FSU Basketball 2019 Season Preview – The Newcomers

Florida State is 6 weeks from their first exhibition game against Barry University on October 22nd. Every Thursday from now until that first exhibition game will feature a preview of what to expect from this year’s squad. This week we cover the newcomers.

The Seminoles are losing a ton of production across the board. Terance Mann, Phil Cofer, Mfiondu Kabengele, David Nichols, Christ Koumadje, and PJ Savoy have all left the building. All of those players gave fans moments that will never be forgotten, and trying to replace that type of production is nearly impossible. While these newcomers may not be as good as who they’re replacing, they’re better fits for Hamilton’s system and that should lead to an improved product on the court.

Dominik Olejniczak

Grad Transfer from Ole Miss, via Drake University and Poland

Olejniczak has been playing for the Polish National team in the FIBA World Cup and just lost Tuesday night to Spain. Because Olejniczak has been with his nation’s team, he hasn’t been with FSU learning the system and building camaraderie with his teammates, which might leave him with work to do when he gets back (although I still think he’ll start, but we’ll get to this in a few weeks). He was in Tallahassee during the summer and was able to go through the summer workout program which gave him at least an introduction to the offense and defensive systems. He should be in great shape upon his return back to Tallahassee, but will also be a little worn down physically from so many games this past month.

Olejniczak is a big body, currently listed at 7’0″, 260 pounds. He’s not the shot-blocker or athlete Coach Hamilton usually prefers in his centers, but he’s a capable rebounder and a smart, physical player. In 18.3 minutes per game last year, Olejniczak averaged 5.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.9 blocked shots. While these stats don’t leap off the page, I’d expect him to put up similar numbers to last season, just with a lot more rebounds. FSU requires their centers to do all the dirty work clearing space under the basket to grab rebounds, as Kabengele and Koumadje did last season. Watching some film, he has a surprising touch from mid-range, but I don’t think we’ll see him shoot it much.

There are no analytics that jump off the page to say he was playing too much or too little. A rebounding rate of just under 10% is low for a usual Hamilton center, but again, I really expect his rebounding to go up. He posted a block percentage of 5.4%, which would’ve placed him third on last season’s team. Olejniczak will give the team a solid 15-20 minutes every game, gobble up rebounds and eat up space, and will probably see the bench more than he’s playing; think a Christ Koumadje type of role.


RayQuan Evans

JUCO Transfer from North Idaho Community College via Billings, Montana

We already have a RaiQuan, so why not add a RayQuan too?

Jokes aside, Evans hails from the same community college Braian Angola-Rodas went to, but the two aren’t quite the same player offensively. Angola was a much better 3-point shooter, but I’m not too worried about Evans not being a great 3-point shooter. He has a great shot form and shot 78.1% from the FT line this past season (on the most FT attempts in the country), which is a good indication he can stretch his range to the 3-point line. He was just so good at getting to the basket for layups that he never shot the ball. So basically FSU has another Trent Forrest to backup Trent Forrest.

Last season with North Idaho CC, Evans averaged 18.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists on 55.2% shooting. Both seasons he was there, his team won the Northwest Athletic Conference Championship (NWAC) and last season, Evans was named NWAC’s Male Basketball Player of the Year, added to the all-region defensive team, and the region’s Most Valuable Player. There’s a chance we see lineups with both him and Trent Forrest on the court together, but those will be few and far between, as neither have proven to be good enough shooters yet. If one/both of them come out shooting 35% from 3, then I know Hamilton would love to have two great ball-handlers and defenders on the floor at once.

My favorite part about him is he’s actually Native American, being a member of the Crow Tribe. Having a true-blooded Native American representing a school that represents a different tribe is honestly a neat thing to see. His father played basketball at the University of Montana, so basketball is in his bloodstream. This is the newcomer I am most excited about behind Patrick Williams.

Nathanael Jack

JUCO Transfer from Eastern Florida State College via Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Here is your PJ Savoy replacement. Jack is an exceptional shooter and can light it up quick; last season he hit 12 3s in a tournament on his way to a 44-point outing. Although he only shot 33.9% from 3 last season, he was one of the main weapons for his team and was often chucking shots up. Jack is now coming into a team where he can just focus on shooting the easy looks off the bench and play quality defense. His freshman season, Jack shot a blistering 40.4% from 3 on 7.5 attempts a game, so he has shown he can be an elite threat from outside. He doesn’t quite have the range that Savoy brought, but Jack will also have a little more control in his shot attempts. He won’t consistently take 28-footers, but that also means the opposing defense won’t have to guard as far out.

Last season, Jack averaged 8.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 0.5 assists on 35.8% shooting and 70% from the FT line. I’d expect both of these percentages to jump up a little, as he should be less fatigued playing fewer minutes, but only time will tell. He won’t be seeing a ton of minutes, much like Savoy did last year, but I’d like to see some wrinkles in the offense to get him open looks from off-ball screens. Last year, Savoy was either catch and shoot from way behind the arc, or a dribble hand-off catch and shoot. That needs to change in order to create some easier looks.

