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Position Preview: Frontcourt most well-rounded group in years

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Position: Power Forward / Center

Players: Lennard Freeman, Omer Yurtseven, Malik Abu, Darius Hicks

NC State has had some pretty good frontcourt players over the past 10 years, but they arguably haven’t had this much talent and experience in place at a single time.

Between 2009-2011 State had an elite big in Tracy Smith, who teamed up with Richard Howell for a couple of seasons, but at that point, Howell hadn’t emerged as a true threat or dominant rebounder.

Then between 2011-13 the Wolfpack trotted out a fully seasoned and rebuilt Richard Howell who teamed up with a budding CJ Leslie. That was probably the most versatile and dangerous frontcourt we’ve seen at NC State in a long, long time.

Since that point, the Pack has had rather weak frontcourts that weren’t very deep and built around guys like Jordan Vandenberg and Beejay Anya. Abu has been a consistent force for the past 3 years, but he hasn’t been teamed up with a group quite this diverse or talent.

Strengths
This is where NC State is going to have a lot of advantages. The frontcourt is deep and it’s versatile.

Lennard Freeman returns after missing last season with a leg injury, but he returns a year older and whole lot stronger. He’s always been a force on the boards for NC State, but it was apparent how important his toughness in the paint was until he was out last season.

Abu (who is out for a few games with a knee injury) expanded his game last season. The 6’8 senior has always had the frame and the athletic ability to be one of the nation’s most exciting frontcourt talents, but NC State’s offense really never fit with his skill set. Abu thrives in one on one situations about 8 feet from the basket. In Keatts system, he’s going to be in that spot quite a bit. He’s also going to get a ton of transition dunks and dump-offs (or ally-oops) thanks spread court and speedy Wolfpack point guards.

Abu can kill you in a number of ways. Last season he showcased a consistent 15-foot jumper which will likely be a big part of his game this year. He also will be freed up to float a bit more with Freeman or Yurtseven carrying the rebounding load and patrolling the paint.

Speaking of Yurtseven, the 7-foot big man is back and with renewed confidence. His size and mobility alone make him a very valuable piece to this team, but add in a solid 15-foot jumper that can extend to the 3 point line and you have a guy who can change the game.

Lastly, you have Darius Hicks. The sophomore isn’t going to wow you in any one aspect of the game, but the kid is a well-rounded big who plays hard and smart. After seeing him in the exhibition, it seems as he’s added a wrinkle to his game that may help him see a little more floor time. Hicks went 1-2 from beyond the arc, a part of his game we didn’t see at all last season. If Hicks can pop out and knock down even 33% of this 3s, he will be able to give Keatts another versatile piece to play with in the frontcourt.

Weaknesses
When you look at this group as a whole, there isn’t really one area that you can point to and call weak. This is a versatile group that gives Keatts options. Yurtseven has the size and the touch. Abu has the athleticism. Freeman has the toughness and Hicks does a little of everything.

The one thing to watch is how this group fits into Keatts system. Obviously, he isn’t going to be able to put them all on the floor at once, so how will he divvy up playing time? How will he use these guys in a 4-out, 1-in system? It’s going to be up to Keatts to get creative and find way to use the plethora of tools his frontcourt holds.

NC State Basketball

Jersey Numbers for 2024-25 NC State Men’s Basketball Team Revealed

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The NC State Men’s Basketball team revealed the Jersey Numbers for their 2024-25 team yesterday.

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Numbers that are Staying the Same

Michael O’Connell – #12

Ben Middlebrooks – #34

Dennis Parker Jr. – #11

KJ Keatts – #13

Jordan Snell – #22

Numbers that have Changed

Jayden Taylor – #1 –> #8

Breon Pass – #10 –> #4

Numbers of New Players

Mike James – #0 (He wore #0 at Louisville last year)

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield – #1 (He wore #5 at Louisville last year)

Paul McNeil – #2 (He wore #2 in High School last year)

Dontrez Styles – #3 (He wore #0 at Georgetown last year)

Trey Parker – #5 (He wore #5 in High School last year)

Marcus Hill – #10 (He wore #0 at Bowling Green last year)

We don’t know what number Ismael Diouf will be wearing at NC State next year yet. 

 

 

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Kareem Richardson Promoted To Associate Head Coach at NC State

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RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts announced Wednesday that assistant coach Kareem Richardson has been promoted to associate head coach effective immediately.

“I’m proud to promote Kareem to associate head coach,” Keatts said. “He is a valuable member of my staff and has really enhanced NC State both in his relationship with our players and staff, but also his ability to teach, scout and game plan. He is a well-rounded coach that has an impact on every facet of our program, and I feel fortunate to have him as part of my staff.”

