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Money Ruins Everything, Even the Legend of Tommy White



The world of college sports is WILD right now. In just the last year, any athlete can transfer penalty-free and everybody can get their bank accounts padded. The problem is, my head is stuck in this double-edged sword scenario; For far too long, universities have been crooks, abusing students by using their likeness and misleading them into bad situations.

But now, “innocent” athletes are being made into the crooks.

Don’t Go Tommy…

There is obviously more to every story than what’s spread around Twitter. Maybe coaches, playing time, position, change of scenery, whatever it may be, played a factor in their decision to leave. In the case of Tommy White, it seems to be a series of objections.

What we know for sure is, there was a line of schools sitting on a whole pile of cash (and let’s be honest, better ballparks) just chomping at the bit to sign him a check. Which turns this into a personal question for every reader, “You get hired by Company A. One year later Company B shows up in your email saying that you can work remotely, have all these extra benefits and oh yeah, how about a 40% raise?” Every. F*cking. Person. Would. Take. The. Deal. I don’t think Tommy’s a bad guy at all. He’s a really good baseball player that is seeing things elsewhere that look greener. Just like every one of us would do.

It’s a super tough pill to swallow in the case of Tommy White. He can’t say he didn’t feel the love. When WPN latches onto you as a legend, you’re set for life. Tommy Tank shirt sales were crazy, he was the lead convo on social daily, people in Raleigh loved Tommy and showed it. All that to say, Tommy, you need to show up to exit interviews. Some level of professionalism (and frankly respect), no matter how upset, needs to be shown.

There are going to be people on social media that will vilify Tommy White. Others will go after Boo (more on that later), Avent and others. The NCAA will once again get their steady stream of hate, although we can tell you with certainty, the chances of transferring weren’t all on missing out on the Tourney.


Moving Forward

And this is now the world we live in. The NCAA has minimal oversight. Programs are going to be crowned champions because their wallet was much, much deeper than State’s. Players will forgo relationships, support and fans for money and the promise of more.

Here is when I rile a few folks up…Give a lot of praise to Doeren, Moore and some to Keatts, as well. The 2022 football team is returning just about everyone, which after this week is beyond impressive. Wes Moore has gained far more than he’s lost each and every transfer period. And Keatts? He has done well building back up the roster and brought BACK a top-20 NBA pick.

All I ask is this…Support these programs and the players while they’re here. Don’t go bashing and calling out athletes if they go elsewhere (seriously, you clowns). Understand that State sports is on the rise, across the full spectrum of teams. We’re the underdogs and always will be.


Passionate State fan that just wants to anything...

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Pick and Roll Problems: Is it time to hand PG reins to LJ Thomas?



NC State likes to do two things on offense. They like to get the ball down into the post and use DJ Burns as a point man and they like to use high ball screens to get pick and roll action.

They primarily do this to create switches, but this is the ACC and entire rosters have been created to deal with switches. Meanwhile, the teams that don’t switch as much (Virginia), have been able to push the NC guards out enough to give their man enough time to recover and get back into position.

If you’re going to use high-screens (pick and rolls) to initiate your offense, then you HAVE TO make them worthwhile.

Let me explain…

The pick and roll is the hardest play to guard in basketball if you run it correctly, but you have the right personnel in place.

First off, the perfect personnel would be a big who is big, wide, and has a decent jumper, allowing him to either pick and roll or pick and pop. Meanwhile, the guard should be able to shoot it with consistency and also create rim pressure. If you have all of this and execute with precision, then the defense has no choice but to be on their heels.

Here is how it should work…

1) The big needs to set a nice, wide, physical screen.

2) THE GUARD SHOULD GO OFF THE BIG MANS SHOULDER and start forcing pressure downhill.

If you go off too wide and leave room for your defender to slip through, you’ve failed. You need to set up your defender with the dribble and then take an angle that runs him into the screen. This forces him to either go UNDER the screen (leaving you open for a shot), or over the screen, forcing the big man’s defender to stop the ball handler. If the screener rolls correctly, he’ll have a mismatch

If the big’s defender hedges out to contain, the guard should split the defense and knife to the lane. If the big’s defender sags to stop the drive, the guard should shoot.

Let’s look at the difference.

Here is LJ Thomas, the only NC State guard who constantly sets up his screens and puts downhill pressure on the defense off the high screen.

And here is DJ Horne, not going off the screener’s shoulder and taking it too wide, not putting any downhill pressure on the defense.

