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OUR TAKE: On NC State’s season opening win over VMI

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A new attitude, a new culture, and a new commitment to defense
For those out there who poo-poo coaching changes and believe it’s all about the players you recruit, Keatts has, in one regular season game, proven you wrong. With nearly the exact same team as last year, you are watching a complete shift in culture, attitude, and discipline. A team that could be described as lazy, lacking heart and poor on defense is suddenly hungry, passionate, and obsessed with stopping their man.

Obviously, no one knows what the final win-loss count will be, but when you take pride in getting stops and sharing the basketball you become very tough to beat. Teams that used to gameplan to stop a Cat Barber, or a Dennis Smith Jr, now have to go into full-prep on their the press break, team defense, and sustaining effort levels, making the Wolfpack a tough matchup.

No single focus. Balanced scoring makes Pack dangerous
This is what you should be excited about. NC State is running an offense that isn’t built around one player, it’s about exploiting defenses and seizing opportunities. Seven guys were in double figures vs. VMI. I’m not sure the last time NC State had 7 guys in double figures, but it’s been quite a while.

Sure, this was only VMI and their defense wasn’t much to write home about, but the style of play and the unselfish nature of this team (18 assists on 37 FGs, which is 49%) is certainly something that should be celebrated.

Sam Hunt going to have a bigger role than expected
On paper, it would seem that NC State would be more dangerous with both Markell Johnson and Lavar Batts Jr on the floor, but watching the exhibition, and now the opener, makes something pretty clear; Sam Hunt is important to this team’s success.

The only early weakness of this NC State basketball team is their shooting. The guards are getting in the paint and the bigs are converting down low. The key to really make waves in the ACC is to figure out how to score it from outside.

Al Freeman will be the primary shooter, but early on he’s had a tough time getting going. He did lead the team with 18 points against VMI, but he was only 5-15 from the floor and 1-5 from 3pt range.  If Freeman isn’t hitting, who do you turn to?

That is why this team is going to rely on Sam Hunt. He finished with 11 points and was 3-7 from 3pt range against the Keydets. It’s also important to note that Hunt was a good shooter at A&T. His 3pt % was only in the low 30s but it was because the scoring load was on his shoulders and he took a lot of contested shots. In this offense, Hunt will bet getting clean looks on kick-out, which he will be able to convert at a higher clip.

Yurtseven still needs to show more toughness
Don’t get me wrong. Yurtseven put up a pretty nice stat line last night, going for 13 points, 7 boards and 4 blocks in the win. However, VMI’s front line was pretty soft and very young.

Taking a second look at the video, Yurtseven still struggled with contact. He failed to finish through light fouls and body contact. This won’t become as apparent until the Pack face a stronger front line, but it will rear it’s head at some point.

We noted earlier that we would have liked to see Yurtseven stay in the states over the off-season and build up his body. He opted to play for his national team, which is fine, but it’s obvious that the euro-style isn’t helping to toughen up big men. Omer showed off a nice touch and a sweet stroke, but if he wants to cash in and score a lottery pick, he’ll have to show that he enjoys contact and can finish through it.

Obviously, Keatts is aware of this and will work with him, but if Yurtseven can start playing with a little chip on his shoulder, this Wolfpack team could potentially go from good to very good.

Lennard Freeman is doing it all
It’s amazing how much Freeman looks like senior year Richard Howell thus far. He scored a career-high 15 points (on 5-8 shooting, and 5-5 from the FT line) and grabbed 6 boards in limited minutes.

Freeman really does a ton that doesn’t show up in the box score. Look at his screen setting ability. When he was in there the offense ran great. His ball screens were strong and well-timed, with some even set in transition. He also really read the defense and made good decisions when to slip the screen, when to seal and roll and when to pop out and re-route from the top of the key.

 

Markell Johnson with another huge game
This kid looks amazing in this offense. Johnson had another big game, putting up 14 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals. His shot looks a lot tighter and his defense is causing havoc all over the floor. This is going to be a controversial statement, but if you ask me, Johnson is going to be a more productive point guard than Dennis Smith Jr or Cat Barber ever were. No knock on those guys, but Johnson just does more at the college level. He can score, distribute, defend and lead. He is getting his teammates involved and letting his energy level set the tone. We are expecting huge things out of Markell this season.

Next up is another young opponent
Charleston Southern is next (this Sunday at 4pm). They are another team that is going to trot out a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, meaning NC State is going to create problems for them with the press.

Actually, Davidson just slaughtered them by 50 last night. This will be another chance for Keatts to have his team work through kinks and iron out his lineups. The first true test still seems to be #3 Arizona in the Bahamas on Nov 22nd.

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.

_______

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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