The upcoming 2024-25 season will be Richardson’s third at NC State. The Pack has earned bids to the NCAA Tournament in both seasons Richardson has been on staff, including last season when NC State won the ACC Championship and advanced to the Final Four.

NC State has had three different guards (DJ Horne, Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith) earn All-ACC honors under Richardson’s tutelage.

Richardson was previously head coach at UMKC for 2013-19 and has been an assistant coach at power conference programs such as Louisville, Xavier and Clemson in his 25-year coaching career.

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WATCH: Getting to Know NC State’s Dontrez Styles

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NC State Men’s Basketball is releasing videos helping fans get to know the new players on the 2024-25 roster.

Below is the video of Georgetown Transfer Forward Dontrez Styles (6’6″/212), with a transcript underneath.

I’m Dontrez Styles, a transfer from Georgetown University. I knew where I wanted to be. At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to come back home and play for a guy like Keatts. That was the main thing for me.

Being back home is amazing. My family can see me play every game now. An hour from Kinston, North Carolina. It’s a small city. I love it. Just growing there. A lot of great guys. A lot of great basketball players. My family is there. It’s my life.

I grew up in the Brandon Ingram era, so I went to every Kinston High School game. Just seeing him play motivated me to get in the gym and keep working. The grind has paid off.

It’s crazy. I would have never imagined this happening. It’s very rare for someone to go to North Carolina and NC State. Me being one of the first guys to do that, I believe it’s different, but I’m enjoying it so far. I can’t wait to get started.

Coach (Levi) Watkins recruited me when he was at Ole Miss. He’s been with me since my Sophomore year, I believe. Just having that relationship with them makes it easier every day.

Just being back, it’s going to be very fun, especially now. The hype is crazy. I can’t wait to be back home and get started, and hopefully win that National Championship.

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Styles was the 2nd leading scorer for Georgetown this past season, averaging 12.8 points per game, while grabbing 5.8 boards. He shot 36.8% from three.

Originally, Sytles was a consensus 4-Star prospect in UNC’s 2021 recruiting class. 247Sports ranked him as the #62 overall player nationally, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina, playing for Kinston High School.

After two seasons with the Tar Heels, Styles entered the Portal, and took an Official Visit to NC State and Georgetown, and ultimately chose the Hoyas.

Styles will be spending his final year of eligibility with NC State.

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WATCH: Getting to Know NC State’s Mike James

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NC State Men’s Basketball is releasing videos helping fans get to know the new players on the 2024-25 roster.

Below is the video of Louisville Transfer Guard Mike James (6’5″/200), with a transcript underneath.

I last played at the University of Louisville. I spent three years there. Played two. Redshirted my first year because of injury. I enjoyed my time there, but all good things got to come to an end, and I’m here at North Carolina State. 

Entering the Portal is just like going through High School recruitment again. You’re getting your phone blown up every other hour, every single day. You’ve got to get on long phone calls. You’re kind of going through the process again, but this time, you kind of know what you want. You’ve been through College Basketball, so you know what questions to ask, what to expect, and you kind of just get straight to the point. I feel like the process was similar, but different this time. It went a lot quicker, and I knew exactly what I wanted. I want to win at the end of the day. Playing time is earned, and all that stuff. You’ve got to come in here and take care of that. 

Winning is very important, and I haven’t done that so far, but that’s the one thing I want to change about my college career. Seeing y’all go on that run was really appealing to me. 

I like to get to the basket. Draw fouls. Finish at the rim. Knock down shots on the perimeter. Defend 1-4 positions on the other end. 

I want to come in and win. I want to be a leader for our team. I’m an older guy now, so I want to be a leader. I want to come in and win another ACC Championship, and make another NCAA Tournament run. 

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This past year, James averaged 12.6 points per game (3rd on the team) and 5 rebounds. He’s extremely physical and aggressive, taking 47% of his field goal attempts at the rim (making 46%). As a result, he draws a lot of fouls, ranking 10th in the ACC in Fouls Drawn, and 4th in Free Throw Rate. James made opponents pay this year when they put him on the line, making 81.8% from the charity stripe, which ranked 15th in the ACC.

James shot the ball better as a Redshirt Freshman, than he did this past season. His Effective Field Goal Percentage in 2022-23 was 55.8%, which ranked 19th in the ACC, and his True Shooting Percentage of 59.6% ranked 14th.

News broke about James entering the Transfer Portal back on March 25th, and NC State was quick to reach out. Kevin Keatts and his staff recruited the former 4-star prospect out of high school heavily, but he ultimately chose the Cardinals.

After redshirting his first year in Louisville due to torn achilles, James has been a starter for the Cardinals the past two years.

He does have the ability to knock down a three, making 34.8% for his career.

James has 2 years of eligibility remaining.

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