The importance of staying ready throughout the season cannot be understated and luckily for the Pack Lennard Freeman kept himself in great mental shape as he was thrust into the starting lineup in February. When one analyzes Freeman’s game it is easy to see both his strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand he is an above average defender who uses adequate lateral movement and bulk to frustrate other post players, then offensively he can frustrate any fan with an inexplicable missed layup. The one thing that comes to mind when I think of Freeman is growth, this kid is still young as he is only 19 years old heading into his junior campaign. Here is a breakdown of his sophomore season and what will be an important offseason that will hopefully springboard Freeman into a great last two seasons in the Red and White!
There were glimpses of Lennard having potential offensively as he did display a couple of nice post moves and touch from the block but it was just too far few and in-between. Freeman hit a couple of 12 to 15 foot jump shots but he just wasn’t consistent enough to warrant any attention from other teams. Take for example the Duke game in the ACC tournament as Coach K was content to let Freeman have free rein as he chose to use a defense that pressured relentlessly on the perimeter while letting Freeman’s man play safety in the paint. The main thing with Freeman is that we do not need him to be a double figure scorer consistently. We need him to be a threat. If State is going to build upon this season’s success they cannot play four on five on the offensive end next season.
As much as a Freeman was a weak link offensively he was an anchor on the defensive end as he played sound post defense and was versatile enough to guard stretch fours on the perimeter. One thing that I love about Freeman is his willingness to compete on the defensive end and get himself into a stance to move his feet. Lennard was also impressive in the way he talked on defense, he was an excellent communicator as he helped our guards and big men navigate ball screens and switches. Another strength that Freeman gave the Pack was a toughness and the ability to rebound. Although he averaged just over 5 rebounds per game this does not tell the whole story. Many times Freeman prevented his man from getting a rebound that allowed one of his teammates to finish the job. Overall NC State rebounded by committee as Freeman lead the charge for the Pack at 5.6 boards per contest.
Freeman is a great example of someone who doesn’t do a lot things that create eye popping statistics but if you ask anyone on the team or coaching staff they will be the first to talk about how integral of a part he is to their success. Every team needs a guy with a blue collar work ethic and that is exactly what NC State gets from Freeman. He is always willing to take on the dirty work, think of him as an offensive lineman in football. Everyone knows that football is a game won at the point of attack on the line of scrimmage and basketball isn’t that different as a team must be able to rebound and keep their opponents off of the offensive glass in order to win. Freeman goes about his work quietly and is low maintenance which adds to the team camaraderie. I honestly don’t think our team finishes as strongly without Gottfried’s decision to thrust Freeman into the starting lineup as he opted to go with a more defensive front court.
The biggest thing Freeman needs to improve is his touch around the rim. He should have to make 250 shots everyday inside the paint with both hands. He also needs to have someone pushing him and giving him contact so he can start to use his 250 pound frame to his advantage. Lennard is blessed with a big thick frame that should allow him to be an efficient finisher underneath! He also possesses above average hops, look back at some of his strong dunks and tip-slams. If Freeman can improve his finishing he should be able to use his face up game to attack the rim and bully his way inside to get some easy lay-ins which will open up the offense for our guards and whoever is flanking him in the post. Lennard can easily turn his D+ grade offensively into a solid B if he uses this offseason to fine tune his craft and learns how to use his size to his advantage.
A good player who he should look at to model his game after is DeJuan Blair. Like Freeman, Blair is an undersized power forward who has learned how to use his big frame and backside to neutralize bigger defenders. Throughout his career DeJuan Blair has exceeded expectations with hard work and being crafty which resulted in a heralded college career at Pittsburgh and he has carved out a niche in the NBA off the bench. Freeman has the potential and ability to be one of the most improved players for the Pack next season if he works efficiently this offseason.
Key Takeaways from Kevin Keatts’ Preseason Press Conference
NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media for his preseason press conference last week. Here’s the key takeaways from what he had to say.
Point Guard Position
- It’s a lot of competition.
- You got Michael O’Connell, who has played a lot of basketball at Power Five [Stanford Transfer] that can play the point.
- With D.J. Horne [Arizona St. Transfer], he’s in the same situation, but he’s been more of a combo guard his whole life.
- It’s always great to get a young man to come back home [he played at Trinity Christian in Raleigh].
- He’s here, he’s been positive, and he’s been great.
- He’s older…a great older guy to have in the locker room, let alone his ability to score the basketball.
- He will put you a little bit in the mindset of Terquavion and Jarkel, because he’s a really offensive-minded player.
- Then, you’ve got 2 guys who completely had to play against Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith in Breon Pass and L.J. Thomas.
- We’ve got a lot of options. I don’t know who we will go with ultimately at the end.
Power Forward Position
- Power forward, we’ve got a lot of options.
- We could play big.
