FSU Basketball adds experience through JUCO and grad transfers

The Florida State Seminoles men’s basketball team lost a lot of talent and experience this offseason. Five seniors were already set to graduate, including three of the most instrumental in program history in Terance Mann, Phil Cofer, and Christ Koumadje. Then, redshirt sophomore Mfiondu Kabengele declared for the 2019 NBA draft after a breakout season that saw him win the ACC’s sixth-man of the year award. That leaves the Seminoles in a predicament as six of their top eight scorers from last year move on from Tallahassee.

Head coach Leonard Hamilton and his staff are doing everything they can to keep FSU’s run going, which has included three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, back to back Sweet Sixteen appearances for only the second time in school history, and an Elite Eight berth. They signed four players during the Early Signing Period with the top players in the class being five-star forward Patrick Williams and four-star center Balsa Koprivica. Three-star center Naheem McLeod and three-star JUCO guard Nathanael Jack also inked with the ‘Noles though it’s currently up in the air on whether Jack will remain in the class. Current commit Zimife Nwokeji has confirmed to me that he will go to prep school for a year before heading to Florida State.

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Since the season ended, the coaching staff has focused on players who already have an understanding of what it takes to compete at the highest level in college basketball. Three-star JUCO guard RayQuan Evans signed with FSU last month while Ole Miss grad-transfer center Dominik Olejniczak made his decision to finish his career in Tallahassee over the weekend.

Evans starred at the same junior college that produced former ‘Nole Braian Angola and helped lead North Idaho to back to back conference championships. He averaged 22 points, eight rebounds, and four assists as a freshman along with 18.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists as a sophomore while compiling a 56-10 record for the Cardinals. Evans comes to FSU as an elite scorer which should boost the team following the loss of a lot of offensive production from a season ago. He scored 20 points or more in 28 games, 30 points or more in five games, and 40 points or more twice during his time in junior college, including a career-high of 47 points. One area of his game he’ll need to work on is his shooting from deep, where he averaged just 29%.

Despite being a player who can knock down shots in a flurry, Evans is also a skilled defender. He uses his length at 6-foot-4, 195-pounds to harass smaller guards and finished second in his conference with 79 steals as a sophomore. The Montana native will most likely see time as the primary backup to Trent Forrest at point guard with lineups where the two will play alongside each other.

Olejniczak originally signed with Drake University out of Poland in 2015 where he averaged a career-high 6.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game on 72.2% shooting from the field as a freshman. He transferred following the season, with hopes to make an impact for a Power 5 conference team. Olejniczak did just that when he transferred to Ole Miss, starting 33 of the 65 games he’s appeared in over the last two seasons while putting up 5.3 points, 3 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per game as a junior. With the Rebels bringing in some high profile big men in their recruiting class, Olejniczak found himself on the move again this offseason, quickly cutting his list down to the ‘Noles and Charlotte before opting to finish his career in garnet and gold.

Think of him as an immediate replacement for Koumadje with a downgrade in rebounding and shot-blocking. Olejniczak will likely battle it out with Koprivica for the bulk of the minutes at center and his veteran presence will allow the staff to slowly bring along McLeod, who’ll need some development before he’s ready to contribute at the collegiate level. The Poland native has solid athleticism with the ability to run the floor which could be an asset to a Florida State team that likes to push the ball in transition. He’ll need to be more physical around the rim to fight for rebounds in the ACC but he certainly has the frame at 7-foot-0, 260-pounds to battle in the post.

When he gets his opportunities, Olejniczak is an efficient scorer around the basket and he’s also improved at the charity stripe. He shot a combined total of 55.4% during his career in Oxford and a career-high 76.3% from the line in 2018. On a team where he was a lesser option on offense, Olejniczak only averaged 3.7 shots per game and attempted more than seven field goals just twice in two seasons at Ole Miss. We’ll have to see if he gets more of an opportunity to be involved offensively in Tallahassee.

With the incoming signing class and added transfers, FSU should be versatile on both ends of the floor in 2019. The ‘Noles shortest players on the projected roster are currently 6-foot-4 guards Evans, Jack, and Forrest with the tallest being incoming 7-foot-3 center McLeod. The average height on the roster is 6-foot-7.6 inches which should make Hamilton’s teams one of the tallest in college basketball once again.

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