I’m not really blaming Horne here. Like I’ve said from day one, he’s a 2 guard by nature and these are intricacies that only come naturally to a true PG. This is why I constantly harp on this staff bringing in a TRUE PG that can thrive in the ‘Pick and Roll’.

Go back and watch the games, this poor use of ball screens has been a constant problem during the Keatts era and the foundational reason people keep saying ”

“The is no offense”… “We play AAU ball”… “We play selfish.”

None of those are true. There are a ton of schools that run the same actions we do and don’t look like they have offensive stagnation.

The real truth is, we fail to do the small things that make the pick and roll action valuable.

I’m sure the staff is teaching this (I hope), but sometimes it’s hard to change the entire basketball instinct of a lifelong scorer, to start playing like a true PG (reading angles, shifting speeds, creating space for others).

However, if you have guys who fail to do this, you have to correct it somehow, even if that means bench time for valuable players. It’s that important.

At the end of the day, this is something the coaches should be correcting as it is the difference between the offense action creating pressure on the defense, and the action being meaningless and forcing us into 1-on-1 iso situations.

So what’s the fix?

The best fix at this point has to be LJ Thomas getting more than 8 minutes per game.

He’s produced quality minutes all season long, and while he does give you a drop in defense (from Taylor/Horne) he has the instincts and skill set that need to be invested in. He’s not going to be a savior for NC State, but he moves the ball and is the only guard NC State has that has true PG instincts, understands how to attack the pick and roll (NC State’s most used action), and has enough skill to be dangerous scoring on 3 levels.

O’Connell does this but isn’t dangerous enough offensively. He’s shooting just 29% from 3 and he doesn’t create enough rim pressure, as he’s not really athletic enough to get in there and score amongst the trees.

This will be the hard part for Keatts. He wants to create massive defensive pressure all the time, but he’s doing so at the expense of offense and hoping the defense can create transition buckets. The problem is, the trade-off isn’t working. The defense is good, but it’s not creating enough offense to balance it out.

If NC State is going to turn this around it’s going to need Keatts to figure out a way to feature LJ Thomas as the point, while balancing the usage of Horne, Taylor, and Morsell at the 2/3. It’s really the only way I see this offense being able to kick into gear enough to make a late-season run.

But what do I know, right?

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NC State Basketball

WOLFERETTI: The unfiltered Kevin Keatts that NC State fans have been waiting for



What is the key to every NC State fan’s heart?

It’s an unabashed, uncensored rant from their coach on being sick and tired of being treated as ‘not good enough’ or ‘not tough enough.’ These rants connect best after a big “I told you so” win.

It wasn’t long ago that Dave Doeren was on the hot seat with Pack fans. Half liked him, half didn’t. But then he started to realize that self-censoring wasn’t getting him anywhere. Politically correct takes weren’t really doing his job security any favors. So the real Dave Doeren showed his face.

He channeled the fanbase when he took a swing at UNC…

He shot back at the media when he called out Steve Smith by name for taking a cheap shot at NC State’s football program, calling State ‘just a basketball school’…

State fans loved every minute of it, dubbing this new unfiltered Dave Doeren ‘Salty Dave.’

The funny thing is, as soon as Dave removed the filter, so did his players. NC State players started sounding off a little bit about their frustration with being set up as ‘second fiddle’ in almost every national media narrative focused on the Triangle.

In a way, they started writing checks with their mouth, and when you have the gall to write those, you better be able to cash’em.

It seems that change in posture by Dave filtered through his program. He had recruited guys that had the same mindset as him, but now they were off the leash and able to show who they really were.

I think that is the difference between this year and years past. I think that’s a big reason you’re seeing NC State football begin to show signs of braking through nationally, and why you’re seeing players from all over the country signing up to play in Raleigh.

What you’re seeing within the NC State football program is the re-emergence of unfiltered sport. It’s celebrating competition and encouraging passion. This is why kids play the game.

Over the past 10-15 years it’s been watered down. Players have been forced to go through classes on dealing with the media and ‘saying the right thing.’ It’s dumbed-down rivalries, it’s stripped the personality from the game and it’s taken some excitement away.

Part of the entertainment of sports is the team element, where people with different backgrounds, different demeanors and different ways of communicating, come together to achieve a common goal. And for fans, we get to watch it all take shape and play out.

Maybe NIL has helped take the reigns off. Maybe kids being in charge of their own brands have helped bring us to this moment and maybe the addition of the transfer portal has taken some heat off coaches needing to always say the right things so they don’t rub a recruit’s parents the wrong way. I’m not sure, but suddenly we’re seeing a different side of players and coaches here at NC State.

