, we all know who should and will get the blame.

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