When Anthony Barber came to NC State as a 5 star point guard, the fans knew a few things about him. For one, he was quick and I mean uber-quick, hence the nickname Cat. They also knew that he had broken Allen Iverson’s high school scoring record and that he very nearly committed to Louisville and Rick Pitino.
Now, don’t get us wrong, Gottfried gets a lot of good recruits, but he doesn’t necessarily make a habit out of landing 5 stars (aside from a few coaches, no one does). That is why when Gottfried landed Barber the fans expected a lot. Coupled with the aforementioned facts, Barber was the first highly touted true 5 star PG NC State had landed in a very long time.
At the time, State had Tyler Lewis who was another pretty highly touted kid coming out of high school and as a sophomore was being looked at as the future PG for the Pack. This put both players in a strange situation that really hindered both of them and cost them a real year of growth. Lewis was a kid who never in his life had to fear another PG taking his playing time and Cat was coming off of smashing a former NBA All-Star’s scoring record. Both felt they should be NC State’s leading man.
LEWIS OR BARBER?
Gottfried had his hands full with this situation. Lewis was the more steady PG at the time, but his size and quickness wouldn’t allow him to be as dynamic a scorer or defender as Cat. Lewis was obviously the better game manager while Barber was still just a raw athlete. This led to problems. Gottfried was asking two underclassmen to act like upperclassmen and fight for their spots. At first it was great, they could play together as interchangeable guards, but that quickly changed when faced with adversity. Lewis started getting beat on defense…enter Barber. Barber took the reigns for a time which sent Lewis’ confidence into a tailspin. He struggled mightily and when Cat started showing his flaws against tougher opponents, Gottfried turned back to Lewis, but Lewis was already shaken and questioning his role with the team. When he went back to Cat, he found a PG who was questioning everything as well and had lost his shot as well as his swagger. He was used to scoring at will, but the fans wanted more of a true PG. Lewis was that, but fans wanted a better athlete who could lock down opposing guards. Were the fans expecting too much, or were neither of these players actually ready for prime time?
READY OR NOT, CAT HANDED THE REIGNS
When the season ended Lewis saw the writing on the wall. It was either him or Cat and he wasn’t sticking around to find out the answer. This left Barber as the lone starting PG for this season, but his confidence was still shaken. He was being forced to change his approach to the game. No longer could he just breeze by defenders for uncontested layups, or toy with opposing guards until he felt like pulling up for an open jumper. Guards were quicker, stronger and more athletic. He was being bumped off balance by stronger defenders and the bigs in the middle were helping over to block most of his layup attempts. There was a point when Barber finally realized that his attempts to be a go-to scorer were futile. With Lacey, Turner and other weapons around him he might just need to turn into a distributor. So he tried.
Barber stopped attacking, he stopped shooting and he became a passer and a defender. Barber was trying to become a true PG, but the fact was that he didn’t quite understand exactly what that was. It’s real easy to talk about, or describe what a true PG is supposed to do, but becoming one is no easy feat. You have to have instincts of a point guard. You have to drive to score and in a split second read the defense’s rotation and switch your mindset to ‘drive to create.’ You have to know where all 5 defenders are and the other 4 of your teammates are. You have to anticipate and sometimes dictate the defense’s movement with look aways or mis-direction to open passing lanes that currently aren’t there. All of that happens within a split-second. For Barber, that depth of understanding and anticipation wasn’t quite there yet.
At a point this season Cat was even benched in favor of Lacey at the point. State simply needed more playmakers on the floor and with Barber just passing the ball around the perimeter, he was expendable. But don’t discount this time in his development. This was a very important phase for him. Barber was learning the position. He had played as the full-on scoring guard and when forced to abandon that style, he had gone polar opposite into the pass only point guard. For any great PG, this phase of learning to pass and create must occur. Some have it early on in high school when they realize that scoring isn’t going to be their forte. However, as a star scorer his entire career, it’s likely Cat never had this chance to develop skills such as pace control, game management or creating for his teammates.
