With the departure of Richard Howell and CJ Leslie, NC State is left with huge shoes to fill in the paint this season. The question is, who will fill them?
This offseason, NC State signed 4-star big man Beejay Anya. Many believed it would be he who stepped in at center and started for the Wolfpack. Just one problem. Anya showed up to Raleigh a little out of shape and so far hasn’t earned enough confidence from the coaches in his ability to produce at an ACC level. So where does NC State go from here?
Jordan Vandenberg was a 7’0 project player signed by Sidney Lowe in the class of 2009. Nobody expected much from Vandy when he arrived on campus that season, but it all changed with one dunk.
(skip to the 37 second mark)
With that slam, NC State fans started wondering if they had maybe found something. That season Vandenberg played well as a backup to State center Tracy Smith. He gave the fans a taste of what he was capable of when he dominated the defensive paint against Arizona on Dec. 23rd of that year. With Smith suspended, Vandy went for 11 boards and altered shot after shot. It could have become the beginning of a great career. Instead it became just a blip on the radar. Smith returned soon after and Vandenberg never saw significant time again.
The next season Jordan would play the first quarter of the season as a key reserve, logging significant minutes in 7 of the first 10 games. But with nearly as many fouls as rebounds during that span, he quickly fell out of favor with the coaches and was relegated to bench duty.
At the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, and under a new coaching staff, there was a sense that Jordan’s opportunity may have passed. State had tons of high-level front court talent and he had shown up to camp a little out of shape. He wasn’t moving well on defense, he was confused about his role in the new fast paced offensive and it seemed like his confidence was shot. After Gottfried tried him out in the first 5 games of the season, they discovered that he was dealing with a shoulder injury and decided to give him a medical redshirt.
With a year of redshirting, State hoped that Vandenberg could improve in a lot of areas. They needed him to be active and physical on defense without fouling. They needed him to be able to run the court, and they needed him to do this against bigger, more talented opponents.
That never happened.
Vandy once again showed up out of shape and there were rumbling that he wasn’t taking basketball as serious as he once did. It showed. Although he didn’t get many chances, when he did it seemed disastrous. Jordan seemed nervous, lost, and without confidence in himself. He finished the season averaging 5 minutes per game, .7 points and .7 rebounds per game. This could have been the final chapter for the Aussie’s career….but it wasn’t.
With a majority of their talent gone, State fans began focusing on the future. A talented freshman class, stacked with front court talent, all the media hype was around Anya, Washington and Freeman. Forgotten was the lone senior on the roster, Jordan Vandenberg. But that didn’t stop him this offseason. He worked and worked to get back into playing shape, knowing that if he couldn’t run the court then he would become obsolete.
This offseason Jordan shed over 40 pounds and worked to acclimate himself to the running style that Gottfried has implemented. On Friday he had his coming out party. A quicker, faster, more confident Vandenberg dominated the paint at the Wolfpack’s ‘Primetime with the Pack’ season opening scrimmage. He was dunking, playing physical inside and ruling the boards. He finished 6 of 9 with 12 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes of play. As funny as it sounds, Vandy was the perfect compliment to Tyler Lewis. Lewis continuously pushed the tempo up the floor and each time it was Vandenberg running right with him. He’s obviously in better shape and might be making as case to be NC State’s starting center this year.
(In case you missed this vid from yesterday, check it out! Lots of Vandy highlights.)
It’s been a long, bumpy roller coaster ride for Vandenberg, but it might just end up having a happy ending. If he can stay out of foul trouble, focus on keeping up with State’s point guards, and really get physical on the boards, Jordan Vandenberg might finally be that finished project Wolfpack fans were hoping for.
NC State is a Slight Underdog in ACC Opener vs. Boston College
NC State (4-2) will play their first ACC game of the 2023-24 season tomorrow on the road against Boston College (5-2), and they enter the game as slight underdogs. The Wolfpack are 1.5-point underdogs, and the Total is 150.5.
- NC State is 0-2 Straight Up as underdogs
- BC is 4-1 Straight Up as favorites.
- NC State is 2-4 Against the Spread.
- BC is 4-3 Against the Spread
- The Total has gone Under in 2 games for NC State, Over in 3 and Pushed in 1.
- The Total has gone Under in 3 games for Boston College and Over in 4.
- NC State is 6-4 in their last 10 games against BC Straight Up.
