If you haven’t read the Kevin Keatts media day press conference, then go ahead and do that.
There were a number of interesting tid-bits in there, one being that he said he’d play 100% zone this season (we reported on that), and another was a bunch of little nuggets about where he sees guys fitting into the lineup.
Today we’re going to focus on those statements, and dissect them a bit.
KEATTS: Jack Clark did a great job in the Bahamas. It’s the new breed of forward. Jack will play some Small Forward for us, but I guess you could say “small ball,” but he’s not really small because he’s 6’8″. We will play him some at Power Forward. I like him as a Torin Dorn type of guy, but a little bit better shooter. Torin Dorn was really special for us my 1st year because he could drive it, he could shoot it, and he could guard multiple positions. We’ll use Jack in that way.
Keatts is kind of saying two things here. He is saying we could see Clark as a 3-man (SF) and a 4-man (PF). Now, Clark is a pretty versatile kid, he’s 6’8 and can shoot, attack the basket, and really showed himself to be strong on the boards in the Bahamas. But where will we see him more? The answer to that will likely inform us on what Keatts starting line up will look like. And learning that will tell us a lot about what style of play he’s going with this season.
I think the key here is that he mentions using Clark as a Torin Dorn type. If you remember, Dorn mostly played the undersized 4 for NC State. My guess is that is his initial inclination. Which means a starting lineup might look like Joiner, Smith, Morsell, Clark and Burns.
Now, before you get mad about going right back into what wasn’t working with the undersized 4, I’d advise you to wait a second and see what you think of Clark. So far he’s been NC State’s biggest surprise (in our eyes). He was a rebounding machine in the Bahamas and he shot it really well from 3pt range. This seems like it’s not Keatts being forced into playing an undersized 4, but more like a true stretch forward emerging and being put into a slot where he’s going to be able to create matchup problems on offense but hold his own on the boards on the defensive side.
KEATTS: Yeah, you’ll see Casey Morsell play some Shooting Guard and Small Forward. I think you’ll see Breon as a Point at times and off the ball at times. I look at Casey as a guy that could possibly be one of the top defenders in our league. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s also shooting the ball very well. We saw a little bit of what Breon Pass could do last year, and I think you’ll see more of him, because he’ll have opportunities. You’ll see, at times, with Terquavion and times with Jarkel on the floor, even with Casey.
Ok, so this one I’m not buying too much. Morsell a the 2 at times and Breon Pass at the 2 at times? If this is happening then you’re either playing a REALLY small team, or your season is shot (because it means Terquavion Smith isn’t getting minutes at the 2). Smith is going to be State’s top scorer and he’s going to need to be on the court nearly at all times, almost all of which will be at the 2.
The truth is, Morsell needs to be on the court unless State is forced to go big with a Burns and Mahorcic combo or a Burns/Mahorcic/Dowuona and Gantt/Ross combo. That would move Clark to the 3 and Morsell would need to either slot in at the 2 or head to the bench. If Smith is healthy, he’ll be at the 2.
Now, Keatts wants to play Clark at the 4 and cause matchup problems, but if they really do go zone more often, then he’ll have the option to go big down low. Keatts mentioned Syracuse as a zone defense he’d like to mimic, and that means height and length everywhere (NC State has the horses to do that). So even in a big lineup with zone, you likely see Clark at the 3.
What I’m saying here is that Morsell will spend most of the season at the 3, no matter what Keatts says. And if Morsell is having trouble finding time at the 2, Breon Pass will be in the same boat. Pass is a PG and Keatts want to keep him around because he’s going to be good. However, Keatts needs to win now and he needs a veteran leader at the point. That’s why they brought in Jarkell Joiner from Ole Miss.
Joiner will be playing PG most of the time this season. The staff loves him, but they are also seeing a lot of improvement from Breon Pass who has put on some muscle and seems ready to contribute. However, with Joiner at the 1 and Smith at the 2, where will he slot in? My guess is that he’s the main backup for Joiner, and Morsell is the main backup for Smith and the 2 (which would bring Clark to the 3). But there is the scenario where Smith needs a breather and Keatts wants to stay small for matchup reasons. You could have Joiner at the 1, Pass at the 2, Morsell at the 3, and Clark at the 4. That’s going to be rare though.
That said, what you’re seeing here is that Keatts has some pretty versatile pieces this season and can do a lot with his lineup. This is really the first time he’s had a frontcourt that allows him to matchup with almost anyone. Up against a big and strong frontcourt, go Burns and Mahorcic. Need a shot blocker in there, go with Dowuona. Need athleticism, Dowuona and Ross. Want offense on the block, go with Burns. All of that creates the ability for Clark to play a little more of the 3, and gives the guards a versatile rotation as well.
