A Look Ahead: 2015-16 Outlook for FSU Women’s Basketball


Second and final part of an end-of-season review for the FSU Women’s Basketball team. Part 1, a look back, can be found here. Part 2 will be a look forward to next season and how high the potential may be.

Although reaching the Elite 8 and coming so close to the Final 4 before losing a hard fought game is never an easy pill to swallow, there are many bright spots left on the FSU Women’s Basketball roster for the 2015-2016 season. There were just 2 seniors, starter Maegan Conwright and bench player Lauren Coleman, on this past year’s squad. Although these two will be missed, the Seminoles return 11 of their 12 top scorers from last season. This equates to 83.5% of last year’s scoring returning for the next season with FSU returning 4 of its 5 players who averaged 10+ points from this past season.

Conwright did many things very well for the ‘Noles, but rebounding was not one of them. All of the major paint influences, from Adut Bulgak to Shakayla Thomas to Leticia Romero and more are returning for next season and FSU returns 93.4% of its total rebounds and 95.4% of its total blocks from this past season on next year’s squad.

Here is a look at the returning players and what they can bring to the table next season:

Projected Starters

Mar 29, 2015; Greensboro, NC, USA;Florida State Seminoles center Adut Bulgak (2) falls after grabbing a rebound during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the finals of the Greensboro Regional of the 2015 women

Adut Bulgak (6′ 4″ Senior Center)

Bulgak, in her first year with Florida State after transferring from Trinity Valley College, led the ‘Noles in scoring (12.3), rebounding (9.5), and blocks (1.5). She had a strong start to the season with many double-doubles but was not able to rebound as strongly down the stretch and did not provide double-doubles when the Seminoles really needed them. Despite the lower number of rebounds that Bulgak brought in down the stretch, she still nearly broke the FSU single-season rebound record, finishing with 332, just 4 short of Cherry River’s record. For the ’15-’16 season, that record will be on Bulgak’s mind and well within her reach, as she would need just a marginally better rebounding average to break the record. Expect Bulgak to also improve on her scoring and defensive presence as well, quite possibly leading the team in the same categories again next season.

Mar 29, 2015; Greensboro, NC, USA;Florida State Seminoles guard Leticia Romero (10) dribbles past South Carolina Gamecocks guard Olivia Gaines (2) during the first half in the finals of the Greensboro Regional of the 2015 women

Leticia Romero (5′ 8″ Junior Point Guard)

Romero, another player who just finished her first year with FSU after transferring from Kansas State, was ineligible until late December but started playing late in non-conference play and immediately had a large impact on the Florida State squad offensively and defensively. Romero averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game, also leading the Seminoles in 3-point field goal percentage (45%) and free throw percentage (77.4%). Next year, Romero will continue to run the point for the ‘Noles and should grow as a player in her first full year with FSU. She had 2 triple-doubles last season and could easily best that number next season.

Dec 4, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Michigan State forward Annalise Pickrel (11) rights for position against Florida State Seminoles forward Ivey Slaughter (23) during the game at the Donald L. Tucker Center (Tallahassee). Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Ivey Slaughter (6′ 1″ Junior Forward)

Slaughter was a regular contributor to the ’14-’15 FSU team, starting in 36 out of 37 games and averaging 23.6 minutes per game while scoring 10.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Ivey was a large rebounding help for the ‘Noles, especially on the offensive glass as she had more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds last season. One place with room for improvement in Slaughter’s game is her ability to stay out of foul trouble. She had 102 fouls last season, an average of 2.8 per game, and the most of any player on the team. However, there will probably be a minor shift in FSU’s play style for next season as FSU started 3 guards this past season and will probably replace Conwright with Shakayla Thomas in the starting lineup, moving to a more traditional 2-2-1 lineup. This will be effective in taking some of the interior pressure off of Slaughter and should allow her to stay on the court more next season.

Jan 22, 2015; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Brittany Brown (12) celebrates after the game against the Louisville Cardinals at the Tucker Center (Tallahassee). The Florida State Seminoles upset #4 Louisville 68-63. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Brittany Brown (5′ 8″ Junior Guard)

Brown, who is in the loaded junior class with Leticia Romero and Ivey Slaughter that represents 3/5 of the starting lineup, is one of just 3 Seminole players who participated in all 37 of FSU’s games this past season. Brown averaged 6.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game in the ’14-’15 campaign. Despite having decent stats, Brown has earned her minutes as a lockdown defender who can challenge even the most competent offensive players. Going forward, that will continue to be her role. She has streaks of very good shooting, including 12 points in the loss to South Carolina, but is by no means a player who will average double figures for FSU.

Shakayla Thomas (5′ 11″ Sophomore Forward)

The only projected starter who did not start last year, Thomas seems like the obvious choice to replace Conwright in the starting lineup as she was named the ACC Sixth Player of the Year for her freshman season. Thomas measures in at just 5′ 11,” which is undersized for a forward, but plays way bigger than her height as she averaged 4.8 rebounds per game off the bench last season. She is also the type of player who can change the game with her ability to hit many different types of shots, averaging 10.0 points per game in her freshman campaign. To say the least, Thomas is a game-changer and her probable addition to the starting lineup will provide a spark in scoring, rebounding, and energy.

Projected Bench Players

Morgan Jones (6′ 2″ Senior Guard) – Jones could be the primary 3-point specialist for the ‘Noles next season as she was second on the team last year in 3-pointers made behind only Conwright. Being a larger guard also makes her a mismatch for the traditional guard and someone who can cause problems with her length. Jones should increase her numbers for next season as she will earn more minutes with the departure of Conwright.

Emiah Bingley (5′ 7″ Senior Guard) – Bingley appeared in every game for FSU last season and was a consistent contributor, averaging 4.3 points, 1.8 rebounds per game, and 0.8 steals per game. Expect Bingley to get more playing time with the departure of Conwright.

Shakena Richardson (5′ 4″ Senior Guard) – Richardson is an adept passer, racking up 2.6 assists per game to go with her 3.o points per game last season. She is another player who plays well above her size as she was the smallest member of last year’s team by 3 inches yet had multiple blocks.

Kai James (6′ 5″ Junior Center) – At 6′ 5″, James is the tallest member of this Florida State team. She also has a big frame that makes her an intimidating presence in the paint. Last season, James’ numbers went down a tad as she dropped from 3.8 points per game to 2.5. There are questions about her athleticism that might keep her from ever seeing significant minutes, but if she can improve on her athleticism, she will be a great addition to the ‘Noles off of the bench.

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Projected Season Outlook

Next season will be a completely different battle for Florida State than this past year was. Entering the ’14-’15 season, the Seminoles were projected to finish 5th in the ACC and receive a middle of the road bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, FSU exceeded all expectations and as we know, had a historic season. As the ’15-’16 season approaches, the media outlets will probably project FSU to finish 1st or 2nd in the ACC and receive another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. This season will be about how well Florida State responds to the pressure of being one of the teams to beat in all of women’s basketball.

Nonetheless, I think the Seminoles rise up to the challenge and have another very successful season. I believe that they have an outside chance of winning the ACC for the first time in program history, earning their first ever #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and advancing to the first Final 4 in program history. The challenge will be tough, but I believe that this team is capable of achieving it.