The secret is out.
All-off season, Mfiondu Kabengele was the buzz inside the Florida State basketball locker room. The redshirt freshman sat out last season working on his game and waiting his turn due to a deep Seminole roster.
Against The Citadel on Friday evening, “Fee,” as the team calls him, displayed a unique blend of skill, strength and athleticism as he led FSU to a dominating 113-78 win over the Bulldogs.
“I told ya’ll, I tried to tell you. People are sleeping on him,” Terance Mann said assertively following the game. “Just how physical he is, so aggressive as a player, he’s hard to guard. He learns fast and he’s trying to prove people wrong. You can see it out there.”
Against the Bulldogs, the 6-9 native of Ontario, Canada dropped 16 points and added 12 rebounds in just 14 minutes of action.
His ability on the glass was evident as the big man with a 7-4 wingspan grabbed five offensive rebounds, often turning those into easy buckets at the rim. On the evening the Noles scored 27 second-chance points, largely contributed to by Kabengele’s performance.
“He has a knack for stuffing the stat sheet. He has a way of getting the big rebound and putting it back, being in the right place at the right time,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “You like to see it that from a guy that doesn’t have a lot of experience. He’s only scratching the surface.”
“We all used to tell him last year, ‘we can’t wait to see you on the court’ and now seeing it, we knew it was coming,” PJ Savoy added. “He’s strong and he really wants to rebound, you don’t see that every day. He goes to the glass so hard.”
Kabengele aided FSU to a 53-39 edge on the boards over the Bulldogs as the Noles pounded the offensive glass for 16 rebounds on the night. The redshirt freshman was also a perfect 4 for 4 from the free-throw line and added a block in an all-around efficient effort.
“He raises his level to higher heights (every game). He motivates himself, plays with a lot of emotion and the game means a lot to him,” Hamilton said of the forward. “He takes on another personality when the game starts.”
Fellow big-man Phil Cofer continued his strong stretch of play as he added 15 points, while notching three rebounds in the win. The senior flashed his patented tenacity and ability to create scoring chances at the basket finishing 7 of 9 from the floor on the night.
“Last year he was finding his way back after the injury, but this year he’s bringing so much energy,” Braian Angola said on Cofer. “He goes hard every single possession and we know what to expect from him.”
The 6-8 native of Fayetteville, Georgia has displayed the ability to extend his game to the mid-range and beyond the arc this season, rounding out his game into a player that’s dangerous at all three levels. His Senior leadership is also needed on a team with so many young players.
“He’s improved a lot, he’s taking being a leader seriously on the court and he knows we look up to him for leadership,” Savoy said. “He wants more weight on his shoulders, he’s stepping up.”
The Seminoles moved to 5-0 on the season and adjusted well to the high-tempo the Bulldogs wanted to play with. The Citadel came into the contest leading the nation running over 82 possessions a game. The Noles were often pressed in the full-court, but it led to numerous transition opportunities, a style FSU welcomed.
“It’s fun for us, because we all want to play like that, this is one of the most fun games we’ve played in this season,” Mann said on the pace.
Florida State set season highs in points and in threes made (13), while also running a season-high 89 possessions. The Seminoles’ 38 3-point shots attempted were only one off the school- record of 39 which came against Wichita State on March 17, 2004.
“It’s a lot of fun for us on the court and I know it’s fun to watch,” Savoy said smiling.
For the Seminoles, Angola and Mann each led the team with 21 points with Angola scoring all his points on shots made beyond the arc, totaling seven on the evening. Mann added a team and career-high eight assists in the victory.
Florida State travels to Rutgers for the ACC/Big 10 Challenge on November 28 at 7 p.m. The games will be televised on ESPNU.