When Torin Dorn committed to transfer to NC State, there was a lot of optimism going around.
Gottfried had picked up UNC-Charlotte’s leading scorer and Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year. Dorn was going to team up with Dennis Smith Jr. and create a high-energy, athletic duo that would set the ACC aflame.
That never happened.
Through the first eight games of the season, Dorn averaged almost 18 points and 7 rebounds per game. He was dominant. He was scoring from all 3 levels. He was exactly as billed. A quality scorer who could rebound and defend. But something happened after these 8 games. Dorn went cold. He lost confidence in his shot and it seemed that as Dennis Smith Jr. started to bloom as the team’s go-to scorer, Dorn found himself wondering what his role was.
He never recovered from that slump and finished the season averaging less than 10 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Not awful, but certainly not what Pack fans expected.
The narrative being spun was that the ACC was too tough for him. That he was a tweener who was too big to guard smaller guards, but too small to guard ACC wings. That’s how people explained his struggles, but that never made sense. Dorn had a few big games against elite opponents during the early going last season. It wasn’t his talent, it was how the team was using him.
Kevin Keatts saw that right away. After he was hired, Keatts immediately tabbed Dorn as one of the guys that would flourish in his run and gun, high-energy style system. He focused on building his confidence back up and challenging him to be heart and soul of this team.
With the regular season over, you can look back and see, Keatts was right. His system turned Dorn from a tweener with no defined role, to one of the league’s toughest mismatches. Slotting Dorn in at the 4 and going small allowed the Pack to harness all the things that make Dorn special.
It allowed him to use his toughness and physicality to match bigger forwards while having a huge advantage in quickness. That advantage in quickness without giving up much in strength allowed Dorn to create possessions for the Wolfpack. He did that by beating bigs to boards and grabbing offensive rebounds (he finished 2nd on the team with 76) and by harassing wings when they got the basketball outside of their comfort zone (he finished 3rd on the team in steals with 32.)
Offensively, Dorn has been just as good. He’s tied for 2nd on the team at 13.8ppg and is hitting an astounding 54% of his shots. Playing him at the 4 creates all kinds of problems for opponents. Bigger, slower bigs can’t stay in front of him and smaller wings can’t deal with his strength. He’s also got an always-on motor that is just kicking into high gear when opponents’ legs are starting to give.
When Dorn was forced to leave the Boston College game early in the first half with 2 fouls, it changed NC State as a team. Not only did they lose their best mismatch, but they lost the guy who embodies this team’s persona. They lost their ferocity, their physicality, and their attitude. It’s easy to forget how much this kid brings to the table until he’s not out there.
NC State fans are starting to understand this. Sure, he’s not the team’s best scorer or their best rebounder. He’s not their most athletic player or their biggest bruiser. But without Torin Dorn, NC State isn’t finishing tied for 3rd in the ACC. They don’t have 21 wins and they aren’t sitting around on selection Sunday wondering what seed they’re going to get.
Torin Dorn’s passion and toughness are his best attributes. They don’t show up in the box score and they aren’t talked about on ESPN. But they’re the reason NC State sits where they sit.
If NC State is going to turn it on in the NCAA Tournament, there is no doubt, Torin Dorn’s fire is going to be the fuel.
Video from @EverythingNCST