- NC State is 4–6 Against the Spread in their last 10 games against BC.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 games, and Under in the other 5.
#5 NC State 70 Vanderbilt 62: BOX SCORE (with notes)
The 5th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team improved to 8-0 tonight, defeating Vanderbilt 70-62 in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
- Saniya Rivers scored 20+ points for the 2nd time this season, scoring 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting. She also chipped in 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
- River Baldwin posted her first double-double of the season. She scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards.
- Aziaha James has now scored in double figures in 7 of 8 games, scoring 14 points tonight, shooting 6 of 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
- Freshman Zoe Brooks led the Pack in steals (4) and assists (4).
- NC State didn’t shoot well, making only 39% of their shots. Fortunately, they held Vandy to 34.3% shooting.
The Wolfpack will host Illinois State on Sunday at 2pm.
NC State Stat Leaders Heading into the ACC Opener vs Boston College
This Saturday, NC State heads to Boston College for the now-annual early ACC opener. The Pack will face off against the Eagles at 4pm on ACC Network. Here is where the team is statistically after 6 games.
- Casey Morsell leads NC State in scoring with 14.5 ppg.
- The Pack has 4 double-digit scorers this season. Morsell (14.5), Jayden Taylor (13.3), DJ Burns (13) and DJ Horne (11.2)
(Last season State had 4 double-digit scorers as well. Terquavion (17.9), Joiner (17), Burns (12.5) and Morsell (11.8))
- After their top 4 scorers there is a big dip. Parker comes in at 6.8, O’Connell at 6.3, and Middlebrooks at 5.5 ppg.
(Last season Jack Clark was 5th on the team in scoring at 9 points and Mahorcic was at 8.7. However, both guys missed a large chunk of the season.)
- Burns is leading NC State in rebounding this year at 5.3 per game. Diarra is next with 5.3 (but is currently hampered by an ankle injury.)
- O’Connell is leading NC State in assists with 3.3 per game, and Burns is up next with 2.5. PG DJ Horne is only averaging 2.
- LJ Thomas and Mike O’Connell are tied in leading the team at .15 assists per minute.
- Jayden Taylor is leading NC State in 3pt %, shooting an outstanding 45.8%, while Morsell is up next at 34.6%. Horne is close behind at 33%.
(LJ Thomas is shooting 50% from 3, but only has 2 attempts.)
- Burns is leading the bigs, shooting 56.5% from the floor, while Middlebrooks is close behind at 54.2%. Dennis Parker Jr is coming in at 45.2%.
- For the guards, it’s Casey Morsell leading the way at 44.6% from the floor, while O’Connell is next up at 43.4%. Taylor is shooting 42.4%, and DJ Horne is struggling a bit, shooting just 34.8% from the field.
- Jayden Taylor is turning the ball over the most at 1.8 times per game, while Burns is next at 1.7. Morsell is at 1.5 and O’Connell is at 1.2. DJ Horne has been doing a good job of protecting the basketball, turning it over just .3 times per game.
NC State 52 Ole Miss 72: Box Score (with notes)
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team lost it’s second straight game tonight, losing 52-72 on the road at Ole Miss in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. Below is the Box Score with some notes below.
- Ben Middlebrooks posted a double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards. To be honest, Middlebrooks was the only bright spot in this game.
- Casey Morsell was the only other player to score in double figures (12 points), but it wasn’t pretty, shooting 5 of 14 from the field.
- One of the poorest statistical shooting performance I can remember.
- NC State shot 31.8% from the field and 12% from three (3-25).
- The Wolfpack’s DNA on defense is turning over their opponent, and they were unable to do so tonight, turning over the Rebels only 7 times.
- For comparison, the Wolfpack turned it over 13 times, giving them a Turnover Margin tonight of -6.
- Heading into tonight, they averaged a Turnover Margin of +7.8.
- Ole Miss scored 13 points off of turnovers, compared to NC State’s 4.
- This is the first time this season that NC State failed to force their opponent to commit at least 10 turovers.
- NC State was -25 when D.J. Burns was on the court, which was the worst on the team.
- NC State was +3 when L.J. Thomas was on the court, and +2 when Ben Middlebrooks were on the court. They were the only two players in the positive.
- Thomas and Middlebrooks should have earned themselves some more playing time going forward.
- Ole Miss’ length was problematic for the Wolfpack, blocking 9 of their shots.
There will be more analysis on this game coming tomorrow.