There was optimism that Andrew Wiggins would be the cornerstone of Florida State’s 2013-14 basketball team.
And it turned out to be a close decision — Wiggins’ father, Mitchell, told pool reporters in Huntington, W.Va., on Tuesday afternoon that Florida State was Wiggins’ second choice (over Kentucky and North Carolina).
When the nation’s top prep basketball prospect chose Kansas instead of Florida State, the Seminoles’ coaches were disappointed. Moments before the announcement was made at Huntington Prep, Wiggins’ parents texted the Florida State staff to let them know their son’s intention.
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It was a crushing text, to say the least. And it also came on the heels of losing a pair of players who will transfer: power forward Terrance Shannon will move on to VCU while shooting guard Terry Whisnant will choose between East Carolina and Coastal Carolina.
Even without Wiggins, the transfers and the graduation of clutch shooting guard Michael Snaer, Florida State will feature an athletic, deep roster next season. Will it be good enough to get back to the NCAA Tournament after a disappointing 18-16 mark and first-round NIT exit in 2012-13? If the Seminoles remain healthy, they should be able to enjoy more March Madness.
Florida State returns a solid nucleus and could start a three-guard lineup of sophomore Devon Bookert, senior Ian Miller and incoming freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a Scout.com four-star prospect and a close friend of Wiggins.
The Seminoles also return agile, athletic 6-8 forward Okaro White, who will be a senior and is the returning leader on the team in scoring (12.4 points per game) and rebounding (5.9). And junior-college transfer center Kiel Turpin improved as the season progressed, an indicator that he’s more comfortable in coach Leonard Hamilton’s system and could be poised for an improved senior season.
White and Turpin need to be more aggressive rebounders for a Florida State team that often struggled on the boards and lost the rebounding edge in 15 of 21 games from Jan. 5 (the start of ACC play) until the end of the season.
While the team may again struggle to rebound, Florida State’s strength will be in the backcourt, where Bookert has shown he can distribute the ball well and find open shooters.
Bookert showed his ability to lead the team down the stretch, starting the last 11 games of the season when it was determined that he both knew the offense well but also trainers felt he would be warmed up and ready to go from the start instead of coming off the bench.
He showed his quickness, despite admitting that the knee was just 80 percent. And his court vision led to some easy baskets in transition as well as a more fluid half-court offense.
Bookert is also Florida State’s best shooter: he knocked down 48.9 percent of his shots from the floor, 52.5 percent of his 3-point attempts and 81.8 percent of his free-throw attempts. And he goes into his sophomore season as arguably the ACC’s top point guard.
There is also a good core of rising sophomores whom Hamilton can look to coming off the bench. Guard Aaron Thomas has shown to be a good shooter but lacks consistency. Another guard, Montay Brandon, is a tough defender. Centers Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo, who are both 7-footers, were raw in their freshmen seasons, but Bojanovsky showed improvement late and Ojo is a presence at 275 pounds.
Florida State won’t have Wiggins in November. But they still have plenty of pieces. There should be enough talent on the roster so that March 2014 ends in the NCAA Tournament and not the NIT.