- We could go back to when we had D.J. Funderburk and Manny Bates playing, because I love what Mohamed Diarra [Missouri Transfer] is bringing.
- I love what Ben Middlebrooks [Clemson Transfer] brings, and then you’ve got Dennis Parker [Freshman], and then you’ll have the opportunity to play M.J. Rice [Kansas Transfer] at some of those positions also.
- We have possibly 10 guys that we can put in the game.
- I won’t make hockey substitutions where we go five in and five out, but I do think for the first time in a long time, we have 2 point guards, 2 shooting guards, 2 small forwards, 2 power forwards, and 2 centers.
- Then we’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts that can play different positions.
- He’s going to be mayor of this city one day. He is. He is what he is.
- I’m going to have the best back-to-the-basket post guy.
- He’s tough. He’s lefty. He can score it in different ways.
- You don’t get any assists off of him because he’ll catch it and dribble 4 or 5 times to be able to score the basketball.
D.J. in Foul Trouble
- Because his hands are so good, he reaches a lot.
- Even on ball screens, he’s always thinking he can pick somebody.
- What we’ve said is, “Hey, man, you can’t do that. You’ve got to wall off. You’ve got to do a good job. You can’t reach. You’ve got to stay in the game. You have to do your work early on the defensive end.
- A lot of his fouls don’t come off the guy he’s guarding.
- It’s our guards getting blown by, and he’s reaching and not rolling up or jumping when he’s in a restricted area.
- Part of that, as we’ve talked about, our guards have to guard the basketball…and then, D.J., when they do come in, you can’t give up stupid fouls.
D.J. Getting Fouled
- I think he gets clobbered. He plays through it.
- The biggest conversation that we’ve had [with officials], is that when he catches the ball almost close to the 3-point line, you shouldn’t be able to have a closed elbow.
- When he starts there, technically, he’s a perimeter player that time.
- Once he gets close to the block is when you can use your elbow.
- I see him as a passer.
- His assist to turnover ratio is not great. But, think about this now…he makes every big pass and big play that you need to.
- We’ll run the offense through him at times where he can become a passer and all that stuff.
- We will run some things where he’ll be able to make some plays out of the post by passing the ball.
- He’s going to get all type of double teams and everything else because he has all year long.
True Freshman Dennis Parker Jr.
- What makes Dennis Parker really, really unique is that he plays hard.
- One thing I’ve always said is that the hardest-playing team typically gives us the best chance to win, and when you look at Dennis, he won’t put you in the mindset of a Freshman.
- He runs the floor. He’s athletic. He can play multiple positions. He can guard more than one position.
- I’m really excited about him as a Freshman.
- He’s going to play some Small Forward for us. Also when we play small ball, I think he can play that ‘Torin Dorn role’, being able to play some 4 for us.
Kam Woods Availability to Play [North Carolina A&T Transfer]
- Well, we had those conversations up front. We talked about the opportunities here.
- “We would have to file a waiver for you to be eligible under the current situation, but if the waiver doesn’t go through, then, if you’re going to come to NC State, you’ll have to accept the fact that you’re going to have to sit out a year, like it used to be.”
- He was completely fine with that.
- I tried to set the expectation where it was and make sure that we both understood this as what it could be.
- We should be filing a waiver for him soon, and we’ll live with whatever the results are.
- He’s good. You don’t average 17 points in Division I, no matter what level, unless you can really score the basketball.
- He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s shooting the ball a little bit more consistently at this level.
- He would be a great addition to our roster.
- Once again, I’ll go back and say it…I don’t know if he’s going to be eligible or not, but if he is, I think he could help us.
- He’s been our most complete player from the summer until now. He’s been really good.
- He’s talented. He rebounds the basketball. He can step out and shoot it.
- He handles the ball on a break.
- He thinks he’s a point guard. I know he’s not, but he thinks he is.
- He’s been really good. I’ve been impressed with him.
- His work ethic has completely changed since he got here.
- He wasn’t into it as much, but now he’s found some success through practice.
- He’s kind of taken off to another level.
- He’ll play some 4 and 5 for us.
- He won’t play Small Forward, like he may think, but he’ll help us out a lot.
- We talked about the opportunity to play.
- We don’t have a starting Power Forward.
- There’s opportunities to play minutes at the 5. There’s opportunity to play minutes at the 4.
- There’s opportunities to play.
- Ben just wanted a different role. He was stuck behind a really good basketball player in P.J. Hall, and he wanted the opportunity to play some Power Forward, and that’s why he’s here.
Best on-the-ball defender
- “I like Jayden Taylor.
- Last year I said that Casey Morsell would be on the all-defensive team.
- Casey didn’t listen to me enough.
- He’s a really good defensive player.
- I would say Jayden or Casey could play that role more than anything. More so Jayden than Casey.
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.