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WOLFERETTI: Kevin Keatts’ off-season moves signal an end to his small-ball dreams



Kevin Keatts coached 3 years at UNCW. He finished in 1st place every season.

You know the old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ So when Keatts was hired at NC State, it was pretty clear that he was going to try to replicate what he did at UNCW with bigger, faster, stronger, and more talented players in the ACC.

How can you blame him?

Kevin Keatts was coming into the ACC as the ‘players era’ was in full swing. Kids wanted to run and gun, and they were choosing schools where suddenly coaches were telling them to ‘go ahead and let it fly’. So here comes a brand new coach to NC State, with no ACC experience, recruiting against the best of the best.

Keatts wasn’t going to get anywhere with some stringent system, and he’d had seen success at the lower levels with a more freelance-type offensive strategy. So, the question really was, how can you give them that run and gun style, while still keeping organization and control as a coach?

Keatts thought he had that answer.

The flaws of the ‘old’ Keatts System

His system had worked at Wilmington. He’d get a bunch of interchangeable guys who could switch every screen. That would simplify the defensive system. He would incentivize players with more minutes if they had more success on the defensive end, and he would measure this by charting ‘deflections’ (a stat that many coaches weren’t paying attention to.)

On offense, he’d run almost all of his action off a high pick and roll. And he’d give most of his guys the green light, making it a high possession track meet. Meanwhile, he would have his team built to thrive in these conditions.

He’d get big guards. That was the priority. Dribbling, shooting? That was secondary to having the size needed to run this interchangeable, ‘switch-everything’ defense. Because, if this theory proved correct, the defense would create the offense, as it generated steals, blocks, and turnovers.

Inside he’d need a shot blocker. By incentivizing deflections and steals to get minutes, players would certainly be gambling out top by reaching for pass fakes and attempting to jump point to point passes.

Get the steal? Great! Gamble and miss? Well, that’s fine too because they’ll be driving right into a shot blocker!

Seems like a strategy that can’t lose, right?

Wrong. This isn’t the Colonial conference. This is the ACC. Those guys attacking the shot blocker? They’re some of the country’s most elite athletes. They’re big, they’re strong, and they can fly. So unless you have one of the nation’s best shot blockers, you’re losing this battle more than you’re winning it.

This is what you’ve been seeing out of Keatts’ teams. Whether you’ve noticed it or not. They are constantly out of position on the perimeter and it’s putting pressure on the bigs, it’s creating havoc on the help side, and it’s just a flat-out mess on defense most of the time.

Last year NC State allowed the most average points per game (75) and allowed the highest opponent FG % (47%).

When you’re basing your entire roster makeup on being able to run a certain type of defense, and that certain type of defense is giving you this type of outcome, then guess what? It doesn’t work.

Keatts bet it all on this system, and this system wasn’t working consistently in the ACC. So it was either time to adjust or go down with the ship. Based on this off-season, Keatts seems to be adjusting.

The birth of the ‘new’ Keatts system

Instead of targeting more shot-blocking bigs whose main role on offense was to be a pick and roll guy (mostly a decoy when you run this in the ACC), he has opted for two very different types of bigs.

DJ Burns, 6’9, who committed yesterday, is an offensive force. He’s a back-to-the-basket big, who has great footwork and soft hands. He’s got a nice midrange game and a ton of crafty moves around the rim. He’s big at 250lbs, and defensively, he hasn’t been a big factor. In fact, he only had 12 blocks over the entire season last year.

Then you have 6’10 Dusan Mahorcic, who committed in early May. He’s another below-the-basket type big man. He’s a more physical presence. A guy who is going to bang, husle, and throw some weight around. He’s also a pretty decent scorer on the block, and actually a pretty good passer as well.

The point is, neither of these guys is in the traditional Keatts mold. They aren’t shot-blockers. They aren’t going to be catching lobs off the pick and roll. They aren’t going to be dominant in running the floor. They are going to be big bodies on the block who bang, take up space, score or get to the foul line when shots aren’t falling from outside.

What does this mean?

It means Keatts is moving away from the system that failed him and starting fresh. He’s still going tall and long on the wings, but he’s more stationary in the middle. NC State will certainly be more physical on the blocks, but without a shot-blocker patrolling the paint, they’ll need to sure up their position defense and get away from gambling so much.

What you’re going to watch is a more generic style of basketball. Slower, less pressing, fewer deflections, maybe a little less guard-oriented. To some, it’ll be boring. To others, it’ll be a breath of fresh air. Perspective on this is likely going to depend on if we’re winning or we’re losing with it.


