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PLAYER PREVIEW: Torin Dorn ready to emerge as leader of the Pack

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It’s amazing to think that Torin Dorn has been at NC State longer than anyone else on this year’s roster. It seems like just yesterday Dorn was transferring from UNC Charlotte to NC State, touting a conference rookie of the year award, and possibly slotting in as a shooting guard or a stretch forward.

A lot has changed since then.

Not only did he get a new coach in Kevin Keatts, but he also has found success playing at the 4.

It’s not like Dorn has turned into some back to the basket big. He’s still just 6’5, 210lbs, but he’s been plugged into a system where a guy with his skill set can become a matchup nightmare.Last year Dorn went from averaging 9.5 points and 4.6 boards two years ago to 14 points and 6.4 boards last year. While his stats took a big jump, he also started to emerge as a leader. His physicality and tenacity were contagious. When he was on the floor, NC State was a tougher, more gritty basketball team.

Now a senior, Dorn is being looked to as a guy who can not only lead by example but also mentor the younger guys and let them know what NC State basketball under Kevin Keatts is all about.

“This is my 4th year here, 5th year in college. I definitely feel like a vet, but still feel young and rejuvenated.” Said Dorn. “Being the guy that has been at State the longest. Being able to show these guys what it takes to play in the ACC, especially some of the younger guys. Using the things that I’ve learned, to help them is the biggest thing for me.”

Part of that mentoring will be trying to get them up to speed on how much faster and more physical the ACC is. He’ll also have to get them used to playing for Keatts, which means being expected to be in the best shape of their lives.

Having seniors that can take underclassmen under their wing is a foundational pillar of building a great program and so far Keatts smees to have his veterans evangelizing for him.

“With Coach Keatts, you have to be prepared to run,” Dorn told us. “Play an up-tempo style of game. I think he’s a coach that prides himself on hard work and we pride our team on hard work.”

Dorn has always been talented, but the level of success he reached last year was partly a product of Keatts system. The idea that basketball has changed and playing small, fast, versatile and positionless is the hallmark of this new-look Wolfpack gameplan. Last year Keatts and company gave NC State fans a taste of what the future may look like, but according to Dorn, this year they’re taking that to the next level.

“We’ve got a lot of interchangeable pieces. A lot of guys who can play multiple positions,” said Dorn. “I think it will make us hard to scout, I think it will make us a versatile team. A team that can do a lot of different things. We might be able to put a big line up out, or a small lineup. You’ll never know what you’re going to see with us.”

Making this possible a stable of guys who have wide-ranging skill sets, Dorn being one of them. Some of them are freshmen, but most of them have played college basketball before and have even gotten a year to mature while sitting out and watching. Two of those are guys that Dorn thinks could make big impacts this season.

“Both our transfers that sat out last season are really good players. CJ Bryce and Devon Daniels are both are hungry and itching. I remember those days when I was sitting out. I see that same fire in them and how they work, so it should be really good for us this year.”

While a lot of talk has been surrounding these transfers, the incoming freshmen, and Kevin Keatts, Torin Dorn remains as one of the most important pieces of this NC State team. He may not be flashy. He may not be the most athletic or most skilled guy on the court, but Dorn is exactly the type of player that Kevin Keatts wants and needs as he builds this program into a contender.

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PLAYER PREVIEW: Transfer Devon Daniels says his “offensive game has elevated a lot since Utah.”

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Over the course of our Basketball Player Previews, we’ve wrapped a player intro story around the interviews we did during media day. However, since we’ve already done an in-depth piece on Devon Daniels, and since these quotes are pretty good all by themselves, we’re just going to drop them right here for you.

On transitioning to Keatts system…
“That was perfect for me. At Utah I wasn’t really there to score. I was there to play hard, dive on the floor, get rebounds, play hard defense…and then I got to score. When he asks that of me, it’s perfect. I really like to win and compete.”

