Sky’s the limit for imposing Florida St. front court
When Florida State traveled to Spain last month, Solomon Alabi challenged the other big men.
Not to see who could put up more points, grab more rebounds or even block more shots.
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“I wanted to see who could get the most assists,” Alabi said.
What in the $%^&? Doesn’t Alabi realize he’s 7-foot-1?
“Guys just aren’t worried about scoring on this team,” said the Nigerian native with as much upside as just about any big man in the entire country.
They are concerned with winning.
That’s a welcome change from a couple years ago, when a team built around high-profile recruits Isaiah Swann, Jason Rich and Toney Douglas never quite was able to fulfill its promise — largely due to the fact that they weren’t all on the same page.
Despite losing Douglas, its all-everything guard who averaged 21.5 points per game and led last season’s team to the Big Dance, this could be the best team to step foot in Tallahassee since Leonard Hamilton’s arrival in 2002.
The frontcourt features a pair of future NBA players in Alabi and 6-foot-9 sophomore small forward Chris Singleton. Yes, that’s 6-foot-9 small forward Chris Singleton. Throw in 6-foot-9 Ryan Reid, and you have a trio that makes NBA frontlines appear diminutive.
The backcourt may not have Douglas, but it will feature talented freshman Michael Snaer — a do-it-all scorer who will have to accept a role, much like Singleton did a year ago.
“It wasn’t our team last year, so we knew we had to play a role,” said Singleton, who entered the program last season with as much hype as Swann and Rich back a few years ago. “We all knew Toney was going to get the ball, so we had to fit in and learn the system.”
“But this year’s different,” he added.
Singleton deferred, and Hamilton heaped praise on him for his ability to do the little things such as defend and rebound. There was never a complaint despite averaging just 8.1 points per game.
“I just want to win,” Singleton said.
The 21-year-old Alabi, who made the conversion from soccer to basketball just six years ago in his native country, scoffs at the NBA talk.
“It surprised me,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t want to get all that in my head. I don’t pay attention to it. I just want to go out, work hard and play.”
In many cases, I wouldn’t believe it. However, with Alabi, you get the feeling that he’s not consumed with the next level.
“I’m more worried about winning games this season,” he said.
Florida State won 25 of them last season, but this year, the goals are even higher. Singleton wants to compete for an ACC regular-season and tournament title and advance to the Sweet 16.
“If not deeper,” he said. “We want to solidify Florida State as one of the top teams.”
Singleton believes this team has the talent to go to the Final Four and it’s hard to argue with that.
The trio of Alabi, Singleton and Snaer can match up with just about anyone in the ACC — and maybe even in the country.
If Alabi’s offensive game continues to progress (Singleton called his hook unstoppable) and the point guard situation — one that will likely be shared by Derwin Kitchen and Luke Loucks — is steady, the Seminoles could challenge for league supremacy in the ACC.
Especially with North Carolina losing four starters and Duke having legitimate question marks in the backcourt.
Singleton believes that veteran big man Ryan Reid is ready to break out and that sophomore Deividas Dulkys has found his perimeter shot after a year under his belt. Reserve 6-foot-11 big man Xavier Gibson has all the tools and is gaining some much-needed confidence.
“It’s going to be spread around,” Singleton said of the scoring load.
And this time, no one is complaining.