2008-2009 Record: 25-10, 10-6 ACC (4th)
Key Losses: Toney Douglas (21.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Uche Echefu (8.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Key Returners: Solomon Alabi (8.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 bpg), Chris Singleton (8.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Derwin Kitchen (7.9 ppg, 2.5 apg)
Newcomers: Pierre Jordan, Michael Snaer, Terrence Shannon, Jon Kreft
If there is one word to describe this Florida State team, it is potential. Three guys on this rosters—sophomores Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton, and freshman Michael Snaer—may all one day end up being lottery picks. But they are also all just as likely to never average double-digits in a Seminole uniform.
Alabi is the anchor to what could be one of the best front lines in the ACC. In terms on athleticism, you really cannot ask for much more out of a seven-footer. He can run the floor, he has above-average footwork, he can jump (and has an excellent reach, making him a good shot blocker), and is as mobile—and agile—as big guys come.
The problem is he still needs to add some weight and strength, as he gets pushed around too much on the block. Joining Alabi in the starting front court is Ryan Reid, a 6'8" muscle-bound senior who provides the toughness and strength Alabi lacks. With Uche Echefu graduating, 6'11" sophomore project Xavier Gibson could see more time.
The 'Noles could also get a boost up front if another seven-footer, Jon Kreft, is ever able to make it into school. Kreft was a five-star recruit in the class of 2006, but did a year in jail for some drug charges.
He was enrolled at a juco (Chipola College) and was supposed to be eligible to enter FSU in the fall, but did not receive his degree. Hopefully, he will be ready by the start of the winter semester, but FSU does not have him on their roster as of now.
On the wing, it is all about length for Leonard Hamilton's team. The guy you need to watch for is Chris Singleton. A big-time recruit for Hamilton last year, Singleton got off to a hot start, but struggled mightily once ACC play started. Cut from the same cloth as UConn's Stanley Robinson, Singleton will be counted on for defense, energy, and an increased scoring load.
Also on the perimeter will be top-10 recruit Michael Snaer. Snaer still has a ways to go before his skill level catches up with his athleticism, but what is going to make him effective is his motor. He is a tenacious rebounder and defender with energy for days. FSU does have quite a bit of depth on the perimeter as Luke Loucks, Deividis Dulkys, and Jordan DeMercy should all see a lot of times.
One guy to keep an eye on here is freshman combo forward Terrence Shannon. Shannon flew a bit under the radar after he tore his ACL playing AAU ball before his senior season. He is 6'7", athletic, aggressive, and if he gets paired up front with Singleton and Alabi, FSU will be able to get up and down the floor with any team in the country.
When it comes down to it, the most important player on this team is going to be Derwin Kitchen. FSU didn't just lose 21.9 ppg when Toney Douglas graduated. They lost their point guard, their leader, and their best play-maker.
Derwin Kitchen was as hyped as they come, but it took him some time to get into Florida State (he finally joined them midway through last season as a 22-year-old). Kitchen showed flashes of being able to handle a play-making role last season, but overall seemed to struggle a bit with his decision-making and shooting.
It will be interesting to see if Kitchen can live up to the potential he had coming out of high school now that Douglas is gone.
Outlook: Potential, potential, potential. So much of what FSU does this season will be determined by how well some of these guys develop. Will Alabi be a force in the paint on both ends? Can Kitchen handle the point guard duties? Will Singleton and Snaer be able to provide a scoring punch from the perimeter? How will the guys on their bench develop?
Pesonally, I think FSU is still a year away. They have too many question marks and "what-ifs?" I don't see Singleton or Snaer developing into a consistent scoring threat from the wing, and I doubt Kitchen can carry the team like Douglas did. While they have enough talent to win a couple games they shouldn't, I'm betting the will end up around .500 in league play.