Being benched was just another blow and many wondered if this was it. Actually, it could have been. Cat could have walled up, shut down and given up on this program. As much heat as he’s taken from some fans, as critical as some media members have been of his ability as a true PG (us included), and with losses piling up down the stretch, he could have mailed it in…He didn’t.
CAT LEADS THE PACK
Cat points to the closed-door team meeting the guys had prior to the Georgia Tech game as a turning point. They aired out everything and told him if this team was going to be successful he was going to have to be the catalyst. But you don’t just flick on a light switch in this game. You don’t just change your style of play from one day to the next and become a success. What Cat didn’t realize is that his year long struggle dating back to last year is what prepared him for this opportunity. He was forced to learn and understand the intricacies of a true PG. Someone who’s only goal is to win. If that means create for others, if that means score yourself or if that means lock down on defense. A PG must know what the team wants and be able to give it to them at that very moment. That was there, it had been building since he abandoned his role as go-to scorer. But of course, his ability to score the basketball never left and now it was time to couple that with his understanding of his position to lead the Wolfpack back into the tournament picture. His team provided him the only fuel he needed…their confidence.
He dropped 23 points and dished out 7 assists(with only 1 TOs) in the OT win over Georgia Tech. When no one else showed up against Wake Forest, it was Barber who led them to a near 20 point comeback. He finished with 28 points, 4 assists and not a single TO. Then against the nations best defense he again was productive going for 11 points and 2 assists without a single TO. That led to the game State fans will look back on as Barber’s true arrival, not just as a productive PG, but as a team leader.
In last night’s upset win over #9 ranked Louisville, Barber was the deciding factor. It wasn’t his best shooting night and he didn’t rack up big assist totals, but if you watched the game you understood. He was in control. He knew what his team needed when they needed it and he was able to deliver at every turn.
“My confidence keeps getting higher and higher,” said Barber “Coaches keep telling me, `Be me. Be Cat and do what Cat does best.’ I think I’ve taken that under consideration.”
Barber finished with 21 points, 4 assists and only 2 TOs. That’s this third 20 point game in his last four games and 17 assists to only 3 TOs in that span. But to really understand that he’s arrived you have to watch. You had to see him making plays down the stretch whenever the momentum started to switch back to Louisville. You had to see him hunting down the basketball as the clock ticked down so he was the one deciding the game at the free throw line (where he went 10-15). You had to see him hustle back down court on a Louisville fast break with 2 minutes left as they were looking for a 3 to cut the State lead to 5, and pick off the pass and squash the run.
THE PUZZLE COMING TOGETHER
Barber has always been the missing piece to Gottfried’s puzzle and a lot of us are just starting to see that. With his lock down defense, his ability to disrupt defenses, and now his ability to run his basketball team at a true point guard, NC State finally has all the parts to make this motor run right. In true Gottfried fashion this team could be peaking at the right time and players could be falling into their roles down the stretch with Barber leading the way.
But Cat’s transformation is not done, not yet at least. He’s shown he can handle adversity over and over again, but we haven’t seen how he handles success. Someone has to keep this team hungry and it’s not all going to come from Gottfried. The most powerful leaders in basketball are the ones on the floor and Cat now has his chance.
This win, while nice, must be flushed to allow the fire to keep burning. This must be the most intense, hard fought week of practice and a statement must be made against Virginia Tech. Not a simple win in the win column statement, but a pounding felt ’round the ACC. This is Cat’s chance to make a true, ‘here to stay’ type statement and show that this Wolfpack team, once seeminly left for dead, really does have 9 lives.
NC State’s 2023-23 Men’s Basketball Schedule Has Arrived
NC State’s 2023-24 Men’s Basketball schedule has arrived!
NC State to Honor David Thompson with Statue Outside Reynolds Coliseum
RALEIGH – NC State University will pay tribute to three-time All-American David Thompson with a statue sculpted in his honor that will be placed outside of Reynolds Coliseum.
