But after a season where FSU suffered from a severe lack of rebounding, the key to this year's recruiting class may be landing a big man who can dominate in the paint on both ends. Just a few short weeks ago the field seemed to be limited with FSU having little hope.
This has changed when Alexander Johnson, formerly a UGA commitment, announced that he was going to visit five schools -- Cincinnati, Indian, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Florida State -- before making a decision where he would play his college career.
Johnson is from Albany, Ga., where he played prior to this season when he attended Bridgton Academy in Maine. The 6-10, 235-pound forward averaged 25 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks a game this season while leading his team to a 25-7 record. Johnson was ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the nation by the Sporting News after averaging 28 points and 16 rebounds as a junior at Albany (Ga.) Dougherty High, where he led his team to the Class 4A state title.
Johnson has already experienced the serious recruiting process one time before as he was courted by schools such as Cincinnati, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisville before committing to Jim Harrick's University of Georgia Bulldogs. He failed to academically qualify and spent the last year in Maine at a prep school where he was capable of obtaining a 920 SAT score which allows him to play at any Division I school this coming fall. With the recent problems UGA basketball has faced, Johnson is now on the road experiencing the recruiting process again.
From the end of March until the end of April, Johnson will be very busy. His coach, Whit Lesure, expects that he will make official visits to all five schools before making a decision. He has already visited Indiana and Bridgton Academy Coach Whit Lesure was quoted as saying it was a "good visit".
In regards to Connecticut, Lesure expressed that Johnson's view is that they have a great program and that Johnson has been really impressed by the coaches. Cincinnati, a school he visited in 2001, is a school that has been recruiting him hard since the first go-around and has the possibility of stepping in to play immediately there. Kentucky – visits April 25 -- has just seriously began to make an effort but with the fantastic team that coach Tubby Smith has produced the last few years and the history of Kentucky basketball there is a lot to offer.
You would think with the impressive array of teams that are after the Insiders No. 50 ranked player of 2002 that the ACC cellar dweller FSU would not be in the running. This is not the case as the view upon FSU is that Hamilton has already shown a great deal of interest and he has the opportunity to enter the program and start immediately. Johnson is also looking to play against great competition and he would get that with ACC opponents night in and night out.
Despite all of this, the most significant attribute going for FSU is that it is very near Johnson's home of Albany and that he has already shown an interest in playing near home in his original commitment to Georgia. "I just decided I might as well stay in Georgia, because there's no place like home," Johnson said of that decision. Due to the fact that his visits will not be done until nearly May , Johnson will force his schools to sweat out the hope of landing him as a commitment as much as a month beyond the first day of the late signing period, which kicks off on April 15th.
After his year at Bridgton Academy in Maine, where a lot of his competition was against Division I caliber players, he has been referred to as an improved player since he left Dougherty High. In the last year he has muscled up adding around 20 pounds. He is described as a ruggedly built, extremely athletic and skilled player who has finally begun to put the pieces together and is now playing consistently, according to The Insiders Dave Telep.
Some questions have surfaced in regards to Johnson involved with a scandal dealing with the fallout at the University of Georgia following Harrick's dismissal. Accusations of someone taking Johnson's SAT's and being paid for it were made but Lesure stated that "A.J. is free and clear of any problems related to Georgia."
If FSU is able to land the Insiders four-star ranked power forward Johnson, or even Linas Kleiza who is expected to commit to Missouri but took an official visit to Florida State in October, that will cap an amazing class for second year coach Leonard Hamilton and will show how he has effectively restructured the Seminoles into a team that can compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
If FSU is to fail on getting either of these kids Leonard Hamilton showed last year with his late signing of unknown Tim Pickett that he recruits until the day the ball is tipped off and that should give Seminole fans plenty to cheer about.