If you’re a NC State fan, last night was pretty awesome. We’ll get into the player by player breakdown of the red/white scrimmage in a second, but first I want to talk about that legends game. This is probably my favorite thing the Pack has ever done during one of these season kick-off events. It was amazing seeing all of these guys I grew up idolizing as a kid, going head to head. Corchiani dishing off assists to Monroe, Googs knocking down mid-range jumpers . Hodge scoring on the break and Monte Towe banging home 3s from all over the place. This was truly a treat for long time Wolfpack fans. I think this was also great to educate the nation. The game was on ESPN3, so it’s not like it was nationally televised on cable, but I’m sure recruits were watching and I’m sure they had no idea that Vinny Del Negro or Tom Gugliotta went to NC State. This was a great addition to the event and I hope they keep this tradition around.
Ok now onto what you guys really want to talk about…this year’s basketball team.
Overall I thought the performance could have been better. The guys seemed a little tentative and a little shaky running through the offense, but this is preseason and this team has a lot of new pieces so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. While there were some hiccups, there were also some real bright spots. Here is our player by player breakdown.
Beejay Anya (4pts, 1 block, 2 steals, 1 rebound)
Let’s start out with the fan favorite big man. Anya is obviously a lot thinner this season and you can immediately see how it’s paying off. While he was only credited for one block I counted 3 or 4 from him in this game. His presence in the middle made it tough for the white team to score all night light. His reach and now quickness off the bounce is going to be huge for NC State’s defensive gameplan this season. Anya also dunked in traffic, getting off the ground quick before defenders could get to him. That was something you didn’t see from him last season. His stamina looked good and he was up and down the floor with everyone else, which was a pleasure to see. Anya will play a huge role this season for the Pack.
Kyle Washington (7pts, 5 rebs, 2 blocks)
KWash was the player of the game without a doubt. The guy is just a workhorse and is honestly this year’s x-factor. He’s the physical, blue collared banger that every team needs, but those type of players can rarely score like Kyle can. The budding sophomore star did everything right last night. He scored it, he defended, he rebounded. He’s going to be a huge part of this teams success if he keeps building on what he’s done thus far.
Caleb Martin (2pts, 2 rebs, 2 TOs)
Caleb is going to be a good player, but this was his first game in front of the Wolfpack faithful and you could see the nerves a little bit. He’s tall, long and works hard so he’s going to push guys for minutes, and he can really fill it up when he gets hot, but I think he was just taking it all in last night. You rarely see freshmen excel in these opening scrimmages, but you could definitely see the talent in Caleb.
Ralston Turner (7pts, 3 rebs)
Same old Ralston in this one. The guy can just fill it up. He was 3-6 shooting and 1-2 from 3. He played hard, played good defense and seems to be the go-to scorer right now for this team. He’s also being look at the leader of this team, which makes sense seeing as he’s one of only 2 seniors. He’s running the same sets he was last year freeing him up for his bread and butter 3’s (#TurnerClassics). The one thing he has added to his game is a little floater. This is going to be a nice addition if he can get consistent with (he was 2-2 on them last night). Last year he was purely a jump shooter and had problems scoring when going to the rim. This year his little TJ-esque quick release floater could give him another dimension to his game.
Cat Barber (2pts, 4 rebs, 5 assists, 3 TOs)
Barber is noticeably stronger this year as he put on a good deal of muscle this offseason and he’s still uber quick, but Barber is going to have to keep working on his decision making. He did have sone very nice plays and did lead the team in assists, but it comes at a cost. Turnovers and contested shots are still a part of his game and until he can minimize those things, State isn’t going to reach their true potential. Now, I know it seems like we are hard on Barber, this being a scrimmage and all, but we just think this kid has talent we haven’t seen at PG in a long time and we really want him to put it together…and we really think he can. Last night we saw some good leadership as he was calling plays and running through the offense. However it’s obvious that he’s always, and I mean always, looking for a lane to drive. That means he is constantly putting the ball on the floor when he doesn’t have to, and this is leading to slower ball movement. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Cat looking to score is bad, but I am still hoping to see a more crafty style of play from him. Too often he’s dribbling around at the top of they key as the shot clock is running down, he makes his move, creates good space, but instead of pulling up and knocking down the jumper, he’s still driving into the trees and getting into trouble. State absolutely needs Cat Barber to be an All-ACC caliber guard if they’re going to make serious noise, here’s to hoping he’s ready.