We’ve had Elliot Avent for years, and he’s just a throwback who has been speaking his mind from the get-go. Baseball has been pretty successful as of late at NC State. Now, suddenly Salty Dave appears and Football starts seeing real success. And just two nights ago, Kevin Keatts finally got in on the action (meanwhile his team is 5-1 in conference and 13-4 overall)…

This is a Kevin Keatts we haven’t seen in the media. Keatts is usually smiling, joking, pretty PC most of the time. Tuesday night however, he seemingly had enough.

Keatts was tossed midway through the first half after straight-up losing it after a no-call on a fast break. He walked on to the court and laid into the official, getting a technical. But instead of heading back to the bench, he stayed on the court, making it clear that he was ready for them to send him to the locker room.

They did that, but NC State responded with a comeback win, and in his press conference, a masked Kevin Keatts said his piece. And judging by the responses from fans, it was exactly what they’d been wanting.

What made him snap?

Maybe it was the fact that he’s off to his best ACC start of his tenure, yet the media has barely said a thing and a faction of the fanbase still wants to go a different direction?

Maybe it was the mask?

Whatever the case, NC State fans loved it and want to see more of it. ‘Kind Kevin’ was nice for the first 6 years, but I think we can all agree that ‘Cranky Keatts’ is more on-brand for this fanbase.

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LOVED IT, HATED IT: From NC State’s embarrassing 72-52 loss to Ole Miss



These late games are starting to wear on me. So forgive me if I’m not my usual rosey self today, but I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. The Pack looked downright apathetic, undisciplined, and unprepared in their 72-52 loss at Ole Miss.
Let’s jump right in.


Ben Middlebrooks showed NC State fans his value, notching 13 points and 12 boards.
It was nice to see someone come to play. Middlebrooks played a season-high 22 minutes, thanks in part to DJ Burns showing up soft for some reason against a 7’5″ twig that he’d usually bury underneath the basket (but I’ll get to that later). Middlebrooks matched the Ole Miss energy and physicality, and if the rest of the team had followed his lead, we would have had a ball game. For Middlebrooks, this was his coming out party for the Pack. NC State is going to need a bruiser this year at times, and Big Ben showed us he’s willing to be that guy.

LJ Thomas, nice to see you!
Tonight we saw signs that DJ Horne doesn’t have the intangibles of a true point guard (nor should he, he’s always been a SG) and Mike O’Connell is going to struggle all year against aggressive, athletic defenders (again, we’ll get to this later), so Keatts finally gave his sophomore PG some run.

LJ Thomas played his first meaningful minutes of the season, and while he didn’t light the world on fire, he provided some physicality and stability at the lead guard position. He played 22 minutes, scored 7 points, dished out 4 assists, and only turned the ball over 1 time (he also hit the only 3 he took).

It’s obvious this team is going to need a PG, so why LJ Thomas hasn’t been worked into the mix is beyond me. He’s in his second season, he has a good frame, decent vision, nice shot, and honestly has been pretty effective in the limited minutes he’s played in his career. How does anyone suppose the kid will reach his potential when he barely sees the floor? I know Keatts is in ‘win-now’ mode, but slowly working in Thomas when it’s clear you have no true PG is probably the real ‘win-now’ move if we’re being honest.


(Kids, close your eyes this isn’t going to be pretty)

Ok, I’ll admit it. It’s time to start pointing the finger at Kevin Keatts
I’ve been a Keatts apologist for a long time. I like Kevin Keatts. I think he gets player to buy-in. I think he’s a good talent evaluator. I think his teams are always in shape and always giving a ton of effort. I think NC State could be in a much worse spot coaching-wise, but we’re 7 years in now and there are a few patterns that we’ve all seen that we’ve hoped would work themselves out. However, it’s looking like that’s not happening yet again.

Yes, this was one game, but I can’t make excuses for this any longer. Keatts teams lack discipline in a lot of places.

Sure, they play hard as heck, but they are constantly gambling on passes, trying to get deflections and they are always out of position on defense. Watch NC State play defense against a disciplined team that moves the basketball and understands spacing. They always look like they’re playing catch-up. They’re always a step late, having to rely on constant communication for switches, constantly late on rotations, and always in panic mode on the close-outs. Keatts may look at that type of ‘chaos’ on defense as a feature, not a bug. But it’s been 7 years and guys, it’s a bug. A well-laid-out and executed game plan against NC State almost always throws us for a loop.

