England could provide spark for FSU in postseason push

Tiana England’s return to the court could be just the spark for Florida State as the Seminoles make a late-season push.

The grad transfer point guard from St. John’s played 12 minutes and 39 seconds off the bench in her FSU debut in a loss at Miami on Sunday. England had 509 assists at St. John’s and started 93 games.

“It really felt amazing to just be on the court,” said England, who was medically cleared to practice last week. “I feel like I have a ton of improvement to do chemistry-wise with my team. Off the court, we’ve built amazing bonds … It will be a challenge being so late in the season joining in, but it’s been great. I’m super excited to be back.”

England will play her first home game as a Seminole on Thursday when FSU plays host to Syracuse at 8 p.m. (ACC Network). Whether she starts or comes off the bench, England should provide a boost as FSU (6-5, 5-5 ACC) make a push in the final six regular-season games (five of which are at home). 

The Seminoles have dropped three of their last four games, although all of those games were on the road. FSU now can enjoy the comfort of playing at home, although the schedule is a challenge. Following Syracuse, FSU will face Miami, Georgia Tech, No. 3 Louisville, travel to Notre Dame and finish back at home with Wake Forest.

“This stretch is very, very important,” England said. “And coming off of our last loss, we’ve spoken on the importance of our mindset, just coming into practice every day. These next four games, it’ll tell our fate for the rest of the season.”

FSU has often been shorthanded this season, with Kourtney Weber battling an ankle injury as well as other injuries that prompted the Seminoles to use just eight players in games. England’s return to the court could be a significant boost, offering a veteran presence and leader on the court. 

England averaged more than five assists per game at St. John’s and impressed in games against the Seminoles the last few years (she had 11 points and three assists in a Dec. 2019 game in Tallahassee). When she opted to go into the transfer portal, England said she felt a connection with Sue Semrau as well as assistants Brooke Wyckoff and Joy McCorvey. England also talked with Kiah Gillespie, who shared her experiences about transferring to FSU after beginning her career at Maryland.

Wyckoff, now FSU’s interim head coach, said England caught their eye and thought her personality as well as experience at point guard blended with what the Seminoles needed for the 2020-21 season.

“We were really excited to have the opportunity to recruit Tiana,” Wyckoff said. “We’d played St. John’s the last two seasons and had seen what she was able to do live and in person and really just as we got to know her really loved who she was as a person and her experience level. 

“Now that she’s on the court again, that experience even as she’s learning what we’re doing, obviously watching it and doing it are two different things, but she just brings another level of experience at that position that we just haven’t had. That’s been really, really nice to see her operate while she’s still figuring things out and getting her rhythm back.”

Tiana England, who had 509 assists at St. John’s, high-fives Brooke Wyckoff after a win. (photo by Mike Olivella)