‘Primetime with the Pack’ Box Score
1.) Tyler Lewis is going to be a superstar, a team leader, and the engine of this Wolfpack team
Unbelievable game by Tyler Lewis. The official boxscore has him down for 16 points and 5 assists (in 20 minutes, mind you) but I’m pretty sure they’re on the low end with that assist total. Lewis put on the best red/white game performance I’ve ever seen. He was in control, he was getting his teammates involved, he was dictating, not only what his players would be doing, but what the defenders would be doing as well. For example: Lewis and Vandenberg were pushing the pace on the break, but it was a 2 on 3. They didnt have numbers and the three defenders were very aware of Vandenberg streaking down the floor. It seemed as if Lewis had no where to go. To his left was a trailing Ralston Turner. Lewis drove in, but when Vandy was covered and he had a man in front of him, he turned out like he was going to pull it back out and kick it to Turner. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the defenders drift out just a bit and relax when Lewis turned his back to them…that’s when Tyler shot a quick behind the head pass to Vandenberg for a dunk.
There are few players like Tyler Lewis in college basketball today that can control the flow, the spacing, and the pace like he can. It’s that coupled by the fact that he just looks like your everyday high school player at the YMCA that really throw defenders off. You could tell that Cat Barber was visibly frustrated at times when guarding Lewis. He was really ratcheting up the defense only to see Lewis use a hesitation move to turn the corner and knock down a floater. You could almost see it in Cat’s body language. He’s a McDonald’s All-American and he’s made a name for himself by thrashing kids like this, but Lewis is a different animal altogether. This isn’t at all a knock on Barber. It’s a compliment to Lewis. As long as his body can withstand the rigors of a full season of 37 minutes per game, this kid is going to lead this team further than many think possible.
2. TJ Warren has trimmed up and has advanced aspects of his game
We all knew TJ was going to be a leading scorer in this one ( he lead his team with 13 points) but if you really watched Warren you saw a different player. He was quicker, more active on defense and more physical in the paint. Warren didn’t dominate the boards or anything (he had 2 rebounds), but he did a little of everything. He finished with 3 steals and 2 blocks in 20 minutes. These are the things that State needs out of Warren. The scoring is his bread and butter, but this team also needs him to be an all-around star. The knock last year was that he was uninterested in those aspects of the game, but tonight he showed differently. He was active on defense, he threw around his weight, and he defended the goal well (with 2 blocks). On offense it was more of the same. His crafty scoring is back and he hit some amazing little floaters, including one where he adjusted his body in the air to get it over Vandenberg. He also took a page out of Paul Pierce’s book when he hit a step back fade away from the elbow over his defender. Warren seems to have taken the necessary steps to become a true All-ACC player.
3. Jordan Vandenberg might finally be coming around
Now, I’m not trying to be negative, but I’ve just been burned by writing columns like this in the past and hyping the Big V, but I feel like I shouldn’t be this excited about the big time game Vandy put up last night. First off, I’m a huge Jordan Vandenberg fan. The reason is that I think there is some massive potential in the kid. I think if he really start realizing his role of defender, rebounder, and cleanup man around the rim, then NC State might strike gold during his senior year. The question is, when will he get serious and take what he wants?
Maybe that time is now. Last night Vandenberg was a man amongst boys, and although that is both figurative and literal Vandy was overall impressive. He finished with 12 points and 7 boards and completely overshadowed his competition for playing time, Beejay Anya.
Vandenberg can be a huge factor for NC State if he performs like he did last night. He played pretty decent defense, he was very aggressive and physical on the boards and he ran the floor well with Tyler Lewis and got a slew of his famous Australian power dunks. I think he’s going to carve out some real playing time for himself if he can keep that up. Anya simply isn’t ready physically or mentally just yet, so now is the time for Jordan to step up.
