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The numbers don’t lie. It’s time to hand Ernest Ross the starting role.



(image from Ernest Ross (@ykbpoppa) Instagram)

Ernest Ross looked really raw at the start of the season, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I figured that he was too thin and too young to compete with Dowuona for minutes in conference play, and he wasn’t polished enough at the 4 to take minutes away from the senior Hellems. So it was pretty hard to figure out where the freshman forward would slot in.

However, over the past few weeks, Ross has looked like a new man. He’s played with confidence, and he seems to be picking up the team defense pretty well. With Dowuona struggling to stop opposing bigs on the block, and Jalen Gibson not having much luck either, Keatts has started to tinker with Ross at the 5. Neither sophomores were producing anything offensively either, so what the heck, why not start getting Ross acclimated now? It can’t hurt anything.

Fast forward to now, and it’s starting to become pretty clear. Ernest Ross can make a difference on this team and he can do it on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, he’s been surprisingly efficient. He hasn’t shot much, but when he has, he’s putting it in the hoop. In fact, during ACC play, Ross is shooting 6-8 from the floor, good for 75%. He also gives State another guy who can run the floor and really finish on the break. (Remember that huge slam on the run-out against VT?)

Obviously, the Pack would love to have a big man on offense they could trust with the high screen and roll. Ross can really rise, so he’s an option for the lob, and while I want to not trust him with his back to the basket, he actually bodied up with a Louisville big and put in a nice baby hook in this one. Oh, and he hasn’t really shown it yet at his level, but the kid can actually shoot it from outside, giving State (eventually) a pick and pop option. Giving Ross more minutes, gives a new little wrinkle to the offense and I think that’s starting to be apparent. But the big thing Kevin Keatts likley had been worried about is defense.

NC State’s team was built to play aggressively out top on D. This leads to guards being out of position at times, but they get funneled into the middle where they would have Manny Bates (the league’s best shot-blocker) waiting. Bates’ injury really hurt, because suddenly you were putting a sophomore big in a position where he’s being asked to really block shots and protect the rim. Early on it seemed as if Dowuona wouldn’t be a devastating drop-off from Bates. However, as competition has gotten better, and as conference play has started up, Dowuona looks pretty overmatched.

Enter Ernest Ross.

If you read our pregame preview of this game, we saw this coming. In fact, we said, “It’s time for Ernest Ross.” Go ahead, go back and read it. Personally, I didn’t expect Ross to have a HUGE impact on the game. I just felt like, hey, what can you lose? Dowuona and Gibson aren’t giving you anything on offense. They are being overmatched on defense. Meanwhile, you have an elite athlete (although raw and young) sitting on your bench. Throw’em in there. You’re 1-4 in the ACC with a tough stretch coming up. If not now, then when?

Keatts did go with Ross, in fact, he played him a career-high 18 minutes, and to be honest, he should have played him more in the second half. Ross was everywhere. He was blocking shots, altering shots, knocking away passes and finishing when he had the chance down low.

He changed the game. Suddenly, when guards were getting in the lane, they were being challenged at the rim. Ross showed natural anticipation and timing on his challenges. This is something you really can’t teach. Either guys have it or they don’t. Ross seems to have it, meaning he knows when to go up and block a shot and when to stay home. This is what elite shot blockers are able to do. They aren’t falling for pump fakes or jumping early, taking themself out of position. To do this, you have to be a quick riser, and Ross is just that.

If you are doubting Ross’s impact on the game, look no further than this split from last night….

When Ernest Ross was on the floor (18 minutes). NC State won 47-21. 

When Ernest Ross was not on the floor (22 minutes). NC State lost 32-42.

Sure, this is just one game, but it’s another observation that should have this coaching staff carving out more and more minutes for this kid.

On top of last night’s performance, he’s actually been out-performing the bigs since ACC play started, however, it’s tough to compare since their minutes are so skewed. Ebe Dowuona has played 151 minutes in ACC play, while Ross has played just 51. But let’s take their stats and break them down by minute. Let’s see their true per minute efficiency.

Dowuona has played 151 ACC minutes. He has scored 21 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and blocked 9 shots in the 6 conference games.

Ross has played 51 ACC minutes. He has scored 13 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked 3 shots in the 6 conference games.

Points Per Minute
Ross: .25
Dowuona: .14

Rebounds Per Minute
Ross: .15
Dowuona: .09

Blocks Per Minute:
Ross: .06
Dowuona: .06

During ACC play, Ross has out-produced Dowuona both in points and in rebounding. The two are tied in blocks. Now, couple that with what you saw last night with your eyes, and add in the fact that NC State murdered Louisville with Ross on the court.

This is mounting evidence that Ernest Ross is ready and at this moment is Keatts best option in the middle.

But is he REALLY ready? Will he keep this up? Who knows. The point is, it’s clear that Ross is giving you better interior minutes defensively during conference play, he’s giving you another scoring option, and he’s a freshman with a very high ceiling who needs to start gaining experience. He’s not a 5, but with Bates out, with this roster, in this situation, he’s the best 5 you’ve got. Next year, when Hellems leaves, Ross will likely be the one filling that role.

There’s no better time to get him acclimated to ACC play than right now. It’s Ernest Ross time.

A pasta eatin', Wolfpack lovin' loudmouth from Raleigh by way of New Jersey. Jimmy V and Chuck Amato fanboy. All opinions are my own and you're gonna hear'em.

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1 year ago

I would say that the biggest downer for Dowuona and maybe Gibson, are their hands. DJ and Manny could catch anything. When on the floor together, their combined presence and ability to catch bad passes made it easy to work the ball inside. Hellems and Bates were not going to be as good as those two, and Hellems and Dowuona just ain’t even close. I thought Ross had 4 or even 5 blocks in the last game. So with improved defense, Ross earns more minutes.

1 year ago

Ernest is a power forward, so when we have a center that can play, he moves over. But right now we are desperate, so let’s give him more minutes. In the post game presser KK said we might see him in the starting lineup. So he was impressed, just like we were.
I would expect Duke to take it inside a lot, fouls will become an issue, so Ross will probably see the floor quite a bit.

1 year ago

I don’t know why you think Ross is not a 5. He’s the best option at 5 right now. I don’t think he should be starting but he should be getting equal minutes with Dowuona. I don’t know why Keats doesn’t like playing young bigs but young bigs that play early develop into older bigs that play well.

NC State Basketball

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.

D.J. Burns

  • 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.

D.J.’s Passing

  • 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.

Mohamed Diarra

  • 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.

Ben Middlebrooks

  • 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.

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NC State Basketball

NC State’s 2023-23 Men’s Basketball Schedule Has Arrived



NC State’s 2023-24 Men’s Basketball schedule has arrived!

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NC State Basketball

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.

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NC State Basketball

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.

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