It has been quite a week for NC State basketball. Between Mark Gottfried to UCLA talk, the on-again-off-again Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie to the NBA talk (not to mention TJ Warren), and the constant transfer rumors, Wolfpack fans have not been able sit still all week. So, where do we go from here?
While this saga is not necessarily over, Mark Gottfried did make an attempt to calm down the Wolfpack faithful on Wednesday night with a reassuring tweet. It has been known ever since he took the job two years ago, that UCLA is Gottfried’s “dream job”. I truly believe that Westwood is the only destination that the coach would willingly leave for.
Working under the assumption that Mark Gottfried is actually staying put in Raleigh, NC State can maintain some stability. Could NC State have replaced him with a good coach (especially with $3.75 million from his buyout)? Definitely. But no athletic department wants to go through turnover within years. Gottfried, who is a very good recruiter, can now sell stability and his continuing vision for the program. If he can work through what is looking like a tough year next year, the next few years could be fruitful for the Wolfpack.
While it has been almost set-in-stone that Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie would make the jump to the NBA since the start of the season, there has still been some drama in the last few days regarding the two All-ACC performers.
Brown officially announced on Thursday that he would forego his senior season for the professional ranks. As a non-qualifier out of Centennial High School in Roswell, GA, Brown needed a season at Hargrave Military Academy before making it to Raleigh. Zo finished his career at State as one of the better point guards in recent memory.
Leslie, as a local star, was seen as a game-changing recruit when he picked the Wolfpack. He certainly had a good career, but it is up for debate just how good. While his numbers for three seasons certainly looked good, his play varied from game-to-game (and sometimes by the minute). I would expect Leslie’s official announcement that he is headed to the pros with the next week. Combined with Brown, Richard Howell, and Scott Wood, there will be some huge holes in the team next season.
TJ Warren is the one wildcard in terms of his professional ambitions. Many, including his father, believe he could be a late first round pick if he were to make the jump this season. However, there is a common line of thinking that if he were to return, that Warren could play his way into the lottery in 2014. I think this is his wisest move, but if he hears that he would be a first-rounder, then I would not blame him at all for making the move. Warren’s return is perhaps the most important issue for this program next season.
This has by far been the most frustrating part of the last few days. With anybody and everybody having “sources” regarding the potential roster shakeup, things have gotten pretty convoluted.
In one case, I do believe the adage of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” applies. The last few weeks have seen rampant speculation about Rodney Purvis’ future. It has been evident, due both to decreased playing time and behind-the-scenes talk, that something is amiss. Wolfpack fans can only hope that the coaching staff and Purvis can make amends. While State has Ralston Turner eligible next season, as well as possibly picking up junior college guard Desmond Lee, Purvis would be a difference-maker.
The other recent rumor mill subject has been Tyler Lewis. I am less inclined to believe this one, as there seems to be less concrete information in his case. Lewis has always been known as a fighter, and appears as if he will stick around to battle incoming frosh Cat Barber for the starting point guard spot next year. Lewis’ return is vital for depth, at the very least.
The last player mentioned at all in terms of leaving the team has been Jordan Vandenberg. This would obviously not be as critical as Purvis and/or Lewis returning, but Vandenberg would provide a crucial body in the post. With two freshmen bigs and Warren (if he returns) rotating between the 3 and 4, any extra help could be huge. In the end, I think Vandenberg returns and hopefully improves his game and conditioning.
Taking a look at next season, the outlook will not be nearly as bright as it was for this year. NC State will most likely lose 4 starters (3 all-conference performers), and may lose at least one of the aforementioned transfer possibilities. Mark Gottfried is bringing in a solid recruiting class, but none of the incoming players are seen as an immediate fix. McDonald’s All-American point guard Cat Barber will see plenty of time, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench. Center Beejay Anya may be a starter if he can get his conditioning in check. He is known more for his defense and rebounding, but has pretty good touch around the basket as well. Power forward/center Kyle Washington is not as highly rated as the other two, but brings strong fundamentals to the program, something that has been in short supply in Raleigh recently. All three should see major minutes with another short rotation looking likely next year.
Still on the board for the Wolfpack are the junior college guard, Desmond Lee, and perhaps a graduate transfer (most likely in the frontcourt). Both additions would be huge for depth and could make the difference between an NCAA bubble team and an NIT bubble team. I would expect the Wolfpack to finish somewhere in between, and probably finish as a middle-tier NIT team and look to build for a tournament run the next season.
Making some basic assumptions, next year’s roster should look similar to:
PG: Tyler Lewis, Cat Barber
SG: Rodney Purvis, Desmond Lee
SF: Ralston Turner
PF: TJ Warren, Grad Transfer
C: Beejay Anya, Kyle Washington, Jordan Vandenberg