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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3 months ago

Yea, have to agree with Dof87 on this one, seems you are trying to make an argument based on a couple of false premises. First, Keatts has tried to have two bigs regularly in the lineup every season. He does elect to play small quite a bit too, but that’s not uncommon in college or pros. Year 1: Freeman, Abu, Yurtseven Year 2 – 4: Funderburk and Bates, Walker was the 3rd in year 2, Dixon the 3rd in year 3, Dowuona and Gibson in year 4. Year 5: He had Bates, Gibson, Dowuona, Ross, and Gantt – but obviously… Read more »

3 months ago

KK has always wanted big men on the court, and when they were productive like DJF, he went inside to them often. He greatly expanded Yursteven’s usage compared to the year before. He pursued big man recruits from the start at State. The problem was keeping big men committed and healthy. One man deep doesn’t cut it. Guys like Bey were committed but went to NBA instead. Steere was a head case. Manny was injured. Gant was a inside player injured as well. Etc. KK’s teams were small not entirely by design.

Last edited 3 months ago by Dof87

NC State Basketball

NC State Men’s Basketball Will Face Difficult Odds in Battle 4 Atlantis



NC State’s Men’s Basketball will be playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament on November 23-35, and the odds aren’t in their favor.

Here’s a rundown of the teams in the tournament:

NC State
Southern California

According to Caesars Sports, NC State has the 2nd to worst odds to win the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Wolfpack drew a no-nonsense first game, playing against Kansas, the defending National Champions. Then, they will either play Wisconsin or Dayton. Wisconsin finished last season with a 25-8 overall record, a #14 ranking in the AP Poll, losing in the 2nd of the NCAA Tournament to Iowa State. Dayton finished last season with a 24-11 overall record, losing in the 2nd round of the NIT to Vanderbilt.


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NC State Basketball

Terquavion Smith and Greg Gantt take over NC State’s Instagram for the Day



A couple of days ago, Terquavion Smith and Greg Gantt were handed the camera to show State fans just what gameday is like through the player’s eyes. The guys chronicle a day in the Bahamas as they participate in walkthroughs, downtime at the hotel and pregame shootaround.

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NC State Basketball

VIDEO: Inside Look at the workouts of NC State’s new 7 foot wing, Mady Traore



A few days ago, we went into depth about NC State’s newest addition, 7-foot wing, Mady Traore. As we were doing our research, we came across a couple workout videos that were posted.

Watching his highlights from games is probably a better indicator of what we’ll see on the court come November. bit watching these workouts (which are kind of showcasing his skills without any defenders) give a better glimpse of his potential.


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NC State Basketball

Sooo, let’s talk about the 7 foot wing who just committed to play for the Pack this season



While everyone was focused on the upcoming football season, or discussing NC State basketball’s coming trip to the Bahamas, something happened.

NC State landed a commitment from 7-foot stretch forward, Mady Traore. And he’ll be eligible to play THIS season.

Surely, a guy committing this late in the process isn’t going to be a difference maker, right? It’s probably a guy no one has heard of. Someone who has slipped through the cracks.

But what if I told you that Taore, a French native (who has moved around quite a bit in recent years) had offers from Auburn, Kansas, Oregon, LSU, Arizona, Illinois, Florida, and many, many more.


Well, we are. Especially after watching some of his recent film.

NC State got in on Traore late after seeing him at the NBA camp in early July. But the story is kind of strange because after coming over to America midway through high school, he really jumped around to different schools. Maybe he was trying to find a place where he’d be showcased? But either way, all the moving made it hard to keep track of him. The one connection he does have to the Pack is LJ Thomas. The NC State incoming freshman, Thomas, played for Bull City prep and during all his moving, Traore spent a small amount of time with the AAU team at one point.

Whatever the story is, Traore committed to NC State on July 29th.

Here he is talking to Pro Insights, explaining what Pack fans can expect of him.

Traore wasn’t on campus yet, so he couldn’t make the trip to the Bahamas with the team, but he should be ready to go when the team returns.

What can we expect?

Well, we’re not sure. It’s likely Traore won’t be in the main rotation to start the season, but it wouldn’t surprise me for him to start seeing minutes at some point this season. He is 7 feet tall and can guard almost any position.

So is he a project player? Depends on your definition of that. I think this kid has all the tools necessary to be an eventual NBA talent. The question is, can he put it all together? He needs to bulk up, get more physical and just get more experience at a high level.

He’s got a 7’3 wing span. He can shoot it. He’s athletic, shifty, and has great footwork and coordination for a 7-footer. His handle is a little suspect, but he seems to have a pretty good court IQ. He looks like a coachable kid with a high motor. Pair that with his God-given tools, and well, Keatts and company may have just snatched up an eventual elite level talent under everyone’s nose.

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