Patrick Wallace (5pts, 2-2 FG)
State has some really good guards, but you can never have enough shooters and Wallace is a shooter. The textbook form, the quick release, the crafty handle, this kid is talented and might break into the lineup before long. While he is a walk-on and State does have a nice group of guards, Wallace might be hard to keep out of the lineup when teams go zone. Even Mark Gottfried acknowledged it after the game.
“There’s a very good possibility (Patrick Wallace) forces his way into the discussion at guard. When a kid can make shots like that he forces you to think about that. As coaches, we’re looking at that and talking about that now”
Abdul-Malik Abu (2pts, 5 reb)
Although Abu only went 1-6 from the floor, he was definitely a factor. His big body is hard to move and he’s definitely got a nose for the ball. A lot of times last night he got the ball in area that I don’t think he’s comfortable with and was uncomfortable, but overall I can see this kid being a factor for this team right away. Now, he is still raw offensively, but he’s got good form and all the athletic ability in the world, so it’s going to come. This season the coaches will certainly work on footwork, moves in the post and find his areas of comfort on the floor. Definitely a future star for NC State.
Trevor Lacey (0pts, 0rebs, 1 assist)
Left the arena scratching my head last night. Wasn’t Lacey dubbed the next scoring star for the Pack? I know he can fill it up, I saw him doing it in warmups, but he really didn’t get aggressive at all during the scrimmage. He was playing PG, which isn’t where he’ll be lining up for State most of the time, but I was still a little disappointed he didn’t push the issue a little more. He did come down and take a pull-up 3 on the break, and showed off a beautiful release, but it went a little short. After that it was all passing for Lacey, who barely got onto the stat sheet. I know he’s in a new place and he doesn’t want to over-step his boundaries with this team, but they need an aggressive, shot-hunting Trevor Lacey, not the distributing, pass-first Lacey we saw last night.
Dez Lee (8pts)
Lee was 2-5 on the night, but like usual, he got to the foul line more than anyone else. Lee is going to have to fight for minutes, but he had a nice showing last night. He played good defense, hunted his shot and was aggressive to the rim. I still think Lee could become a pretty good scoring option for this team if he doesn’t fall in love with the 3 ball, but he’s going to earn his minutes more on the defensive end than anywhere else. This team isn’t going to put up big offensive numbers, so whoever can really lock down on defense is going to be on the floor. Lee has the ability to do it, he just needs to keep up his confidence and focus throughout the full season.
Lennard Freeman (0pts, 3rebs, 3 TOs)
Not really a night to remember for Lennard, but again, this was just a scrimmage and we saw what he brings to the table last year. The kid has an ACC ready body and is very aggressive on the boards. He’ll likely be backing up Anya and fighting for some more minutes (against Abu) at the 4 behind Washington.
Cody Martin (4 pts, 2 steals)
Biggest surprise of the night was Cody Martin. Everyone came in talking about Abu and thinking Caleb might push for a big role with this team, but rarely did you hear much about Cody. I guess that’s kind of normal for a guy people view as more of a tweener, but Martin is anything but. This kid is in the picture to play major minutes very quickly. His work-ethic on the floor and lock down defense have the coaches watching very closely. He’s long, quick and loves to get down and get a stop. The most noticeable play from Martin was his midcourt strip of Cat Barber, which he took down the other end for a big time slam. Gottfried took notice and had this to say:
Cody has the ability to be a great defender and he’s proven that in his early practices. He still has to learn all the little things and plays that might happen to him throughout a game, but overall I thought he was really good out there tonight.”
Terry Henderson (3pts)
Henderson transferred in from West Virginia and will be sitting out this season, but this kid piqued my interest in warmups when he was throwing down windmills with his head at the rim. Then I saw him filling up from 3. Then in the game I saw that he had a pretty good handle and moved very well laterally. Those are all the signs of someone who is going to be a pretty elite scorer at this level, however I don’t want to get into the usual hype of transfers that we get a lot around here. I’ll just say I’m really, really interested in what Henderson becomes with a year off to add some muscle and learn the offense.
Pack Insider HIGHLIGHT REEL of NC State’s 93-61 Win Over UMES
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday night 93-61, and 6 Wolfpack players scored in double figures. Check Pack Insider’s Highlight Reel ABOVE of the victory in Reynolds, which includes every basket NC State made.
You can also check out our breakdown of the game BY THE NUMBERS here.
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!