4. Dez Lee is going to be a bigtime player
This was my first time seeing Lee play live and upon first glance he was a little smaller than I initially thought he’d be. That being said, this kid has major game. His handle, his speed, his confidence and his physicality would have you believe he’s been an ACC star for a while, when in fact he hasn’t even tasted the league yet. Dez has everything a coach wants out of a 2 guard. He attacks the rim with hunger and reckless abandon (he’s going to draw a lot of fouls going to the hoop this season). He knows when to pull up and can knock down the jumper and most importantly he wanted the ball in his hands with the time winding down. With the game close at the end it was Lee, not Warren who was intent on taking the big shots. Lee knocked down a contested 3 to tie the game with 20 seconds left and then after 2 free throws by Tyler Lewis, it was him who went right at the basket, took the contact and got to the free throw line. Having Lewis, Warren and Lee who are willing to take and make big shots is going to be big during ACC play this year.
5. The freshman have talent, but still need some work
Probably the most impressive freshman to me was Lennard Freeman. Yeah, I know, it surprised me too. I was thinking this kid was going to be the least ready of any of the young guys, but Freeman looked the most ready, the least scared and the most polished. He’s got good footwork in the post, a nice touch and he’s very physical. Now, if he wants to really earn PT he’s going to have to learn to knock down FTs (1-7 on the night), but that should come in time. Freeman finished with only 5 points, but he led his team in rebounding and was 2-2 from the floor. He also got to the line 7 times which was a game high. Defensively he was also good. He made things tough for fellow freshman Kyle Washington and wasn’t afraid to mix it up in the paint with anyone.
As for Washington, he is what was expected. He’s a high motor guy who really plays hard on both ends of the floor. He finished with 4 points (2-5) and 7 boards. There’s no doubt that Washington is more versatile than Freeman, but Freeman is obviously the one more comfortable on the block getting physical. This provides Gottfried a nice change of pace based on the competition. If you have a team with a more versatile 4, then Washington is your guy. If you got a team with big bruisers down low then Freeman can slot in. I was impressed with both guys.
Now onto the most talented freshman, Cat Barber. He’s got the speed, he’s got the quickness, but last night Barber just was taken out of his game by Lewis. Barber is going to be really good, so let’s get that out of the way. He’s got everything you want a young PG to have. He just needs to learn the college game. Before everyone jumps all over me here, I’m not saying I was expecting him to be ACC ready in his first scrimmage, but being a McDonald’s All-American and coming in as highly touted as he was, makes you watch him a little closer. I think Barber played outstanding defense and was really, really active on the ball. Lewis is just super crafty and that led to 7 fouls for the freshman. He just couldn’t really stop Tyler and that’s ok, because there might not be a PG in the ACC than can. Barber did let that visibly frustrate him and it took him out of his game. As he grows and continues to compete and learn, he’ll be fine and will be a great 1-2 punch with Lewis.
At the end of the day it actually was a nice game for Barber. He finished with 8 points on 2-4 shooting. He didn’t have an assist and he did commit 7 fouls, but he also was turnover free. Barber didn’t play bad at all, it was just that his competition on this night was just that good.
Oh, I almost forgot about Beejay Anya, which is probably because there really isn’t much to say. Anya is, as expected, a giant. He’s tall, long, and thick, but he just wasn’t able to do much on this night. He finished with 3 points and 3 boards. I think part of it was the fact that Vandenberg was kind of dominant on this night and the other part was that the pace was pretty fast and that doesn’t really lend itself to Anya’s strengths right now. Gottfried is going to have to get Anya to pull a Richard Howell if he wants to be a star, because right now he just didn’t look ready for ACC play (again, not that I was expecting him to, but some of these freshman are going to have to be thrown in the fire).
6 (bonus observation) – Didn’t get a great read on Ralston Turner
Maybe it was the offseason hype around Turner from Pack fans, or maybe it just wasn’t his game, but I didn’t really get a good read on Turner. I can see that he’s a good shooter, he likes to drift to the 3 point line, and that Gott is running Wood’s old plays with him, but is that what he is? Turner has a great frame and seems semi-athletic, but I didn’t really see him attack the rim at all in this one. I’m going to have to watch him more to see what kind of game he’s really bringing to the table. He finished with 5 points, 3 boards and 2 steals. He was 2-3 from the floor and 1-2 from beyond the arc. As of last night he reminds me a lot of junior year Courtney Fells (which is definitely not a bad thing). A guy who seems like he’d be a dominant all-around player, but he’s mainly just a shooter at this point. I could be wrong, and like I said, I need to see more of him before I can give you a real good rundown of what to expect.