TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Head Coach Leonard Hamilton and the Florida State Men’s Basketball team has signed the nation’s No. 2 ranked recruiting class which includes five-star guards Matthew Cleveland (6-6, Atlanta, Ga.), and Jalen Warley (6-5, Norristown, Pa.), along with four-star center John Butler (7-1, Greenville, S.C.) and the No 2 ranked junior college player in the nation center Naheem McCleod (7-4, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.).
The blue-chip class incudes two of the top 24 (Cleveland, No. 20 and Warley, No. 24), three of the nation’s top 60 high school players (Butler, No. 60) and a top-two ranked junior college player (McLeod, No. 2).
Hamilton and his staff have now attracted seven top-20 recruiting classes since becoming the head coach at Florida State to begin the 2002-03 season – recruiting classes that have helped him build the fourth-winningest program in the ACC since the start of the 2005-2006 season. The only three ACC members that have won more in that span are Duke, North Carolina and Virginia, three schools coached by men who have combined to win nine national championships.
Butler (7-1, 190) has earned a four-star rating and is projected as the nation’s number 11 center and number 57 overall prep prospect according to 247 sports. He averaged 17.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game as a junior at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, South Carolina.
Butler will join the long and successful list of 7-footers who have been extremely successful under Hamilton and his staff at Florida State.
“I am so blessed and so confident with my college choice of Florida State University,” said Butler. “I am looking forward to playing for Coach Hamilton and his staff and beginning my college education at Florida State University. It’s a program and a university that I know I will be welcomed into by the staff and all of the players. I am so impressed with Coach Hamilton and his history of working with players who always show improvement during their careers. I am looking forward to playing at Florida State because their style fits me the best and will help achieve my basketball goals.”
Butler is disruptive on the defense as a shot blocker and in the passing lanes. He possesses tremendous size and length, has mobility, is able to run the floor, protects the rim, has great hands and rebounds well. Butler selected Florida State over Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
In Butler, Hamilton and the Seminoles will continue to make the center position a priority in their game plan.
“John is an exceptionally skilled player for a big guy,” said Hamilton. “We are excited to add John to our roster because his versatility fits out style of play so well. He is smart, has basketball in his blood with his father as a long-time, successful high school coach, and is a rim protector and a defender.”
Butler plays for his dad, John Butler, Sr., at Christ Church Episcopal.
“John is an unusual and special talent,” said John, Sr. “He moves and runs like no other 6-9 or taller person I have ever seen. He is also a super friendly person who will make time for anyone. He is very approachable, polite, always has a smile on his face and is willing to answer every question and take every picture he is asked to take.”
Cleveland (6-7, 190) is an explosive athlete who specializes in making tough shots and who is a great rebounder for his position. He has the potential to become a very versatile defender in Florida State’s system. Cleveland has good length and can score at all three levels and has improved his outside shooting throughout his prep career. He averaged 22.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.9 steals and 0.7 blocked shots in leading Pace Academy to the 2020 State Championship in Georgia. Cleveland earned All-State First Team and was named the state of Georgia 3A Player of the Year in 2020. He selected Florida State over Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas.
“I’m really excited to be a part of such a great program Coach Ham has built and how it’s a culture of winning,” said Cleveland. “I plan to help continue that culture when I get there.”
Cleveland becomes part of a very dynamic backcourt of the future for Hamilton and the Seminoles.
“Matthew Cleveland is a great fit for our team and our program because of his basketball IQ and his incredible personality,” said Seminole Head Coach Leonard Hamilton. “He’s very much in the mold of the players who have earned success here at Florida State – he’s a slasher, can get the basket, is a great shooter and wants to play defense. Matthew is what is called nowadays a “3 and D Player” who is really, really good on both ends of the court.”
Cleveland was among the first players to commit to Florida State’s 20021 recruiting class that has been ranked as the second-best recruiting class in the nation by every recruiting service.
