Meet the FSU 2021-22 basketball roster: Guards


We’re just under two months away from Florida State Basketball’s return, and with the schedule announced, what better time to get to grips with this year’s version of the team than now? In the past, I have divided this into two separate articles, one focusing on Returns and the other on Incoming Talent, but this year I will be breaking it down into three parts: Guards, Wings, and Bigs, all of which we will cover over time.

For the guards, it will be anyone who will do the majority of the ball handling for the team, so your playmakers and a two guards (it’s really a combo guard, but we’ll get to that).

This team is losing a lot of production compared to last year’s Sweet 16 team: 65.7% of goals are gone, along with 70% of assists, 55.1% of rebounds, 60.4% of steals and 59% against. A part was expected. MJ Walker was a senior and Scottie Barnes was a highly touted 5-star prospect who ended up becoming another top-5 pick for the Seminoles. Some losses were unexpected. Balsa Koprivica shocked a lot of people when he said early on, RaiQuan Gray turned a great season in the draft, while Sardaar Calhoun and Nathanael Jack were transferred to Texas Tech and Cleveland State respectively. If Gray and / or Koprivica have returned for another season, you’re looking at a team with very few weaknesses and a ton of experience, but they were both NBA drafted, and FSU is now considering a guard heavy squad, this which is almost a complete turnaround from last season.

Handling the ball was absolutely Florida State’s biggest weakness last season. As a team, Florida State has recorded 363 assists and 359 turnovers. The team desperately missed the presence of Trent Forrest a season ago and really had no one to calm the Seminoles down and bring everyone together. Lots of forced practices, miscommunication on passing and not as many lobs as we are used to seeing from a team coached by Leonard Hamilton. I think that absolutely changes this season.

We’ll start with the returning players and move on to the new players at the end.

Returning players

# 0 RayQuan Evans, Senior

Last season: 5.1 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG 36.6 / 36.0 / 84.8

Evans is a touchy subject for many fans. There were times last season when he looked like such an incredible player, like when he had a career-high 24 points against NC State in early January or when he had three interceptions in Game 1 against UNC. Then there are other times he has four turnovers against Michigan or disappears for five straight games at the end of the season without scoring a single basket.

What the state of Florida needs the most is consistency and leadership. He can’t come out and shoot again 36 percent off the ground or have a 1: 1 assists-to-turnover ratio. Evans needs to have a solid grasp of the offense, put people in the right places and make the right passes on time. We won’t trust him as much this season; last season FSU just needed ANYBODY who could handle the ball. If he can be like the 2019-2020 version of himself where he hits the free throw line and provides 12-18 minutes of hard play, that’s really what the ‘Noles need the most.

Projection of season statistics: 5.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG 40.7 / 38.3 / 87.6

# 12 Justin Lindner, G, RS-Sr

Last season: 0.7 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.4 SPG 30.0 / 0.0 / NA

I haven’t mentioned Lindner in the past seasons because he hasn’t been in the main rotation as a substitute. This offseason, there was a surplus of additional purses as COVID-19 “Super Seniors” did not count towards a team’s purse limit, and with a few more purses to play, it made sense to donate one. to Lindner, who has a lot of respect from the people all around the program. He is also a talented player; he had some interest from the weak and middle majors if he wanted to transfer, but he remained loyal to the state of Florida and the FSU is returning his loyalty to him. He will also not count in the 2022-2023 scholarship count since he is a senior.

He probably won’t be a needle mover this season, I don’t see him playing for more than 3-5 minutes per game except injuries. Lindner’s biggest impact has always come from the field, where he can dissect the play strip and help other guards see things from a different perspective. His knowledge of the system is extremely important, especially in a season with six new players expected to make their way into the rotation. Lindner can explain things in a way that coaches can’t, and that’s a huge boost for some of these players. Lindner is a better shooter than my projected stats may indicate, but it’s extremely difficult for players to have a rhythm when they only get 10 shots total in a season like last year.

Projected Season Statistics: 1.1 PPG, 0.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.3 SPG 37.5 / 30.0 / 75.0

New players

# 4 Caleb Mills, RS-Sophomore

Last season (Houston, 4 games): 9.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, 1.3 SPG 44.8 / 25.0 / 100.0

There are some big shoes for Mills. Here are the last three players to wear number 4 at Florida State: Scottie Barnes, Patrick Williams, Dwayne Bacon. Three pros, two guys who won 6th man of the year and two guys who made the Top 5 in the NBA Draft. No pressure, Mills. Fortunately, he will likely be Florida State’s best player this season. Don’t put a ton of stock in his stats from last season in Houston. It was only four games before he suffered an ankle injury and then transferred once he realized Houston was taking the ball out of his hands more than he liked it. Watch his first season as he had 13.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 1.1 APG with solid efficiency and entered last season as the preseason Player of the Year AAC. He’s a player with a ton of talent and a lot to prove after watching his former team go to the Final Four while sitting on the FSU bench. He’s going to be hungry to prove that the state of Florida is part of this conversation.

