Welcome to Part 3 of our 2022-23 Basketball Season Preview for Florida State, we’ve already discussed the roster and the ACC as a whole, so next up, I’m going to answer some commonly asked questions about the team, and some others that I’ve had about the team.
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It’s a young team, but one that has plenty of talent, the hope is that they’ll be able to play with more cohesion, chemistry, and consistency than a season ago. In a sense, this is kind of like a mailbag, just a collection of questions I’ve seen over the last seven months.
What Is the Likely Starting 5?
This is simple.
G: Jalen Warley
G: Caleb Mills
G: Matthew Cleveland
F: Cam’Ron Fletcher
A: Naheem McLeod
Contrary to what some on Twitter might say, this will be your starting 5 for the ‘Noles this season. Coach Hamilton always rolls with experience in the system over what some might assume is someone more talented, and most of these players started some games last year. Warley started 5, Mills, started 23, Cleveland started 8, and McLeod started 5 as well, and Fletcher played almost 500 minutes last season.
It’s never been about who the starters are for Coach Hamilton, it’s about who is finishing games. Everyone is going to play, some more than others, but pretty much everyone in the top 7 or 8 of the rotation is going to play 18-20 minutes or more, it’s just how this system rolls.
The biggest argument I’ve seen is Baba Miller starting at the 4 which is just… so unlikely as we stand right now. As talented as he is, he didn’t get to campus until late August, then didn’t start practicing until early September as he recovered from a hip pointer injury. As of ACC Tip Off in the middle of the month, Coach Hamilton said he had practiced 5 or 6 times. By the end of the season, he’s going to be a really good player and may be in closing lineups, but it’s way too soon to say he’s going to be a starter.
Has Matthew Cleveland Improved as a Shooter?
Well, to be fair, it’s hard to be much worse as a wing shooting the ball than he was last season. There were 373 guards and forwards that shot at least 100 free throws and 30 3s. Of those 373 players, Cleveland ranked 371st in free throw percentage at 55.5%, and 369th in 3PT% at 17.6%. So, not exactly great. I figured he would’ve revamped his shot this off-season.
On the one hand, it’s much quicker, but I still think he’s pushing too much with his arms and not enough with his legs, and I’ve been told his free throw shooting hasn’t made a ton of progress so far. However, they just need him to be respectable from 3, enough to make defenders think a little bit. Cleveland has already shown an elite ability to get to the rim, if he can convert more of those free throw chances, it helps this team out a ton.
Can This Team Stay Healthy?
They’re certainly not off to a great start, but it’s hard to imagine another season like last year, where only three players played in all 31 games and only one player started more than 25 games.
The Seminoles have already been hit hard this offseason, as Brown transfer Jaylen Gainey is out for the year with a torn ACL, freshman De’Ante Green a small setback in his ACL recovery from his injury in high school and likely won’t play , Jeremiah Bembry is dealing with a back issue and the timetable is up in the air on him, and Chandler Jackson hasn’t been practicing much recently with a thumb injury. Jackson should be ready to go for the start of the season in two weeks, but he’s missed very valuable practice time.
Because of how many guys Coach Hamilton likes to play, usually 10-11, they’re going to need to stay healthy, and that’s already being stretched to its limits. Staying healthy is arguably the biggest question for this time.
How Quickly Can the Newcomers Pick Up the System?
According to Coach Hamilton, they’re already ahead of schedule. The summer trip to Canada allowed them to get a feel for how they were progressing along within the system. Guys like Cameron Corhen and Darin Green Jr. Played really well, while Tom House didn’t really find a groove until the last game, and Jeremiah Bembry and De’Ante Green didn’t play with their injuries and weapons.
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It took a long time for the guys last year to pick the little things in the system up, some would argue they never did, but all the injuries made it to where guys were playing a lot more minutes than they were supposed to, and some positions they weren’t used to.
If Coach Hamilton is right, and these guys are ahead of schedule, they should be able to win some of these early games that might swing 50/50 like the Florida and Purdue games. Not saying the chemistry was bad last year, but it definitely seems like it’s better this year.
Will the Zone Offense Be Better?