Look, this type of defense isn’t bad. In fact, there are a lot of matchups where this defense is going to rattle your opponent, fluster opposing guards and win you basketball games. But there are also matchups where you can learn pretty fast that this type of defense is going to get chewed up by your opponent, and you HAVE to read that early before things get out of hand. Your team has got to be disciplined enough to be able to turn it off and on over the course of a basketball game.

Meanwhile, when real defensive pressure is applied to NC State, Keatts’ teams never seem to step back, collect themselves, and focus on running their offense. Instead, they revert to one-on-one isolation.

It happens EVERY SINGLE YEAR and it doesn’t seem like anyone does anything to stop it. That is not how you consistently win basketball games. It happened with Al Freeman in Keatts’ first season, it happened with CJ Bryce, Torin Dorn, Terquavion Smith, and Jarkel Joiner. Every year there is a guy that Keatts’ relies on to bail out his team with isolation and one-on-one basketball. ENOUGH!

The State fans blame the players for being selfish, but the pattern suggests it’s not the players, but the lack of an offensive system they trust. They just want to win so they’re doing it the best way they know how. And with the way the last 3 halves have gone, it looks like Casey Morsell is going to be forced into this year’s volume-scoring iso guy…and that’s not how you get the best out of Casey Morsell.

Hey NC State, your lack of a point guard is showing!
We all knew when NC State didn’t land a PG in the portal that things might be dicey this season. Sure, DJ Horne can bring the ball up the floor and has a real nice handle, and while you did land Mike O’Connell and brought back Breon Pass and LJ Thomas, none of those guys are ready to be an elite PG at the ACC level.

Horne is a scoring guard (style-wise), O’Connell is a PG, but doesn’t have the athleticism needed to be the main guy for a top tier ACC team. Breon Pass, despite his size, is more of a scoring guard (style-wise), and LJ Thomas looks like a scoring guard but is actually the one guy who resembles a PG out there (however, he certainly lacks experience).

Last night, NC State got punched in the mouth, right out of the gate. And instead of collecting themselves and steadying themselves, they short-circuited, panicked, and fell apart.

If you think that a PG is only good for dribbling up the floor or for piling up assists, then that right there will be. your fatal flaw as you put together a basketball team. A PG’s main role is pace control, emotional stability in the face of adversity and situational awareness. People put all those things in the bucket and call it “leadership” or “coach on the floor”, but it’s a set of skills that make an elite PG, which in turn, can help make an elite basketball team.

NC State doesn’t have that. They haven’t had nor prioritized a player like that in years, and that is one reason you see games like this take place year after year.

What was up with DJ Burns?
DJ is one of my favorite State players in years, but no one gets a pass in these articles. Burns turned in one of those rare performances we haven’t seen since his outing against Creighton in the NCAA tournament, which coincidentally was against another skilled 7-footer.

I know DJ is undersized in matchups like this, but the 7’5″ Jamarion Sharpe is kind of a twig. Burns at times buried him under the hoop, but missed the shot. I’m not really sure what was going on here. Burns was in pass-first mode, in a matchup I felt he would try to exploit.

I was expecting NC State to clear out, and let Burns back down Sharpe (Burns has a 40lb advantage). Once he’s down deep enough, I felt like he’d have to throw a few pump fakes and get creative due to Sharpe’s reach. Burns is a great passer, and certainly more dangerous when he gets deep since he has more options, but it just seemed like DJ didn’t want any part of Sharpe last night. This team is going to need the offense to run through him if they’re going to be successful. Again, void of a PG, Burns is going to have to play that role for this squad and last night he didn’t.

Diarra, our 6’10” stretch-forward, only getting 4 minutes? 
I know Diarra has been getting out of position a lot on defense and it’s bothering Keatts, but the guy is 6’10”, probably your best rebounder and you really needed to match Ole Miss’ ability to be big, agile, and physical. I was hoping to see a front court of Middlebrooks and Diarra for a bit, but never really got that chance.

Now look, Dennis Parker Jr. deserved the start. The kid has been playing great, but in the 2nd half of the BYU game and all last night, he looked a little shaken. And that’s fine for a Freshman, but 16 minutes, no points, and only 2 boards from your 4 man just ain’t gonna cut it. Especially, when your former starting PF logs just 4 minutes.

I know Keatts probably saw something different, but you were down 20 most of the night. I think a little more tinkering with your 6’10” guy might have been worth a shot, unless he’s still hurt, in which case all of this is moot.