Mills is at his best is in transition. If you go back to his freshman year, he scored 1.2 points per possession. In a team that will want to go out and run as much as the State of Florida, this is a perfect choice. If he needs to operate in the half court, he is able to do so as well, scoring 1.006 PPP on one-off opportunities, which was in the 75th percentile of all players in 2019-2020. He’s not the ideal isolation scorer, but part of his inefficiencies were the product of Houston’s clumsy offense and lack of shooters; as a team they only shot 33.7% of 3 and Mills was one of only two players to shoot better than 36% of 3. Spacing has always been an issue for teams coached by. Kelvin Sampson. He will also need to improve in the pick-and-roll, but for someone who wants to make it to the NBA and as much as FSU runs screens, he will have ample opportunity to improve there.

While I haven’t mentioned his defense yet, he’s more than capable on that side of the pitch as well. Sampson’s teams in Houston have been stingy on defense over the past few seasons, and Mills was one of them. He has great length to challenge passes and shots, and isn’t afraid to defend the rim in transition.

From what I have heard from training reports it is better than advertised. He’s a guy who’s going to provide EXACTLY what the State of Florida has been missing since… Braian Angola? Toney Douglas? He’s a much better ball handler than Angola, and a much more natural scorer than Douglas (although not defenseman Douglas was). A combo guard who can put the ball in the basket whenever he wants is dangerous for a team like this with so many defenders and versatile players. I’m a little worried he’s the only true goalscorer in Florida State, but we won’t really know until we see more of Matthew Cleveland in a college game and see the improvements Anthony made. Polite. I expect BIG things from Mills this season. He’s also getting a little boost since he was able to be in training and on the bench for home games the last month or so of the season, so he was able to learn the system more than your usual transfer.

Projection of season statistics: 15.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.1 BPG 41.7 / 34.6 / 81.1

# 1 Jalen Warley, freshman

Last season stats (high school): 15.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 7.0 APG

Warley is highly praised and fits perfectly with FSU’s Big Guard University. Rated at 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, he’s got the size and skills to play 1 or 2 and keep most of 3 and 4 in college basketball, just what the State of Florida wants. The goal is for him to end up as a player similar to Trent Forrest, and they have very similar skills: can finish the edge with either hand with ease, are able to use their size and length for offensive pullbacks, and the game goes at their own pace, Warley in particular won’t be too accelerated unless he’s in transition. There are some awesome assists on Warley’s high school strip, something that will fit right in with the FSU’s offense.

His shot looks fluid, and while he’s never been asked to be the 3-point type, I have no doubt that he could be and be effective with it if he really needed to. . Warley is also an incredibly pesky defender on the ball. There are times on his high school gang where he just attacks the ball carrier and walks away with the robbery. Faced with tougher competition, he will have to reign over big occasions and stay away from range faults, but he is a player with very natural instincts. His first year may look a lot like Forrest’s where he doesn’t post a ton of stats, but the potential and charisma will be evident.

Projection of season statistics: 4.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.3 APG 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG 46.7 / 32.2 / 79.5

Globally

Florida State has improved significantly here, bringing Jalen Warley and Caleb Mills into the room, giving them several options to score and pass. This is an important thing, because recent elite college basketball teams have played an elite guard role. Last season’s National Champion Baylor led deadly three-guard rosters with Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, Virginia had Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome in 2019, Villanova had Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo in 2018 and Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Brunson in 2016, Duke had Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen in 2015… really the only recent national champion who wasn’t completely dependent on guard play was 2017 UNC and even they had Joel Berry.

As talented as Scottie Barnes was, he was not an ideal point guard, something the FSU more than anything needed last year. Now they have a real, young point guard in Jalen Warley who can grow to be an all-time greats in Tallahassee, they have a certified bucket catcher at Caleb Mills and experience in RayQuan Evans and Justin Lindner. It may take a little while for everything to come together, but there is a lot to like about this group.

On Wednesday we’ll be back with a preview of the Wings.

About Ronda Reed

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