“Matthew has been a dynamic player for us and continues to get better as his game continues to grow,” said Pace Academy Sharman White. “I see him flourishing greatly at FSU under Coach Ham and staff as time goes on. I feel like Matt’s character has a lot to do with the success he has gained on and off the court as his commitment and determination to be elite has been a staple during his career.”
McLeod (7-3, 230) who graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in 2019, will transfer from Chipola College (Marianna, Fla.) and re-join the Seminoles for the final two seasons of his career. McLeod was considered to be the fifth best prospect in the state of Pennsylvania and the 24th-best center in the nation during high school by 247Sports in 2019. He averaged 19.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots as a junior in high school and led the Colonials to a 28-2 record with a runner-up district finish. McLeod has developed into a solid post player with a strong touch around the basket and is a polished passer with a strong shooting touch. As a senior at Plymouth Whitemarsh, he led his team into the nation’s top-25 rankings, was named to the All-State First Team in Class 6A and to the All-Suburban One League American Conference First Team as a junior.
“I would say I am stronger than the struggle because I could’ve given up when I went to junior college and held my head down, but I stayed with it and stayed in touch with the FSU staff,” said McLeod. “I am excited get back on the court, I am excited to be with my teammates and I am excited, and I am especially excited to be a Seminole.”
McLeod becomes the second player at 7-3 or taller who will play for Florida State under Hamilton.
“Naheem is a player we have been looking forward to having as a member of our team for quite a while,” said Seminole Head Coach Leonard Hamilton. “He’s a 7-footer who plays instinctively on defense and adds another rim protector to our team. Naheem has worked hard to improve on his offensive game and his improvement is an aspect of his game that we are really excited about. Naheem is not your typical big-man and his versatility makes him an important addition to our roster.”
McLeod enjoyed a successful prep career under Head Coach Jim Donofrio.
“I love Naheem and I’m extremely proud of him in how he never hesitated after being told he would have to take the junior college route for a couple of years in order to find his way back to FSU,” said Whitemarsh High School Coach Jim Donofrio. “He’s plugging away at his academics with perseverance and a positive attitude, two traits that should carry over and prove beneficial for both Naheem and the entire Seminoles program next year.”
Warley (6-5, 175) is a five-star point guard who is ranked as the 23rd best overall player in the 2021 recruiting class and as the third best point guard in the nation by 247 Sports. He averaged 13.5 points, assists and 3.0 rebounds as a junior at Westown High School. He has a great feel for the game, has the size to play off the ball, is an accurate passer and makes good decisions on both offense and defense. Warley will fit well in Florida State’s system well as a good transition player who goes hard to the defensive glass and who is an effective help defender. Warley led Westtown (Norristown, Pa.) to the Pennsylvania Independent Schools State Championship as a junior in 2020 and as a sophomore in 2019. Warley selected Florida State over Clemson, Creighton, Louisville and Marquette.
“My excitement to get down to Tallahassee is through the roof,” said Warley. “I can’t wait to be around Coach Hamilton and the whole coaching staff on a daily basis. I felt an instant connection with the Florida State staff. Their proven ability to help players get better every day is one of the many things I am excited about in becoming a Seminole.”
Warley certainly fits the mold of many of the successful wing players at Florida State who had flourished under Hamilton and his staff.
“I really love what Jalen brings to our team,” said Seminole Head Coach Leonard Hamilton. “The thing that separates Jalen from many players is his high basketball IQ and his incredible ability to get his teammates involved on every play. He has played with really good players throughout his career and always makes his teammates better. That is one of the many aspects of his game that is going to make him very successful at Florida State and throughout his career.”
Warley (Aston, Pa.) has enjoyed an outstanding career at Westtown High School in Pennsylvania.
“Jalen is a future NBA guard without a doubt,” said Westtown Head Coach Seth Berger. “He’s got the talent, the size, the IQ and the drive to help Florida State challenge for a national title. Jalen is a fantastic kid, and he comes from an amazing family. Jalen will be a great addition to the Florida State community.”