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On July 29th of 2021, college athletes from all over the world heard their name called as they left their title as college athletes to become professional athletes. One night and all their dreams become reality. If you have been following speak sports for a while you know that after last years NBA draft I wrote an article with the same exact title honoring Trent Forrest, Patrick Willams, and Devin Vessel for taking their talents to the next level but today I am here to honor FSU’s newest NBA additions, MJ Walker, RaiQuan Gray, Balsa Koprivica, and Scottie Barnes.
Image From: Toronto Star
Florida State University is becoming THE hot spot for young stars, one of the top paths to the NBA. With the second-best recruiting class and the most drafted players in the past couple of years, FSU was made proud once again after three men were drafted and undrafted MJ Walker signed an exhibit contract with the New York Knicks. Meaning all of our available players were given a chance of a lifetime.
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Let's start with the obvious lottery pick. Scottie Barnes. Barnes will be heading out of the USA to the only international team in the league, The Toronto Raptors. The Raptors selected him No.4 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft last Thursday night. Although Seminole nation only has Scottie for one season, the effect he left on the program will be valued for ages to come. He led the team in assists and steals per game while putting up an impressive 10.3 points, shooting over 50%, as well as averaging four rebounds a game. Although he has attractive numbers, it isn't his number that drew all the attention to the name Scottie Barnes. Barnes's unmatched athleticism and size is something you can't teach a player, and he is lucky enough to have both athleticism and size. At 6”10’ with a 7”2 wingspan, coming in at 27 pounds, Barnes acquired the ideal body of a potential NBA star. That's exactly what got him compared to all-star and NBA champion Draymond Green. Like Green, Barnes has a top-notch defense, which is where he separates from the rest, constantly disrupting the other team's offense, forcing turnovers, timing the shot, and not allowing plays to be made. But unlike Green, Barnes is expected to immediately make a difference in the league. His height and strength allow him to defend both forwards and bigs. Barnes was transformed into a point guard at Florida State University although he is a true power forward. A point guard in the body of a power forward? Something you don't often see. A player that big who can handle the ball, read the defense, and create plays for his teammates. This past season at FSU he displayed how he is able to initiate the offense and make the right reads. Barnes also THRIVES in TRANSITION! His length at the college level is unmatched, his strides can be compared to Giannis Antetokounmpo, cutting to the basket seems easy when Barnes is the one doing it. Considering his size, he overpowers almost every matchup, he is a mismatch for most players at his position. He is nowhere near one of the best scorers, but around the rim, he is nearly unstoppable. Although Barnes has some risks, such as his shooting, the potential rewards completely outweigh them all. Watching Barnes this past season was so exciting, and I was so blessed to be able to witness all his greatness live. The number of times my jaw was left on the floor as he displayed his versatility, demeanor, and length is uncountable and I can't wait to see what he brings to not only the Toronto Raptors but the NBA as a whole. Chance at ROTY? Potential All-Rookie team? Starting position? Also, did you guys see that Scottie is already hanging out with DRAKE?!?! Like, this is not a false alarm. SCOTTIE IS HANGING OUT WITH DRAKE!
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Later in the second round, Balsa Koprivica heard his name called as the Charlotte Hornets took a chance on him with the 57th pick in the NBA Draft, then later traded to the Detroit Pistons. This Serbian big stand at 7”1’ with a 7”4’ wingspan, who has a consistent touch around the rim, can score with either hand while near the rim (63% from the field his two seasons at FSU), as he continues to develop his shot. This past season with the noles, Balsa averaged 9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks as he was our number one big center. Selfishly, I was hoping Balsa would stay one more season at FSU because I felt as if he was finally marking his spot on the team. Watching Balsa these past two years have been interesting, but also amazing because he is truly one of those players who I've seen grow so much in such a short time. All the holes I saw in his game freshman year were fixed during his sophomore season, he listens, he takes advice, and applies it to his game. That is one of the best qualities to have as an athlete, now the Pistons can make him that player for their team, the player who makes a difference. Although he has a very impressive defense, we have seen him fall in foul trouble during multiple games this season, which is something he needs to work on. Overall, Balsa has so much potential, and I believe he has so much to give. The Seminole nation has watched this star develop, and now I can't wait for the world to see what he has to offer.
Photo From: 247 Sports
Two picks later the Brooklyn Nets picked up power forward RaiQuan Gray, personally one of my favorite players of this past season. He was so all-around sound, that I always felt safe when he was in control. I am ecstatic that the Nets took a chance on him considering he was an interesting pick, due to his size, athleticism, ball-handling skills, and solid outside shot. One thing I have to say, BIG BODY! Gray is an extremely smart player, he can easily ram through the defense with his size, attracting the defense to open up shots for his teammates. Gray was a huge part of this organization for the past three years, but more specifically this past year, maybe even the biggest part. He averaged 11.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, along with 1.2 steals a game. Gray already proved himself to be an extremely mature player, which makes me think his transition to the league will be easier than most. Finally, like Barnes and Koprivica, Gray will get his moment to show why he belongs.
Photo From: New York Post
The last player from FSU who declared for the draft was shooting guard MJ Walker if you're a Seminole fan you know that Walker was the backbone of this team during the most recent season. He has been with the program for four years, making him the most experienced college athlete on the team, also the most comfortable with FSU’s program and Coach Hamilton’s coaching style. After the draft, the New York Knicks reached an agreement to sign MJ Walker to an Exhibit 10 Contract. Walker went undrafted last Thursday, even with his impressive season where he posted 12.2 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds a game with an impressive 42.3% from the perimeter, earning a spot on the All-ACC second team. If you are unclear about what an exhibit contract is, let me explain it to you. Walker is in the position to either have his deal converted into a standard contract or a two-way deal if he makes the team. If he doesn't make the team, he will be joining the Westchester Knicks, the New York Knicks G-league affiliate. Walker is a great pick-up and has so many positives to his game which can really benefit this New York team. First off, he's a catch-and-shoot type of player, can handle the pressure, and put up good shots when needed. He also has the size and strength to take the ball down low, challenging each defender who steps up. And finally his defense, his defense is spectacular, but that isn't surprising for a Florida State ballplayer. Right now, MJ has been presented with a now or never opportunity, he needs to show up every single opportunity he gets to prove why he deserves a contract with the Knicks, and I believe he will do exactly that.
Photo From: Tallahassee Democrat
What a year for FSU Hoops! We continue to see FSU be THAT PLACE, that takes an athlete's dream and makes it a reality. It is becoming the top destination for top recruits which is exactly what this program deserves after all the achievements it has attained. Should I drop an article on our 2022 targets? I cannot wait to see what these four men do with their talent at the next level, I just know great things are in store from not only them but the world. In the meantime keep an eye out for the names Scottie Barnes, Balsa Koprivica, RaiQuan Gray, and Mj Walker, because FSU boys don't just show up, but why show up and outwork everyone else. And I've said it before, and I will say it again, it's another great day to be a Florida State Seminole.