NBA Style: TJ will undoubtedly benefit from the open space and the up-tempo style in the NBA. The NBA is all about creativity and maximizing possessions, for example the Phoenix Suns were ranked 8th in Pace at 98.2 offensive possessions per 48 minutes. Since the shot clock in the NBA is only 24 seconds this means teams must be quick on the attack and must create their own shot more often than in the college game. TJ excels at using his creativity and craftiness to score on a variety of floaters, mid-range shots, and the use of the euro-step in the open court.
Skill Set: TJ has the unique ability to create his own shot and the ability to be efficient offensively without the need to have a play called for him. While at State TJ was virtually unstoppable when he was isolated and guarded 1 on 1, most often this resulted in 2 points. Another skill that will aid TJ in his development is the fact that he has had to use a variety of shots and creativity to score at the college level. Rarely did we see TJ use raw athleticism to score over opponents this past season. However he used great body control and his size to score in the paint and in transition. TJ possesses enough athletic ability to score in the open court; coupled with his wise use of angles he will continue to be a terror in the open court at the NBA level. Lastly I want to point out how skilled TJ is around the rim. At times it seemed like there was a magnet around the rim for TJ, he has an innate ability to score around the basket. We saw him score on put backs, offensive rebounds, post ups, floaters, mid-range pull-ups, dunks, and in transition. By having all of these tools in the bag TJ will benefit the Suns.
Why Phoenix: The Suns are a young up-and-coming team that really out played early season expectations last year. New coach Jeff Hornacek brought an improved offensive scheme that the players bought into. He allowed his players to play in a way that catered to their strengths, for example he used a two point guard line in order to have his best players on the court. TJ will benefit by playing with two of the premiere point guards in the league, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Both of these players demand hedging and doubling off of the pick and rolls because of their ability to get into the paint and finish. This will lead to TJ having the opportunity to score on the other side with a 3 on 2 advantage.
Improvement: There are a few areas where TJ will have to improve in order to have a sustained NBA career. In my opinion he will have to develop a more consisting jumper from the three-point arc. Three point field goals are a big part of the Suns offensive philosophy, the Suns attempted 25.1 threes per game. Another area of improvement is in his playmaking ability. While at State TJ was called upon to be more of a scorer rather than a facilitator; however, in Phoenix he will not be the first option. He must be willing to make the extra pass in order to get the best shot available.
Prediction: The sky is the limit for TJ! I honestly believe he will have long and prosperous career in the association. He has a variety of skills that are unique for someone of his size that will help him thrive in the up-tempo offensive environment of the NBA. Work ethic and desire have never been questioned in regards to TJ and I know he will continue to hone his skills and make his weaknesses become strengths. All TJ wants to do is play ball, he will do everything necessary to make sure he continues to live his dream for as long as he can!
NC State vs. UMES: BY THE NUMBERS
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 93-61 on Wednesday night. Here’s a look at the Wolfpack victory BY THE NUMBERS.
NC State dominated in all 4 Factors that lead to victory. They shot better, won the turnover battle, grabbed more offensive boards and got to the free throw line more.
Six NC State players scored in double figures. Last time that happened? March 6, 2020.
Junior Jayden Taylor led the Wolfpack in scoring with 21 points, shooting an impressive 8 of 11 from the field, and 3 of 5 from three. Over the past 2 games, Taylor is shooting 68% from the field and 63% from beyond the arc. Taylor has now led NC State in scoring in 3 of their 8 games, and is averaging a team high 14.9 points on the season. He is also shooting an insane 50% from deep, which is obviously a team high. What makes that number so impressive, is the fact he shot 32.6% from three last year at Butler.
Senior DJ Burns had 15 points, and was back to his normal self, shooting an efficient 7 of 9 from the field. Over the prior two games, Burns had made only 40% of his shots, which isn’t like him.
Senior Casey Morsell had 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting (1-4 3PT) and 5 rebounds. Morsell is shooting 36.1% from three on the year.
Sophomore MJ Rice made his NC State debut, and made the most of his 10 minutes of playing time, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team high 6 rebounds (2 offensive boards). He shot 5 of 6 from the field.
Sophomore LJ Thomas continued to provide a spark for the Pack, and like Rice, maximized his playing time, scoring 10 points in 9 minutes of play. He also had a team high 3 steals.
