Florida State is one of those schools that can attract a top recruit or two with Leonard Hamilton as its respected head coach. The problem is keeping them around to build a program that can climb the ACC ladder.
It’s one step forward with a coveted recruit and then back to the drawing board when he leaves for the NBA.
This time a year ago Hamilton prepared for the upcoming season with a 4-star recruiting coup in his backcourt, Malik Beasley. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound freshman guard from Alpharetta, Ga., played up to his potential, too.
He averaged 15.6 points per game and earned All-ACC honors. In the deeply talented 15-team ACC, honorable mention is impressive. He also made the All-Freshman team. Imagine what Beasley could do as a sophomore with more incoming talent around him?
Imagine is the key word. Beasley was gone to the NBA as a one-and-done first-round draft pick. He was the 19th overall choice by the Denver Nuggets.
But back to the drawing board for Hamilton this season includes an upgrade with a 5-star recruit, Jonathan Isaac.
The 6-foot-10, 210-pound combo forward from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., picked the Seminoles over heavyweights Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas among others. He’s so good Florida State had to sweat out rumors Isaac would flip.
“His loyalty emphasizes the fact that quality players are interested in attending Florida State,” Hamilton told the media when Isaac signed in November. “His character is one of the things that has allowed him to get to this point in his career. His combination of length, shooting ability, versatility and his committed work ethic are the things that will allow him to contribute immediately as a Seminole.”
If you were wondering about Isaac’s one-and-done prospects, he’s rated as a potential top-10 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
But at least for a year Hamilton can team Isaac with two returning starters in a three-guard offense. Sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon (6-foot-7, 221 pounds) led the team in points (15.8) and rebounds (5.8). Junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (6-foot-4, 208 pounds) was third in scoring (11.8) and first in assists (4.4).
Also, there is a third returning piece with starting experience. Junior forward Phil Cofer (6-foot-8, 218 pounds) started 24 of 33 games as a freshman in 2014-15 and three games as a sophomore before an ankle injury that required surgery ended his season after 11 games.
As a freshman, he averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds. He had career highs of 21 points against Pitt and 12 rebounds against Massachusetts.
Those three with Isaac form a strong nucleus to improve upon last year’s 20-14 overall record and 8-10 ACC mark that fell short of an NCAA Tournament bid. The Seminoles advanced to the second round of the NIT before they were eliminated.
In addition to Today’s U ranking Florida State No. 23, the Seminoles have gained preseason Top 25 recognition at the bottom in various projections.
Hamilton also added sharp-shooter Patrick Savoy Jr. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard was eligible to transfer as a late recruit in August after one year of junior college ball at Sheridan, Wyo. Savoy averaged 16.8 points and 5.1 rebounds last year. He shot 43 percent from 3-point range and hit 86 percent of his free throws.
His father Patrick Savoy Sr. led UNLV in scoring with 14.7 points a game as a senior in 1995, which was three years after controversial coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian left the school.
Florida State is poised to step into the Top 25 and earn an NCAA bid this season. The question is, how long can they remain at that level?
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter: @shanny4055