Last year, FSU’s zone offense pretty much relied on them being able to shoot from 3 in that game. The motion would get static, then have to throw up a shot last minute. Going against zone defense allowed Duke to get back in the game at the end in Tallahassee, allowed Syracuse to completely stifle the offense twice (once in Tallahassee and once in the ACC Tournament), and kept a lot of games from being a lot more sluggish than they should’ve been.
How they perform against the zone is going to depend a lot on Jalen Warley and Caleb Mills with their ability to drive into gaps. Some of it is confidence, some of it is just being strong with the ball. They also need to find a good high post initiator, someone who is a scoring, passing, and shooting threat. I think Caleb Mills would be perfect for it, but he’s a little on the slighter side and can get pushed around in there. Having someone that can do all of that well, like Terance Mann and Braian Angola used to do, is such a huge factor for zone offenses.
This should be a little improved for the ‘Noles this season, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly concerned about this heading into the season.
Will the 3-Point Differential be Better?
This was the biggest disappointment of last year’s team to me, at least of stuff they could control. As a team, that allowed teams to shoot 36.9% from 3, which was bottom-30 nationally, while only shooting 33.1% themselves. Sure, they’d have their moments like the win at Syracuse where they nailed 12/20, but they’re also a fair share of 4/25 attempt type games. In total, there were 11 games where the team shot below 30% from 3.
And we can’t forget about what teams did to Florida State. Virginia Tech shot an absurd 18-25 from distance, and UNF wasn’t too far behind, going 14-24. This is what happens when guys aren’t practicing much and aren’t used to the defensive shell, they get sucked in too far and are open to those kick-outs. Then being healthy and having a summer trip is going to help them a lot in getting the defensive system down.
As far as offensively, let me introduce you to Darin Green Jr, one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in college basketball. He’s a career 38.8% shooter from distance on almost 7 attempts per game, and had the ultimate green light in the games in Canada. He’s going to open the floor up so much for Florida State’s offense to allow guys like Cleveland and Jalen Warley to get in those driving lanes. Tom House is also a great shooter, and Warley, Mills, and Cam’Ron Fletcher should be improved from last season as well.
Has Jalen Warley Taken That Big of a Step Forward?
As Warley moved from a slower-paced high school system to a faster-paced college system, he struggled for the majority of the season. Towards the end of the year he started finding his footing, topping out with a 15 point, 7 rebound, 6 assist, 1 steal game at Duke where he also hit 2 of his 3 shots from distance. It gave him a lot of confidence heading into this off-season and also knowing what he needs to work on.
As I mentioned in the roster preview, there’s no player I’ve heard more about this summer than Warley, and he played very well in the Canada games with his ability to take care of the basketball (10 turnovers to just 1 assist). He also showed more confidence scoring the basketball, which is something he desperately needed last year.
He’s one of the biggest keys to this season. The better and more consistent he is, the better the team is overall.
How Will They Replace Jaylen Gainey?
As mentioned earlier, Gainey went down with a torn ACL in practice a few weeks ago, and everyone on the staff mentioned how big of a loss it was. He was a perfect fit for the switch everything defense, as he was as quick as anyone on the roster, could guard 1-5, was an elite shot blocker… everything this team needed to be successful on defense. It’s going to be up to a few guys on how they fill those minutes.
Naheem McLeod will likely play a little more than expected, but Coach Hamilton mentioned the strides he has made this off-season and should be productive. He needs to be a better shot blocker for someone his size, but he’s fairly quick given he’s 7’4 ”and has great hands.
Cameron Corhen will also likely play more than he was expected to given he’s a freshman, but he well in the Canada games and has good toughness and versatility at 6’10” with an expanding offensive game. He may get overmatched against guys like Armando Bacot and John Hugley in this league, but he’ll be serviceable enough.
The real wild card is Cam’Ron Fletcher, who they experimented with at the 5 last season, but have really taught him the nuances of the position this summer. He’s not a great off-ball defender on the wing because he can freelance a little bit. Putting him on defending posts requires him to work every single time to front the post, switch on ball screens… I think FSU’s best lineups this year will have Fletcher at the 5 because of his switchability.
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