Highlighted by Vassell and Williams, FSU poised for historic NBA Draft
Their quest for a national championship was interrupted and the start to their professional careers was delayed, but the COVID-19 pandemic won't ruin everything for former Florida State stars Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams and Trent Forrest.
In fact, there are some in the basketball community who believe the 2020 NBA Draft's six-month delay -- from May 19 to this Wednesday -- might actually end up helping each of the Seminoles' prospects.
Vassell and Williams are projected to be first-round lottery picks, and Forrest is viewed as a potential second-round selection. And the more time NBA executives spent digging into the backgrounds of top players and interviewing the three former FSU stars, the more they seemed to fall in love with the 'Noles.
"I'm sure that every NBA team has contacted somebody on our staff, and sometimes multiple times," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
While nothing is ever certain heading into a professional sports draft, most projections have Vassell and Williams both being selected among the top 14 lottery picks. (See possible landing spots below.)
That would be a historic accomplishment for a Florida State program that has produced only three lottery picks in school history -- George McCloud (No. 7 in 1989), Al Thornton (No. 14 in 2007) and Jonathan Isaac (No. 6 in 2017). And if Forrest is indeed taken in the second round, it would give the Seminoles three picks in a draft for the first time since 1981 -- several years before the draft was shortened to two rounds and 60 picks.
What has Hamilton most pleased, however, isn't the fact that his program will receive great recognition during Wednesday's draft, but that three players who embraced everything the program stands for will be rewarded for all their hard work.
Vassell was a fairly unheralded recruit, with only mid-major offers, when he committed to Florida State before his senior year of high school. But after not starting a game during his freshman season, the 6-foot, 7-inch wing emerged as the Seminoles' leading scorer and rebounder as a sophomore and earned second-team All-ACC honors. He averaged 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds, while also proving to be an excellent 3-point shooter (41.7 percent) and defender.
Williams was a far more decorated prospect coming out of high school -- he was a five-star prospect with offers from many of the nation's top programs -- but Hamilton insists he never carried himself that way. To the contrary, the 6-8 wing told FSU's coaches the reason he wanted to be a Seminole was because he wanted to learn how to play defense at an elite level and he appreciated how hard they competed.
"Patrick came in wanting to make sure that he played hard, and that he defended. That was his goal," Hamilton said. "He wasn't worried about starting. He wasn't worried about how many minutes he played. He wanted to be a great teammate, he wanted to learn, he wanted to grow. He allowed himself to be coached."
Indeed, Williams did not start one game during his only season at Florida State and played 30 minutes in a game only twice. But like Mfiondu Kabengele, who was taken in the first round of the 2019 draft, Williams was named the ACC's Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds and leading the team with 30 blocked shots.
Some draft analysts have Williams going as early as No. 4 to the Chicago Bulls, which would tie for the highest pick in Florida State history with Dave Cowens, who went to the Boston Celtics in that spot in 1970.
While Williams and Vassell will give FSU multiple draft picks for the third time in the last four years (Kabengele and Terance Mann in 2019; Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon in 2017), this will mark the first time since 1993 that the Seminoles produced two first-rounders in the same draft (Doug Edwards and Sam Cassell).
Forrest is not listed in many mock drafts, but FSU's coaches have heard from several NBA teams that he is high on their lists and could be selected in the second round.
The 6-4 point guard helped lead Florida State to an Elite Eight appearance in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, a Sweet 16 in 2019 and a No. 4 national ranking in 2020 before the postseason was canceled due to the pandemic.
And Hamilton says Forrest exemplifies everything that is right about the Seminoles' program. Despite being a prolific scorer in high school, Forrest was more of a facilitator for Florida State's offense while shining on defense and other areas.
Forrest's lack of 3-point shooting prowess is the one thing that could keep him out of Wednesday's draft -- he shot 28.1 percent as a senior -- but Hamilton is quick to point out that Forrest led the team in steals and assists, while ranking second in scoring and third in rebounding. Forrest also is an Academic All-American and made the ACC's all-defensive team.
"Trent scored 3,000 points in high school," Hamilton said. "But he recognized the fact that we needed him to come in and run our basketball team. That just shows a lot about his character. His unselfish spirit."
If all three players are selected, that would give Hamilton's staff 17 NBA selections during their 18 years in Tallahassee, and eight in the last five drafts.
MOCK DRAFT REPORT (By Noah Jahn)
DEVIN VASSELL -- According to various reports, Vassell has worked out for at least five of the teams in the top 15 of the draft. He is seen as a prototypical 3-and-D player thanks to his excellent shooting ability and long frame. Because of his college success and maturity, Vassell is considered to be a "safer" pick than many elite prospects and one who could contribute early in his career. According to most mock drafts, Vassell's likely landing spot is between pick No. 8 through No. 12.
PATRICK WILLIAMS -- Since announcing he was leaving FSU following his freshman season, Williams has become one of the hottest-rising prospects in this draft. Teams are enamored by his frame and athletic ability, and they are intrigued by his tremendous upside. Like Vassell, Williams has worked out for several teams with lottery picks, and most mock drafts have him going between No. 6 and No. 15. In recent days, there have been rumors about him going to the Bulls at No. 4 or the Detroit Pistons at No. 6. But there also have been questions about the risk associated with selecting a player with such limited experience that high.
TRENT FORREST -- While Forrest is not listed in most mock drafts, FSU's coaches believe his pre-draft process closely mirrors that of former teammate Terance Mann, who was a surprise second-round pick of the L.A. Clippers.'