Patrick Williams

Freshman from West Charlotte HS – Charlotte, North Carolina

Patrick Williams is a stud. Listed as the 25th ranked player in the 2019 class, Williams can do it all and his senior stat line proves it: 22.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.8 blocks. He also averaged 1.8 steals per game for his career. At 6’8″ he has the length and build of a power forward, but the shooting touch (43.8% from 3 as a senior) to start at shooting guard. Many have compared him to Dwayne Bacon, but Williams is a better shooter and defender than Bacon was coming into the program. His versatility to slide up and down the line-up and guard every position is going to create matchup nightmares no matter the opponent. He’ll be able to shoot over smaller players, blow by slower players, get into passing lanes, and has the potential to be an elite weak-side shot blocker.

The first thing that stands about him is his length. There’s no listed wingspan for him but I’d guess it’s around 6’10”. Williams has the impossible task of replacing Terance Mann in the starting lineup, but Mann wasn’t always the best fit for Hamilton’s system. Mann was an incredible secondary playmaker, ball-handler, rebounder, and was absolutely unstoppable when driving to his right hand. Those are fine attributes and Mann’s athleticism allowed for some flashy plays, but Hamilton’s system really thrives on great shooters for drivers to kick out to. Last year brought spacing problems when Mann and Forrest shared the floor together; teams would just shrink the floor off of those two and not leave the driving lanes open. This season, if Trent is the one handling the ball on the majority of pick-and-rolls, the defense has no great option to sag off of, allowing an easy lay-up for Forrest, a lob to the big man, or an easy pitch out for an open 3 if the defense does decide to help. Having three good-to-great shooters on the floor at once opens so much for this offense and will do wonders.

Early reports from people in the program have him as potentially one of the best players already, and he is all but guaranteed a starting spot. My expectations for him are through the roof, and he will be a big part of this program going forward.

Balsa Koprivica

Freshman from Montverde Academy via Belgrade, Serbia

Koprivica is a unique center, one that Coach Hamilton has never had in his system: an offensive threat but isn’t the greatest athlete or shot blocker. Listed at 7’1″, 260-pounds and a 7’3″ wingspan, he absolutely has the length to be a great shot-blocker, but just doesn’t have the timing yet. Before joining an elite program at Montverde Academy, he attended University School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 3 blocks per game. There’s also a DraftExpress.com note about him from a 2017 Basketball Without Borders Camp and there’s nothing I necessarily disagree with in there. His shooting touch for someone his size is notable and he even has the ability to put the ball on the floor from anywhere on the court. He won’t bring the ball up the floor as Kabengele did from time-to-time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him used as a press breaker.

The one thing he really needs to improve on is physicality and strength. He will get bullied down low every so often, and he’s going to have that label of being a soft European player. Many fans will want him to start from Day 1 because he’s a top-60 recruit in the 2019 class, but he’s not ready physically. Plus, Hamilton has shown a preference for starting more experienced players, even if there’s a more talented option behind him. Yet, Hamilton has never had a player of Koprovica’s skillset, so there’s no telling how he’ll be used. In this instance, I would completely understand starting Olejniczak over Koprivica.

It should be noted that Koprivica was named in the college basketball pay-to-play scandal, but there’s been no evidence that he was given any money and the staff has zero concerns about his eligibility.

Naheem McCleod

Freshman from Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS, Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania

McLeod is a giant, standing at 7’3″. He needs to add more weight to his profile as his recruiting profile had him at 230 pounds. Despite his size, he has a surprisingly good shooting touch extending all the way out to 3. While I don’t want to see him shooting a 3 more than maybe once a week until its shown he can make it consistently, having a player that has that potential is certainly tantalizing. At this point though, potential is his biggest asset. It can be argued McLeod is more talented than when Koumadje first came in, but the program is also much better now than when Koumadje came in. He is the most likely redshirt candidate out of all the newcomers. Between Olejniczak and Koprivica as centers only, plus Malik Osborne and RaiQuan Gray being able to play small-ball center in a pinch, McLeod won’t be necessarily needed this season if they do choose to redshirt him. Hamilton also has shown he’s not afraid to throw a walk-on out there as he did with Harrison Prieto last year in a few games.

It should also be noted that while I was trying to do research on McLeod, there was no listed profile for him on the Seminoles.com roster. Whether there are eligibility concerns with him or they just haven’t put his information on the website yet is just something fans can only speculate at this point. Until the school or staff makes a statement providing information, there will be no leaks about it, as Hamilton always prefers to keep these kinds of things close to the chest. If there’s any update on this situation, NoleGameday will be sure to provide that news for you.

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