By Bob Thomas
Associate Sports Information Director
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the return of sixth-year senior center Kiel Turpin and the debuts of Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Phil Cofer and Dayshawn Watkins providing a glimpse of the future, coach Leonard Hamilton’s 13th Florida State men’s basketball team made its exhibition debut Monday night at the refurbished Donald L. Tucker Center.
Officially, the Seminoles cruised to a 95-73 over perennial NAIA power Embry-Riddle, though the outcome was not nearly as important as Hamilton getting a first in-game glimpse of the newcomers and how they meshed with a core of veterans.
“We had some good things and I thought we had some bad things,” said Hamilton, whose team seized control with a 28-14 run to close the first half and were never threatened by the Eagles from Daytona Beach.
“From a talent standpoint, like I’ve said all along, I think we have some pretty good talent and the potential to develop some quality depth. I just think we need some more time and we just don’t have a whole lot.”
The Seminoles open the season Nov. 15 at home against Manhattan in the first round of the Naismith Hall of Fame Classic.
Turpin’s return, after missing last season following knee surgery, provided the Seminoles with a quick lift offensively in the post. The 7-footer scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in the first half in his first action since the 2012-13 season.
“I wanted to come out and perform really well and just know I still have it,” said Turpin, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting to go along with eight rebounds in 16 minutes. “Having a full year off, that can take a lot of mindset out of you and take away your confidence. I wanted to come out tonight and make sure I could run the floor.
“It was all about confidence.”
Clearly there are no confidence issues with junior swingman Aaron Thomas, the Seminoles top returning scorer, who led the way with 18 points and chipped in six rebounds as FSU out-rebounded their under-sized opponents 45-24.
“We all just got better during the summer and learned how to play with one another,” Thomas said, assessing the effort. “We did a lot of that this game, as far as having the same chemistry. We have things to work on. We’re just trying to work on those things for the game on the 15th.”
Sophomore Jarquez Smith, who is evolving from sub to starter at the power forward position, added 13 points to the cause on 6-of-8 shooting.
As for the newcomers, freshman forward Phil Cofer pitched in eight points, seven rebounds, while Watkins, added seven points from the point guard position. Rathan-Mayes, the celebrated member of last year’s recruiting class, did not disappoint in his Seminole debut, contributing nine points, five rebounds and a team-leading five assists.
“You have to be excited about Phil Cofer, a guy who plays with a tremendous amount of energy and he makes up for his mistakes with his all-out effort,” Hamilton said. “I thought Dayshawn, X and Robbie [Berwick] looked very comfortable out there on the floor and had some understanding of what we were trying accomplish.”
Most notably, the newcomers appeared to provide the Seminoles with a different gear offensively, pushing the ball up the floor for easier scoring opportunities.
“They push the ball and that’s what we wanted to do,” Turpin said. “We’re just getting it and going. With them being able to run, that’s just going to make us better.”
So will time, which is precious at this point. The Seminoles will host Belmont Abbey next Monday in their final exhibition before opening the season.
“What we’re trying to do now is develop a rotation where we don’t have that much of a drop-off when we have to rotate players in,” Hamilton said. “There’s obviously an experience factor here, but from an energy standpoint and an athletic standpoint, I think we’ll be OK.”