Key Losses: F Anthony Richardson (6.4 ppg, 3.5 pg), G Von Wafer (12.5 ppg), F Adam Waleskowski (8.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
Detroit, MI/Mott (MI) CC
Bennettsville, SC/Marlboro County
Lagos, Nigeria/Montrose (MD) Christian School
Lauderdale Lakes, FL/Boyd Anderson
Allen joins the likes of Sam Cassell and Tim Pickett in a long line of junior college scoring guards expected to have an immediate impact at FSU. Echefu was rated the nation's No. 2 center as a senior at Montrose (Md.) Christian and spent the summer touring with the Nigerian junior national team. A two-time Florida Class 6A All-State selection, Reid averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds over his final two seasons in high school. Breeden led Marlboro County (S.C.) to the state championship game as a senior and was his team's MVP in the North Carolina-South Carolina All-Star game.
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Leonard Hamilton's Florida State team has plenty of concerns entering 2005-06, but living up to outside expectations won't be one of them. Not after last season, when many expected the Seminoles to make a run at their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998, only to see them crash with a 12-19 finish.
Four newcomers will have the opportunity to make a significant impact this season, Hamilton's fourth, in what is beginning to look like a five-year rebuilding project.
"I think we're probably on schedule," says Hamilton, whose team took a step back after reaching the NIT in '03-04. "Last year we could have very well been ahead if a few of those close games fell our way."
Nine losses by five points or less proved to be the team's undoing.
With the departure of Von Wafer, Adam Waleskowski and Anthony Richardson, Hamilton must find replacements for three of his top five scorers. The plan -- once again -- is to get it done by committee, with junior forward Al Thornton (9.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) the only proven returnee.
Senior starters Todd Galloway and Andrew Wilson will likely face considerable challenges from the newcomers, as well as last season's freshman trio of Jason Rich, Isaiah Swann and Ralph Mims. Underachieving junior center Alexander Johnson and senior Diego Romero, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery, will also be pressed to improve their frontcourt play or step aside.
"I sense a real serious approach from our players as we go about handling our business," Hamilton says. "I sense that we have a little better leadership, or better followers."
Should Hamilton's instincts prove true, the Noles should become a more efficient team on the offensive end of the floor, where they have labored in each of his first three seasons. FSU averaged just 68.6 points, had a horrid 0.79 assist-to-turnover ratio and was last in the league in offensive rebounds.
Poor health and conditioning, leading to an apparent lack of confidence, have stunted Johnson's development since he earned ACC All-Freshman honors in 2004. Johnson's shortcomings were more evident when Romero, a touted junior college transfer, was severely limited by tendinitis in his left knee.
Barring a complete turnaround, the Noles will turn to their heralded trio of freshmen. FSU scored its biggest recruiting coup when Uche Echefu passed on defending national champion North Carolina's offer. The 6-foot-9 Nigerian is still something of a novice in his fourth season of playing basketball, but he averaged 21.2 points and 9.0 rebounds as a senior and was the Player of the Year in Maryland. Ryan Reid is a rugged 6-9, 220-pounder who averaged 15.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game as a senior in high school. Casaan Breeden has decent size (6-8, 195), but he relies more on athleticism than brute strength.
Thornton, who scored 26 points in an upset over Wake Forest, is poised for a breakthrough season after averaging 14.0 points over the final six games of the season.
Jerel Allen's arrival should help ease the loss of Wafer at the shooting guard spot. An honorable mention All-America at Mott (Mich.) Community College, Allen averaged 17.2 points and shot 42 percent from 3-point range.
Allen will contend with Wilson, Rich and Swann for time on the wing. Rich and Swann both struggled shooting the ball as freshmen, and committed too many turnovers.
Galloway averaged just 3.0 assists per game in his first season as the starting point guard, a number that must improve if he intends to hold off Mims. After playing most of last season at the off-guard position, Mims returns to his natural spot where he starred as a prep.
Hamilton won't say it, but there is the sense that the 'Noles will be a much more cohesive unit following Wafer's early departure for the NBA. They will have to be, given their lack of proven production in the rugged ACC.
"Those are the kind of teams that are really enjoyable to coach," Hamilton says. "Everybody has to pull their own weight."
The Seminoles will do that this season without being weighed down with expectations for a breakthrough campaign.