The unveiling will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, the day of the Wolfpack men’s basketball team’s annual Heritage Game at Reynolds Coliseum, and will be open to the public.
“This is such a deserved honor for the greatest basketball player to ever wear an NC State jersey,” NC State Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan said. “He is one of the most iconic players to ever play in the ACC and our hope is that this statue will ensure that generations of NC State students and fans will always remember the legacy and contributions of David Thompson.”
Thompson is widely recognized as one of the greatest players in college basketball history. A 2008 ESPN story ranked him as one of the ten best college basketball players of all-time, and he is regarded as one of greatest athletes in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
The Boiling Spring, N.C., native played three seasons at NC State from 1972-75 and was a unanimous first-team All-American at the conclusion of all three seasons. He was also named the ACC Player of the Year all three seasons.
He was named the Associated Press National Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975 and remains one of just five players in college basketball history to win multiple AP National Player of the Year honors.
Thompson immediately made his mark on the Pack, helping lead NC State to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973. The Pack dominated the 1972-73 season and was at the top or near the top of the polls all season as Thompson averaged 24.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Thompson returned in the 1973-74 season and led the Wolfpack to a 30-1 record and the school’s first NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball National Title.
In the Final Four, Thompson and the Wolfpack met up with UCLA, the seven-time reigning National Champions and the only team to have defeated NC State that season. The Pack trailed 74-67 in the second overtime when Thompson’s heroics helped lead NC State back. Thompson pulled down a defensive rebound and made the go-ahead basket with under one minute remaining and then made two free throws with 38 seconds to go to give the Pack a 78-75 double overtime win in a game that is still considered one of the greatest Final Four games ever played.
Thompson finished the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Bill Walton and the Bruins.
Two nights later, the Pack won the National Title over Marquette, 76-64, behind 21 points from Thompson. Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
To make it into the NCAA Tournament, the Pack defeated fourth-ranked Maryland, 103-100, in overtime in the 1974 ACC Championship, in a game that is routinely considered one of the best games in college basketball history.
As a senior, Thompson averaged 29.9 points, still the highest single season average in NC State history. He scored an NC State and ACC record 57 points in an early season win over Buffalo State. The Pack started the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and never fell out of the top-10, but lost in the ACC Championship game to end its season. The Pack finished the season ranked seventh in the nation but because the NCAA Tournament at that time only allowed the conference champion into the tournament its season was over.
Thompson closed his career with 2,309 points in 86 career games. He led the ACC in scoring all three seasons and was NC State and the ACC’s career scoring leader when he graduated.
Former NC State Basketball Player Torin Dorn Joins Coaching Staff of G-League SLC Stars
Former NC State basketball player Torin Dorn has joined the staff of the Salt Lake City Stars, the G-League team for the Utah Jazz. Dorn’s title is Player Development Associate/Assistant Coach.
After playing 3 seasons at NC State, Dorn went on to play professionally overseas in Poland and Czech Republic, before joining the Wolfpack coaching staff last season as a Graduate Manager.
Dorn will be working under newly appointed head coach Steve Wojciechowski (former Duke PG), who was the head coach at Marquette the past 7 seasons.
NC State Guard MJ Rice Will Be Returning Soon After Stepping Away for a Period of Time
NC State Guard MJ Rice (6’5″/215) announced yesterday that due to personal reasons, he had to step away from the basketball program, but was excited to be back with his teammates soon. He was clear that his commitment to NC State hasn’t wavered.
Life is much bigger than sports. These young men are human beings first and foremost, and as we all know, this life is never simple and easy.
Rice transferred to NC State this offseason from Kansas with three years of eligibility remaining. The former High School McDonald’s All-American didn’t get a lot of playing time in his Freshman season at Kansas, averaging 7.6 minutes per game in only 23 games played.
Coming out of Prolific Prep in California, Rice averaged 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a Senior. Rivals ranked him as a 5-star prospect, ON3 ranked him 24th nationally, and ESPN ranked him as the #1 player in the state of North Carolina.
Whatever Rice is working through, we value him as a person more than we do a player.