Tonight at 7pm at the PNC Arena Wolfpack fans will get their first glimpse of their 2013-2014 NC State basketball team. They will have player intros, a skills competition and finish off with a scrimmage. Admission is free and we’ll be there covering it live for you (via tweet). Now, here are a few things we think you should focus on:
1) Has Tyler Lewis taken the reins?
When the Wolfpack recruited Lewis they knew he was a natural born leader, but I don’t think they envisioned handing over the keys to a sophomore. With that said, I don’t think the team could be in better hands. NC State hasn’t had a real ‘take-charge’ vocal leader since Engin Atsur was at the point during Sidney Lowe’s first season. Lewis has put on considerable size. Now, he’s not going to come out with some bulging biceps or anything, but he’s put on some good weight. He’s broadened his shoulders and thickened up with muscle. These are things we harped on last season and we knew that Lewis needed to put on muscle if he wanted to be a 40 minute per game guy.
Really watch how he controls the team. He’s hopefully going to be vocal and seem like an extension of Gottfried on the floor. All the talk has been about how great he has been as a leader, so it will be interesting to see this live tonight.
2) Is Warren ready to be elite?
TJ was good last year. He was real good, but that’s not going to be good enough this season. Warren needs to take the next step. Take note during the scrimmage at his attack points. How is he focusing on scoring? From what I’ve heard, he’s become more versatile off the dribble. He’s shed his baby fat and trimmed up a good bit which will certainly add to his quickness and explosiveness. But with less mass does he lose his ability to make space in traffic? I don’t know, and these are things to really watch closely tonight. Don’t just focus on how many point TJ puts up, but how he’s attempting to do it. Watching that will give you a good idea on how Gottfried and the staff has been coaching him to become their go-to scorer.
Another thing I’m interested to see is how Warren reacts to his role. State isn’t going to win if TJ needs to be a volume scorer, shooting the ball every time he touches it. They need him to be efficient and use his teammates to create opportunities for himself. We’ve seen the “You’re the go-to guy” media attention go to players heads and really hurt them, by making them think they need to force it and force it until they score. I think Warren is smarter than this, but it will be something to watch.
3) Is Ralston Turner really that good?
I’m going to be honest. I’ve only seen Ralston play live on one occasion and I wasn’t all that impressed. He came from LSU where he was scoring at a pretty good clip, but also taking a ton of shots. I know he loves to pull up and settle for jumpers and I know he’s got a great frame. What I wasn’t so sure about where his shot mechanics and his ability to use his frame to attack the basket. Again, I’m basing this off of about a half hour of watching the guy play, but I’m just letting you know my initial opinion.
With that said, every single time TJ and Tyler have been interviewed this preseason, they’ve mentioned Ralston when asked about ‘Who is going to step up? or ‘Who can become another scorer for this team?’ They watch him play everyday so I’d be much more willing to take their word for it. So really, one of the biggest things I’m looking for tonight is ‘How good can Turner be?’ Is this guy a scorer, is he versatile, does he lock down on defense? or is he just a shooter? I’ll be watching closely tonight.
4. Are the freshmen ACC ready?
The answer to this question can go a long way in predicting just how good the Pack can be this season. Kyle Washington, Cat Barber, Beejay Anya and Lennard Freeman are going to be relied upon, some for major minutes. So what can we expect from them?
I think the key here is the bigs. Although Barber is State’s prize recruit, I think the Wolfpack’s major weakness is going to be inside. Losing Leslie and Howell is not easy to replace. Can Washington step in and give State what Leslie was giving them? Not right off the bat, but I know Washington will bring a much more disciplined, much more hungry brand of basketball to the table. And will Anya be in shape? I know he reported to Raleigh a little bigger than expected, and with Gott’s love for fast basketball I wonder how Anya fits in. Rebounding wise, this guy is going to own the boards. I don’t see how he can’t,. But can he produce on offense and is he quick enough and smart enough on defense to stay out of foul trouble while still making it hard on opposing bigs? Again, I don’t know. For Anya, watch his positioning and his conditioning. For Washington, watch his demeanor. Does he look nervous or does he look ready to contribute? And what about Freeman? Is he even ACC ready? I have no real expectations for him, so he has the real ability to surprise some people tonight.
Then you have Cat Barber. This is the guy NC State fans are really excited for. I’m sure (if he plays #concussion) that you’ll be able to see his quicks and his speed. I know he has that, but what about his ability to lead? What about his interaction with his teammates on the court? Is he going to step in as the ‘I’m the McDonald’s All-American, I need to get mine.’ type attitude or is he going to come in and really get his teammates involved and try to really find his role. How do he and Lewis coincide? Does Barber become more of a 2 guy? Do they switch off PG duties? It will be interesting to see because it’s obvious Lewis is at his best when he’s handling the ball a majority of the time. However, we might not get to see this because Gott might have them on different sides in the scrimmage.
5) Who and what is Dez Lee?
State hasn’t brought on a JUCO in quite some time, but the choice to go after Lee, in my opinion, scared off Purvis. The staff loves Lee. Julius Hodge loves Lee. Tyler Lewis and TJ Warren love Lee’s game. So how good is this guy? I’m seeing the hype and his highlight reel looks nice, but I’ve learned not to trust that anymore (i.e. Trevor Ferguson). Lee is going to be very important for NC State. I hear he can really score in transition, but what about against ACC level talent? Can he guard bigger, stronger guards? He’s going to need to because he’s the biggest guard they have. He’s got an ACC frame and he’s built like a football player, but he really needs to have a defensive mind about him this season. Will he, or is he still raw on the defensive end? It’s going to be interesting to see how his game looks live.
bonus: Can we expect much from Jordan Vandenberg?
I haven’t seen big V play all summer, but I really hope he put in work. This is a guy who really could be a factor for the Pack if he could get his confidence back and focus on defense and rebounding. I know that nobody wants to improve more than Jordan (we see and hear it on Twitter), but has he put in the effort this offseason? Is he more vocal and more of a leader? I desperately want him to become a factor this season and State desperately needs that. I’ll be watching him closely tonight to see where he’s at.
Now sure, it might seem like I should just give these guys the benefit of the doubt and write all the great things you should watch them do, but as State fans we’ve been burned in the past by just about every scenario you can imagine. I’m just listing the possibilities here and listing some honest things that I’m going to be focusing hard on. I hope you will do the same! We will have a write-up that reviews these things after the game and I’ll have my opinions of what I saw late tonight or tomorrow morning after the game.