At Florida State, “thumbs down” is a good thing.
It usually means, Christ Koumadje is swatting balls into the stands as he rejects opposing players time and time again at the rim.
Against Thomas University, the 7-4 big man blocked three shots and altered many more as the Noles defeated the visiting Nighthawks 122-52 in their final exhibition before their regular season opener against George Washington on Nov. 14 at the Tucker Center.
“The whole team likes when I do it, I just started doing it in a game (last year) and it juiced the team up and the fans seem to like it,” Koumadje said following the game. “I look around college basketball and no one seemed to do it, so I just started doing it.”
“I love when he does the thumbs down because our crowd gets hyped and our bench get hyped,” C.J. Walker added. “It affects the next defensive play or the offense when we push into transition.”
Koumadje also scored 10 points and pulled down five rebounds in the winning effort as FSU repeatedly exposed the mismatch it had against the smaller players from Thomas.
The native of N’Djamena, Chad has shown his clear progress during the first two exhibitions of the year. Over the off-season, Koumadje worked on his all-around game, including free throws and post moves.
“Christ has made significant progress since last season, his ability to get into position and finish with either shoulder (has improved),” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We need him because he’s a guy that gives us rim protection as well.”
“It’s fantastic to see how far he’s come since last year,” Walker furthered.
“He’ll get more minutes this season so he can show what he can do on this team.”
Noles looking to push the pace
Last season Florida State was the fastest tempo team in the ACC and one of the fastest in the nation. The Seminoles routinely maximized the number of possessions in each game, looking to get shots up quickly as they raced into transition.
This year FSU wants to do much of the same, relying on a blazing pace of play and letting superior depth plays its role over the course of a game.
“We want to score as quickly as possible,” Walker said. “Get early kick outs and layups, we want to get early buckets.”
Against Thomas the Seminoles recorded 87 possessions, a blistering number for any contest. FSU averaged 12 seconds per possession (on a 30 second shot clock), meaning the team was often in high gear. The pace helps the Noles maximize numbers in transition before a defense can get all its players back and allows the team to take advantage of its athleticism in the open court.
“When a team gets to have five guys (behind the ball) that’s usually their best defending,” Walker explained. “So if we can get out and run this year with better shooters, that will be better for us.”
The Noles turned 31 Thomas turnovers into 42 points, a result of quickly getting into transition and finishing layups and dunks at the rim. The team also nailed 12 three-pointers, many coming as open shots with defenders scrambling to find the shooters in transition.
Young players adjusting quickly
Florida State brought in a talented group of newcomers this off-season. However, the sheer number of freshmen means that it will take Hamilton and his staff some time to get them caught up to the high-major D1 level.
“Last year the ‘Boom Squad’ gave us unbelievable energy off the bench,” Hamilton said. “This group is skilled offensively, but I want to see them give us more energy via steals and deflections.”
“Communication is the biggest thing for any freshman,” Walker added. “Last year me and Trent (Forrest) had to come in and learn that and get adjusted to not being afraid to speak up and make mistakes.”
The early signs are positive as against the Nighthawks, every newcomer scored at least five points. Center Ike Obiagu was outstanding with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks while forward RaiQuan Gray added 12 points and five rebounds.
The Noles hope this group can give them the same boost the newcomers brought to the table last season, one that made FSU one of the deepest teams in the entire country.
“I’m hoping as they gain more confidence and relax, they can give us some more energy,” Hamilton said.
“We want to wear our opponents down as the game goes along, that’s who we are.”