We could keep going here and dive into the details, but I think we’re better off moving on. This was only one game, and I’m going to get criticized for overreacting, but that’s what this column is all about. And to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m overreacting. I feel like I’m witnessing this team, with all new players, fall into the same pattern that all of Keatts’ teams have fallen into over the years and I’m terrified of that. I want Keatts to succeed. I think he has the coaching intangibles that could make him a very successful coach here at NC State, but things need to change. Foundational, core principles need to be adjusted or we’ll see another NC State team that is streaky, matchup-reliant, and limps into the post-season.

I’d love to be proven wrong. I’d love for this team and this coach to make me eat these words. But these patterns I’ve glossed over or ignored over the Keatts era aren’t going away and it’s making me pretty nervous.

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Wolferetti: Will the new NIL landscape hurt NC State’s ability to upgrade their facilities & hire new coaches? Does it matter?



I’m going to go ahead and address the elephant in the room.

NIL is causing a problem for schools like NC State.

There’s only so much money to go around and donors are having to choose between donating to their alma mater for facility upgrades, coach salaries, and scholarships, or donating to these NIL Collectives which pool money to eventually pay players in hopes they can be convinced to come or stay.

This is the reality now. The time for being an old man and arguing against the concept is over. It’s time to figure out how to operate in this landscape.

Let’s take KC Concepcion for example.

He’s the best freshman receiver NC State has had in a long, long time. Heck, he’s the best receiver NC State has had in a long, long time. But this isn’t 2018 anymore. Concepcion is about to have some options. He’s going to have schools knocking down his door, offering him life-changing money to switch schools. If that’s the path he wants to take, he won’t even have to sit out a year. So how does a school like NC State compete?

Well, first off, they need to match the money. It’s a bidding game in almost every case. So, they need to pay him close to the going rate. And how will they get that money? Well, they’re going to be relying on donors…the same donors that NC State’s Athletic Department has been relying on for coaches salaries and facility upgrades for years and years.

But the economy isn’t exactly thriving right now, and these donors don’t seem all that willing to simply keep their university donations AND add on NIL donations, so there is a choice to be made.

Just yesterday, Dave Doeren took some (unwarranted) heat from the editor-in-chief of ‘The Athletic’ for asking donors to pitch into the NIL collectives before the portal opens this week.

But what do you want the guy to do? His job depends on winning, and the only way to win is to get-and-keep good players, and today, the only way to get-and-keep good players is to pay them.

So without many other options, that is what NC State Football is going to be forced to do.

That said, I personally know a few big donors who aren’t too thrilled with having to weigh these options. One of them refuses to donate to the NIL because he doesn’t believe players should be paid. While the other is pulling his funding from the university and sending money solely to NIL Collectives.

The latter is what NC State is bracing for behind the scenes.

If NIL continues as it is going, the player asks are only going to rise and to stay competitive, donors are going to have to foot that bill. Like I said, there is only so much money floating around in Raleigh. For schools like Texas or UK this might not be an issue, but if we’re going to be honest, in Raleigh (and most of the ACC) it will be.

Meanwhile, NC State needs a major upgrade to the Murphy Center and its weight room. It was a state-of-the-art facility when it was built, but it’s 20 years old now and needs an upgrade. At the same time, the university has been dying to get enough funding to extend the upper decks at Carter-Finley and close in the horseshoe.

And while the football team’s practice facility is just about 9 years old, it’s not long until they’ll want a pro-level, all-encompassing facility, like the mega-programs are building. Here is what Texas is about to build…

Once you understand this scenario played out over years and years, you start to understand why it looks like these schools and conferences are panicking. They need to find a reliable source of money going forward, and right now the focus is to increase these TV deals and milk every cent they can out of them (that TV deal money can’t be touched by NIL).

But how sustainable is that? I don’t know, and by the looks of the way it’s playing out across the NCAA, they don’t know either.

So either the NCAA gets some kind of control of the NIL situation, or schools like NC State are going to have to get creative.

And that might mean a host of things, but in the end, they’re going to have to start operating a lot more like a true business, leveraging assets and land that they may have, to create revenue that, right now, they aren’t accessing.

Meanwhile, us fans, we’re going to have to understand this, because decisions will have to be made that change things from the stats-quo we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

It’s adapt or die right now in college sports and schools like NC State are the ones who are walking a razor-thin line. There is a way for them to flourish, take advantage of the system, and come out on top. But because there is not an unlimited pool of money here, there is also a way for them to mismanage this situation and fail.

The coming years will go a long way in letting us know which side of that coin NC State ends up on. But for the time being, there isn’t a clear message coming from the university on where a donor with a fixed budget should allocate their money.

The best we have right now is the football coach, Dave Doeren, letting the fans know that the NIL Collectives needs it the most right now, and fans and donors seem to be listening.

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