On his battles last year during practice with Al Freeman…
“Me and Al Freeman, we were perfect to go against each other because we are so competitive. I think it helped them a lot and it helped us grow. It was good.”

On where he fits with this team…
“Anything he asks me to do, I’m willing to do it. I trust him and I know he wants the best out of all of us. If he wants to put me anywhere on the court I’m ready, I’m willing.”

On the type of player he is…
“Shoot, I’m just a guard that likes to win. I’ll play defense, I’ll score. I think my offensive game has elevated a lot since I was at Utah.”

On what type of shape he’s in…
“Physically I’ve always been in pretty good shape. I’ve added about 5 pounds, my body fat is real, real low, at 1.9 or something like that. I’m really ready.”

On what he did when the team was on road trips last season…
“Made sure to stay in the gym. Just because they were gone it doesn’t mean we get a break. We just made an effort to get in the gym together.”

On what his sit-out transfer year was to him…
“It was more a learning opportunity. I got to see what made them go and at times what made them struggle. I took it as, like, film watching.”

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PLAYER PREVIEW: Eric Lockett is the guy nobody is talking about, but that may not be the case for long

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Grad-transfer Eric Lockett hasn’t been talked about much this offseason,

He decided to transfer back at the beginning of April two days after former head coach Anthony Evans was let go. He started 31 of 32 games last season, averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Lockett began his career at George Mason, but suffered a season-ending injury in the 5th game. He then sat out a year transferring and spent the past two seasons at FIU.

Now at NC State, he steps into a program that has six quality guards (Markell, Beverly, Harris, Daniels, Lockett and Bryce) all looking to fill 3 spots. So what can Lockett bring to the table that will set him apart?

“Leadership first and foremost. Being able to show the guys how to work hard on a consistent basis. On the court, being aggressive and doing what I do well.”

If you look a little deeper, you can start to see a pattern with Kevin Keatts. Here we are again, this year the roster may be more talented, but there still isn’t a lot of veteran leadership. Like last year, Keatts has looked outside the program to bring in proven leaders. A year ago it was Al Freeman and Sam Hunt. This year it’s Wyatt Walker and Eric Lockett.

Lockett is also another player that his staff had targeted. This time it was a connection to Coach Siddle that started the process…

“Coach Siddle recruited me and throughout the whole process me and Coach Keatts talked a lot and built a relationship. I knew what he was looking for and what I wanted out of my next program and this is what I wanted.”

“(Coach Siddle) recruited me out of high school. That was a while ago but I kind of remembered him when he reached back out.”

The more we watch the decision Keatts makes and how he goes about building his roster, the more it’s apparent that this guy is organized, calculated and laser-focused on building his roster exactly the way he wants it.

Lockett is another 6’5 tweener. He’s another guy that is extremely physical and extremely aggressive. He’s athletic, he’s fast, and he has a great motor. He’s a Keatts-guy. He’s another Torin Dorn (albeit a little lighter) if you need a comparison.

This is why there’s no doubt that Lockett made the right choice coming to NC State. This is a sytem that fits his playing style, Keatts has shown he really liked versatile 6’5 guys who can guard multiple positions, and he’s proven he puts his grad transfers in a position to succeed. Lockett saw all of this too.

“(Seeing how the grad transfers were used and performed last year) definitely played a role in my decision. I felt I could come in and kind of do what they did. I’m a different player and will affect the program in a different way, but the opportunity that’s there, I like it.”

As far as transition goes, Lockett says it’s been easy and having a bunch of new guys on the team makes it easier to acclimate.

“It’s been fun. I’m enjoying playing with a new team. It’s not really difficult, it’s kind of easy because we have a bunch of new guys learning a new system, trying to do what Coach Keatts wants on the court.  It’s been pretty easy and I like the process.”

One source told us that Lockett isn’t just acclimating, he’s been a handful for the returning guards to deal with on the court. His physicality and ability to finish at the rim has surprised some who didn’t know much about him coming in.