Senior DJ Horne had 10 points, shooting 4 of 7 from the field, and 2 of 5 from three-point land. Horne also led NC State with 4 assists, and now leads the team in assists on the year.
Junior Ben Middlebrooks picked up his first start of the season. Middlebrooks and Junior Mohamed Diarra ended up playing equal minutes (14). Diarra was seemingly more productive, with 8 points and 5 boards (averaging a team high 6.9), compared to Middlebrooks’ 2 points and 4 boards. Before you write off Middlebrooks’ impact in his first game as a starter, NC State was +23 with him on the court, which was a team high, compared to Diarra’s +7.
The Wolfpack will be back in action next Tuesday night in PNC Arena, against UT Martin at 7pm.
NC State’s NET Ranking After Defeating Maryland Eastern Shore
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 93-61 last night, improving to 6-2 on the season. Ironically, they fell one spot in the NET Rankings, from 51st to 52nd.
NC State’s two losses were against #1 BYU (!) and Ole Miss (#89). BYU was a Quad 1 loss, and Ole Miss was a Quad 2 loss.
The Wolfpack currently rank 7th in the ACC.
ACC Teams in NET Rankings
52) NC State
71) Virginia Tech
91) Boston College
105) Wake Forest
107) Florida St.
159) Georgia Tech
212) Notre Dame
For a refresher on how the NET Rankings are calculated:
Using the quadrant system, which was in its fourth season in 2020-21, the quality of wins and losses will be organized based on game location and the opponent’s NET ranking.
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
The number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3/4 losses will be incredibly important when it comes time for NCAA tournament selection and seeding. (NCAA)
Kansas Transfer MJ Rice Makes Quite the Impression in his NC State Debut
We’ve seen a lot of new faces on the NC State Men’s Basketball team this season, but one face we haven’t seen yet is Kansas Transfer Guard/Forward M.J. Rice (6’5″/215)…until tonight.
Rice stepped away from the program for personal reasons earlier this Fall, and when he returned, he had a little catching up to do. It wasn’t until today during shoot around that Rice and Keatts both knew that tonight would be his debut.
“He’d been practicing for the last couple of weeks, and you know, I was just trying to figure out when he was ready. He and I, we talked a little bit after shoot around today and I said ‘MJ you ready to go tonight?'” said Kevin Keatts. “and he had this big huge smile on his face. He’s like ‘You sure you ready?’ He’s like ‘Ask me some plays.’ So he and I sit over there on the scores table at the Dale and we went over plays and I was like ‘You know what, you are ready to play.'”
Out of all the transfers Keatts brought in this offseason, Rice might have the highest ceiling. Rice was a 5-Star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, and ON3 ranked him as the #24 overall prospect nationally. He committed to Kansas, where he played in 23 games for the Jayhawks as a Freshman in 2022, averaging 2.2 points in 7.6 minutes per game. Rice was a huge pickup in the Transfer Portal, ranked as the #2 player in the Portal, with three years of eligibility remaining.
Rice also isn’t new to the area either, playing high school ball at Durham Academy, before heading off to Oak Hill Academy and Prolific Prep.
In a short sample size, Rice gave us a glimpse of what the hype is all about tonight. He scored 11 points in 11 minutes of play, also grabbing 6 boards. Rice was 5-6 from the field, and hit the only three he took. In the most electrifying play of the night, Rice took it coast-to-coast, finishing with a soaring dunk.
“He gives us another dimension. We’ve been playing with six of our new dudes. Now we added the seventh and I’m happy for him. He’s going to help us. He’s going to be really good for us.” said Keatts. “I said this on the radio just now…we’ve got some older guys, but two really good young players in Dennis Parker Jr. and also MJ Rice. It was good for MJ to see the ball going in. I think he played 10 minutes had 11 points. He made a three. He had a big time dunk, so I was excited for him.”
“He gives us the ability to play a little bit more small ball. If we have to, we can play him and Dennis Parker both at the three and four. Really good defender at that position and can rebound the basketball,” said Keatts. “It’s going to take time. I’m trying to figure out how to kind of put him into the rotation, and now we’ve added another really good exciting piece to it, but it was good to have him back out there.”
Welcome to the Pack MJ! We’re glad you’ve arrived!