FSU Basketball Season Preview: The New Bloods

Florida State is losing some key pieces from a season ago. Out are steady big man Dominik Olejniczak, two potential lottery picks in Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams, and one of the best players in program history in Trent Forrest. We discussed the players who were returning to don the garnet and gold last week, and this week we will discuss the fresh faces in Tallahassee.

This is part two of a 5-part weekly series previewing the 2020-21 men’s basketball season for the Florida State Seminoles. If you missed last week’s piece, you can read by clicking the link below.

Week One: The Returning Players

Tanor Ngom, Senior (Ryerson College, Canada)

Ngom’s signing in mid-July popped up seemingly out of nowhere. Very few had heard of him, even fewer knew anything about his game. What we got is a 7’2″ beast that averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds last season, who also received a workout from the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 offseason as he went through the NBA draft process.

While Ngom was putting up these numbers against fairly weak competition, there was still a ton to love about his tape: his length and athleticism, his shot-blocking, and his offensive potential. Once he gets used to switching onto the perimeter, Florida State is going to have a really great player that sees himself as an NBA talent. His signing allows a player like Malik Osborne to play his more natural position of power forward from time-to-time.

Ngom will receive some of the best big man development in the country while learning under Stan Jones, who is going to really hone in Ngom’s footwork and array of post moves. By the end of the season, I could absolutely see Ngom being ones of the 5-7 most important players on the team.

For a more in-depth scouting report of Tanor Ngom, here is a longer scouting report from after he signed.

Sardaar Calhoun, Junior (Missouri University- West Plains, JUCO)

This is probably the player I’m most excited to watch for this upcoming season, outside of Scottie Barnes. Sardaar Calhoun is not your typical JUCO prospect, who usually come in as a one-dimensional player or a player with spotty backgrounds/academic records. Calhoun bet on himself after receiving minimal offers coming out of high school, and blossomed into one of the best prospects in the junior college circuit.

Calhoun is one of the best pure shooters we have ever seen in Tallahassee. Last season, he averaged 18.2 PPG while shooting 45.6% from deep on 7 attempts per game, as well as being an 82% free throw shooter. He did this while being the best player on the court every single night. Now he is entering a system where he won’t be asked to create every shot on every possession, and will flourish on kick-out passes from Scottie Barnes, RayQuan Evans, and other playmakers.

His offensive ceiling is going to be vital for a team that lost two of their three leading scorers in Trent Forrest and Devin Vassell. It wouldn’t shock me if he came off of the bench and brought instant offense while he catches up and learns defensive rotations. I’m expecting Calhoun to be one of the top 3 or 4 scorers for the Seminoles this season.

There are a couple technical things I’d love to see Calhoun work on, like the leg kick that reminds me slightly of Dwayne Bacon, but Florida State is going to need every bucket Calhoun can provide.

Quincy Ballard, Freshman

Another big man signing that came from out of the blue, Ballard may be relied upon a little more than expected. He’s the quintessential modern day big: athletic, quick feet, runs the floor well, and can anchor the middle of a defense. He’s coming from a high school system that played a heavy 2-3 zone defense, so he’ll have to learn how Florida State plays defense and that may take some time. He can also do this:

The potential is tantalizing; and in a season where eligibility is a wash, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some game action to develop his game even if there won’t be as many mid-major opponents on the schedule this season. Like with Ngom, Ballard will be learning under one of the best big-men developers on college basketball. His stock blew up right before he committed, going from 0 offers to high major offers like Maryland, NC State, and Syracuse before eventually choosing Florida State.

For more on his commitment and his game, here is the write-up from after he committed.

Scottie Barnes, Freshman

“He’s a freak” … “everyone has been really impressed by Scottie so far.”

Florida State is really going to miss Trent Forrest’s ability to get a bucket whenever they needed it. Whether it be to stop a scoring drought, to kill the other team’s momentum, or just in late game situations; Forrest’s ability to put his head down and overpower this opposite point guard was huge. Enter Scottie Barnes, who has 4 or 5 inches on Forrest.

Barnes comes in as the highest ranked recruit in Florida State basketball’s history (7th on 247’s composite), and with that high ranking comes high expectations. It’s not normal for a 6’9″, 230 pound player to come in and instantly take over the point guard position, but that is the plan for Barnes moving forward. He’ll be placed in a Ben Simmons type role, which should be something he excels in: he’s great defensively, he’s a great passer for his size, and gets to the rim at will. Having a starting lineup of Barnes, MJ Walker, Anthony Polite, RaiQuan Gray, and Malik Osborne/Tanor Ngom means someone is going to get a lot of mismatches on offense, and it’s most likely going to be Barnes or Walker. His ball-handling could be a little tighter, but he’s not going to be the only play-maker on this team. He’s also not going to hesitate to shoot, something Ben Simmons gets criticized for.

Despite his size, he still has the quickness to keep up with smaller guards on the defensive end. Even when he’s guarding the Kihei Clark’s of college basketball, his size is going to allow him to stay in front of these guards. Barnes’ scouting report begins with his defensive prowess. His length is going to terrorize passing lanes, and should provide some interesting presses that Coach Hamilton can scheme. Florida State’s defense is predicated on preventing the opposition from starting their offense. When you have guys like Barnes and Walker in the backcourt, that’s a lot of size and speed to try and get past. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see MJ Walker cover the point guards from time to time since his size is a little closer, but it won’t be out of necessity.

Here is how Jerry Meyer of 247 described Barnes’ game:

Top-level athlete with tremendous length for a combo forward. Elite-level motor and competes at a top-of-the-charts level. Can defend any position on the court. Rebounds outside of his area. High-level passing ability. Extremely dangerous starting the break after a defensive rebound. Also, a lethal finisher. Scores very well off the dribble inside 15 feet.

That sounds like a Leonard Hamilton type of player to me, and he should fit right into Big Guard University. Barnes should be a lottery pick if his development goes the way it’s supposed to, and he provides a great follow up after the departure of Forrest.

Next week, we will cover strengths, weaknesses, and question marks surrounding Florida State heading into the season.

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