As a consistent top-25 team in the AP Poll, the Florida State Seminoles men’s basketball team has been really good all season, but one thing that’s been even better is the play of Mfiondu Kabengele coming off the bench for FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton.
Through 28 games, Kabengele hasn’t started once, but he leads the team in scoring and averages just over 13 points per game while ranking third on Florida State snagging 5.5 rebounds. The most impressive part is that he put up those numbers while playing only 20.4 minutes a game, and that is exactly why he is the obvious choice for the ACC Sixth Man of the Year.
If you spread Kabengele’s scoring average over a full game, he’d average 25.7 points per 40 minutes, which ranks No. 15 in all of NCAA Division I college basketball. The only player in the Atlantic Coast Conference to average more points per 40 minutes is R.J. Barrett of Duke, a player expected to go in the top-five during the 2019 NBA Draft.
Kabengele honed his skills playing one season of junior college ball at Don Bosco Prep Institute (IL), where he averaged a double-double of 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. Prior to that, the 6-foot-10, Burlington, Ontario-born forward averaged 14.5 points as a senior in high school.
Since the ACC schedule began, he’s been solid with averages of 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds while playing just 22.4 minutes a game. His best games came against Boston College, Syracuse and Louisville, but arguably his best was the team’s 80-78 loss to Duke. In that January 12 game against the Blue Devils, Kabengele finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals in 25 minutes of action.
The redshirt sophomore shows he can handle more minutes as well. In eight games this season where he played at least 24 minutes, he raises his game to average 19.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.
There are few players who perform even close to the level Kabengele has, but also come off the bench for a majority of their team’s games. The closet player in scoring in the ACC who has single-digit starts is Nassir Little of North Carolina. As a freshman, Little is averaging 9.7 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Tar Heels.
He is fourth on the team in scoring and third in rebounds, but plays just 18.3 minutes per game. He is scoring 21.1 points per 40 minutes, but is still way behind Kabengele in that category.
Something else I think helps Kabengele in the run for this award is his importance to his team. He has been the top player for his team on many nights even though he is coming off the bench. And really, Kabengele may have a case for Most Improved Player in the conference as well with the giant leap he has made from last year to this year.