So, when you’re trying to predict NC State’s rotation, make sure you don’t leave out Lockett. In fact, if you paid attention last year, you saw that it was guys like him who ended up playing big roles down the stretch for the Wolfpack.

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FLASHBACK to the most memorable Dunk Contest in ‘Primetime with the Pack’ history

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The year was 2009.  Sidney Lowe was in his 4th year with the Wolfpack and was coming off a 10th place, 16-14 (6-10) season. He was relying on a backcourt of Farnold Degand, Javi Gonzalez, Julius Mays and a freshman Scott Wood, to lead this Wolfpack ball club. In the frontcourt, they had some talent. Tracy Smith, Dennis Horner, and a young Richard Howell were asked to shoulder the load. They were supplemented by athletic wing Johnny Thomas and the huge Aussie Jordan Vandenberg.

Obviously, as expected, this team didn’t end up all that great. They finished with 20 wins but a 5-11 ACC record doomed them to 10th place.

That will be remembered for two things.

This 3/4 court heave by Chandler Parsons that won the game for a ranked Florida team…

And the ‘Primetime with the Pack’ dunk contest.

When your dunk contest participants are Farnold Degand, Johnny Thomas, walk-on Kaycee Obi-Gwacham and Jordan Vandenberg you aren’t going to be expecting much. But that night, Reynolds Coliseum was electric. It had an alley-oop from the 2nd deck, a decent ‘off the side of the backboard’ slam, and a 7’1 guy going between his legs for a dunk.

This might not be the best dunk contest in ‘Primetime with the Pack’ history, but considering it’s participants and the reaction from the crowd, I’d say it’s got to be the most memorable.

Do you agree?

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PLAYER PREVIEW: Ian Steere looks to bring physicality to the Wolfpack front court

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Ian Steere was probably the most hyped freshman in this year’s class thanks to the monstrous dunks that went viral amongst NC State fans.

However, just because you have a savage highlight reel, it doesn’t mean your skills are going to translate to ACC basketball right away. Ian Steere is finding that out in his early practices with the Pack.

“The pace of the game is much faster, especially the guards. And the bigs, you have to get out and switch, especially in the ACC, they can shoot and dribble. So, I need to move my feet and increase my lateral quickness. It’s been helping a lot.”

With grad senior Wyatt Walker and transfer DJ Funderburk on the roster and coming in with varying levels of experience, Steere isn’t going to be relied upon to shoulder the frontcourt load, he will, however, certainly have a role on this team.

Keatts explained in his preseason press conference that replacing Omer Yurtseven wouldn’t be easy but that he had a 3-headed monster that was up for the challenge Those 3 guys are all very different bigs that bring different skills to the table and are working well together so far this offseason.

“We’re gelling great. We get along on the court and each bringing a different piece to this team. Whatever Keatts needs, one of us can bring it on the court.”

So what does Steere think he’ll bring that is unique to the others?

“I’m trying to bring some physicality. I’m trying to get in there and dirty up the game a little bit. Get on the floor for loose balls, rebounds, whatever I can to help and my offensive will come around, I’m not worried about that.”

There is no question that Steere will succeed in bringing that physicality to the team. He’s built like a brick wall and plays very aggressively in the paint. This type of guy will always have a role on a basketball team, and as he gets more experience he’ll begin to add more pieces to his game. Steere talked about the areas he needs to improve…

“Adding a lot more post moves. Getting faster, being able to guard every position if I have to switch. Definitely moving my feet more and post moves (are what I’m working on the most.)”

The transition for Steere is like that of any freshman. It’s usually a little tough at the beginning, but by midseason, you start to see things click. In a Keatts-system, however, there’s an added wrinkle. Not only do you need to adjust to the speed of the college game, you need to completely change your workout habits and transform your body into a machine.

“(laughs) I”m in the best shape of my life, but I’m not in Keatts-shape yet, so I’m working on it. I’m getting there.”

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