Put Some Respect on the 2016 Recruiting Class

Recently, the 2015 recruiting class has been lauded as the greatest recruiting class in recent Florida State Basketball history and there is a validating fact for that claim: every player from the class is now on an NBA roster. Malik Beasley (Nuggets), Dwayne Bacon (Hornets), Terance Mann (Clippers), and Christ Koumadje (76ers) have all made their way through the program, leaving as the winningest class in Seminoles history. This class needed some help, though, and they got it with the arrival of Jonathan Isaac, Trent Forrest, CJ Walker, and Mfiondu Kabengele in 2016. The 2015 class set the standard for winning at FSU, the 2016 class has raised it.

The 2015 Class

This class started off a little rough, losing its third game of the season to Hofstra, a team that lost in the first round of the NIT. FSU would end up in the NIT itself after going 8-10 in ACC play, including two separate instances of losing 5 of 7 games, and would lose in the second round to Valparaiso. Fans expected a one-and-done prospect from this group, but it ended up being Beasley, not Bacon. What looked like a skeptical decision at the time turned out to be the right one for Beasley. He was taken in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets and emerged as a key role player this past season on a team that finished 2nd in the Western Conference with 54 wins and reached the 2nd round of the playoffs. Bacon came back for his sophomore season to improve his attitude and defense, and left following the 2016-17 season, being drafted early in the 2nd round of the 2017 Draft.

Mann and Koumadje would spend all four years with the ‘Noles, before starting NBA careers of their own. Mann’s development of his jump shot paired with his leadership, defense, and relentlessness while attacking the basket led him to be drafted in the 2nd-round of the 2019 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. Koumadje showed amazing personal and physical growth throughout his years. He began his career weighing at 220 pounds and looked lighter given his 7-foot-4 frame. By the time he graduated, he had gained 50 pounds and was the full-time starter by his junior season. He was plagued by injuries towards the end of his time at FSU, which often happens to players of his size, and also had talented players behind him in Kabengele and Ike Obiagu. This didn’t stop the Philadelphia 76ers from signing him as an undrafted free agent this offseason. The 76ers love his potential as a shot-blocker, and they have arguably the best center in the NBA for Koumadje to learn from in Joel Embiid.

This class will go down as one that helped change the culture and turned the ‘Noles from a middle-of-the-pack team into a contender. The one year of missing the tournament puts a blemish on the record though, as the talent on this team far outweighed the product put on the court their first season. They left Florida State with a record of 98-43, good for a winning percentage of 69.5%.

The 2016 Class

This class would also get off to a rough start, losing a neutral site game in Brooklyn against Temple after Jonathan Isaac missed an easy layup in the waning seconds. What followed showed how good the team could be, winning 12 games in a row, including games against nationally-ranked Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Duke. The 2016-17 season would feature a better record against nationally-ranked teams (7-3) than it would in true road games (3-6), the ultimate downfall of this team. They didn’t lose a single game at home this season and have only lost 3 in the two seasons after.

The 2016 class already has two members in the NBA: Isaac (Magic) and Kabengele (Clippers). It is not that unlikely that Trent Forrest can join them after this year, and CJ Walker the next. Forrest has the length, athleticism, leadership, and defensive ability every NBA team dreams of in a point guard. If he can show the same development in his jump shot we saw in Mann last season, he will be in the NBA. Walker may no longer be on the Seminoles’ roster, but he is slated to start at Ohio State this season after two solid seasons at FSU. He was a respectable shooter and scorer and made up for his mistakes with passion and energy. With a year of redshirting because of NCAA transfer rules, he is expected to take that next jump into a star player. He has the potential to be a great role player in the NBA, bringing energy off the bench like Kabengele did all last season for Florida State. Also of note, Braian Angola-Rodas and PJ Savoy were JUCO members of this class; Angola has spent time with the G-League team the Lakeland Magic, and Savoy hit one of the biggest shots in program history to send FSU to the Sweet 16.

The lineup that closed the game out against Xavier had four members of the 2016 class: Forrest, Savoy, Angola, and Kabengele. This lineup, along with Mann, dominated the postseason as Forrest and Kabengele showed just how great they could be.

Only 21 more wins are needed to pass the 2015 class as the winningest in program history. This is an easily attainable feat considering the talent the 2019-2020 team has, as well as a majority of the top teams in the ACC losing many of their best players. Their record is already incredible: 78-29, a 72.9% winning percentage. Their worst regular season (2018) ended in a trip to the Elite 8, and their worst postseason performance (2017) came on the heels of the second-best regular season in school history. How Forrest and the 2019-20 team performs without stalwarts Mann, Koumadje, and Phil Cofer will finalize an already amazing legacy.

While the 2015 class certainly has its claim as the best class in program history, it’s not a runaway battle. The 2016 class is hot on its heels and ready to take charge.

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