Florida State University

Imposing size, experienced backcourt make Seminoles a team to watch

Ryals Lee, Jr.

Florida State’s chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012 are bolstered by a standout backcourt and three shot-blocking centers — the smallest of whom is 7-feet tall.

Devon Bookert, a 6-3 junior, returns at point guard and has a career three-point percentage of 46.6, which currently ranks No. 1 in school history. He averaged 8.5 points last season.

“I’ve never seen him take a bad shot,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s a pass-first point guard, and he isn’t very flashy. But his percentages prove he is pretty accurate.”

Bookert’s backcourt mate is 6-5 junior Aaron Thomas, an honorable mention All-ACC pick last season after leading FSU in scoring (14.5). He didn’t become a starter until February and averaged 18.2 points from that point forward.

The three centers are 7-3, 240-pound junior Boris Bojanovsky of the Slovak Republic, 7-1, 290-pound junior Michael Ojo from Nigeria and 7-0, 240-pound senior Kiel Turpin of Illinois.

“We don’t need a lot of ladders around campus,” Bookert joked. “We just get our big guys to change light bulbs.”

Bojanovsky has other uses, of course. He finished fifth in the ACC with 1.9 blocks per game. He also averaged 5.9 points and 4.0 rebounds in 21 minutes.

Turpin averaged 5.4 points and was eighth in the ACC in blocks with 1.3 in 2012-2013. But Turpin, whose father Melvin played five years in the NBA as a 6-11 center, missed last season due to a leg injury and was granted a sixth year of eligibility.

Ojo, regarded as the strongest player in program history, averaged 2.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 1l.9 minutes last season. He started to emerge with some big games against Florida (10 points, six rebounds) and Michigan (eight points, six rebounds).

Hamilton said there might be some occasions when he uses two of his 7-footers simultaneously. But that’s only when he goes zone. Otherwise, Hamilton will rotate his centers.

That leaves two open spots in the starting lineup to go with Bookert, Thomas and (likely) Bojanovsky.

FSU graduated forward Okaro White, who led the team in rebounds (6.8) and averaged 13.6 points, and guard Ian Miller, who averaged 13.7 points.

How they are replaced might determine whether the Seminoles return to the NIT, where they made the semifinals last season, or make the much more desirable NCAA Tournament.

Montay Brandon, a 6-7 junior who averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds last season, is a possibility. But he is not much of a shooter — only 25 percent on three-pointers and 61.5 percent from the foul line.

Phil Cofer, a 6-8, 205-pound freshman from Georgia, figures to step into the lineup at power forward. His forte is rebounding, and he is the son of former 10-year NFL linebacker Michael Cofer.

FSU could also go with three guards, making way for 6-4 redshirt freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last season, 6-0 sophomore Dayshawn Watkins or 6-4 freshman Robbie Berwick.

Hamilton’s teams are known for playing tough defense and being big on the boards, but this season’s squad may have more offensive firepower if Bookert and Thomas continue to develop.

“I’ve never been one to make predictions,” Hamilton said. “But I like the position we’re in as long as we play to our potential.”

FSU men’s basketball

Coach: Leonard Hamilton.

Last season: 22-14, 9-9 ACC, NIT semifinals.

Top players: Aaron Thomas (6-5 Sr. SG); Devon Bookert (6-3 Jr. PG).

Noteworthy: FSU has made the postseason – NCAA or NIT – nine consecutive years.

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