KEATTS: Both are full-fledged going. Both are full-fledged practicing. Both are healthy right now. Both guys are doing great. I wouldn’t say that they’re in great shape right now, but both guys have been in practice full-time, and both are doing good jobs.
Ross and Gantt are healthy. That means NC State has two versatile 4-men capable of giving the team real minutes. Ross started coming into his own last season and showed us a lot. This is a bouncy kid who can run the floor, finish on the break and has great timing on his shot blocking. With Gantt you have a very fundamental big body that isnt quite as athletic, but is a great defender and could become a decent scorer if he taps back into what he showed in HS.
However, you see the log jam happening. If Ross forces his way into the lineup at the 4, Clark moves to the 3, then where is Morsell going? Not a bad problem to have, but something to consider.
KEATTS: I told (DJ Burns), if he gets in great shape, he’ll play 40 minutes a game. He should be excited about that. No, he’s working extremely hard. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but he may have been the most efficient post player, maybe even overall player, in college basketball last year.
Ok, interesting. This tells you that Keatts loves what Burns brings to the offensive end and may be willing to deal with his lack of athleticism on defense and give him the full-time gig. This also might be why Keatts is talking about zone, he may love Burns that much.
But Burns came in a little heavier than the staff was anticipating and they are working to get him into shape. Obviously, he’s not going to play 40 minutes, but Keatts saying this is telling. Burns seems to be the guy at center for NC State, and rightfully so, he’s an offensive weapon. I guess it will depend how long of stretches he can play, and how good NC State fares in the zone. If they are getting shot out of it and have to go man, then it’s likely Burns starts being forced to give up minutes to someone a little more versatile who can switch on high screens.
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.
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.
NC State Guard MJ Rice Will Be Returning Soon After Stepping Away for a Period of Time
NC State Guard MJ Rice (6’5″/215) announced yesterday that due to personal reasons, he had to step away from the basketball program, but was excited to be back with his teammates soon. He was clear that his commitment to NC State hasn’t wavered.
Life is much bigger than sports. These young men are human beings first and foremost, and as we all know, this life is never simple and easy.
Rice transferred to NC State this offseason from Kansas with three years of eligibility remaining. The former High School McDonald’s All-American didn’t get a lot of playing time in his Freshman season at Kansas, averaging 7.6 minutes per game in only 23 games played.
Coming out of Prolific Prep in California, Rice averaged 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a Senior. Rivals ranked him as a 5-star prospect, ON3 ranked him 24th nationally, and ESPN ranked him as the #1 player in the state of North Carolina.
Whatever Rice is working through, we value him as a person more than we do a player.
NC State Announces Hiring of Larry Dixon as NC State Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach
RALEIGH – NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts announced Wednesday that Larry Dixon has joined his staff as an assistant coach.
Dixon comes to NC State after spending the last five seasons as an assistant coach at South Florida.
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted in January to allow two more assistant coaches on men’s basketball staffs. Dixon, will serve as one of the Pack’s two new assistant coaches that can engage in coaching activities but may not recruit off campus.
“I think Larry is a great addition to our staff,” Keatts said. “He’s a North Carolina native that has dedicated himself to a coaching career since graduating from college. He started at the high school level in North Carolina and eventually moved up to college and now has been a Division I assistant coach for almost 20 years. I think his experience is going to be a great asset for me and our coaching staff, as well as the young men in our program as we develop them on and off the court.”
Larry Dixon joined the USF coaching staff as assistant coach on May 12, 2018.
In just his second season with the team in 2018-19, Dixon helped USF to the top win turnaround in the NCAA during the 2018-19 season, as the Bulls won 14 more games than the previous season. In addition, USF turned in a 24-14 overall record to set a new single-season school record for wins. The Bulls would go on to win the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) championship and claim the program’s first postseason title since 1990.
Dixon also played an instrumental role in the development of 2019 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Laquincy Rideau and 2019 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Alexis Yetna.
Dixon helped USF become one of the top defensive teams in the NCAA during the 2019-20 season, finishing the year ranked 20th in scoring defense by allowing only 62.7 points per game. The Bulls limited eight teams to fewer than 60 points during the season and held 27 of their 31 opponents under their scoring average at the time of play. The Bulls also ranked 44th in the nation in turnovers forced with 15.6 per game, and stood 65th in the NCAA in steals with 7.5 thefts per game.
In 2021-22, Dixon helped develop Russel Tchewa and Corey Walker Jr. into one of the best frontcourt tandems in the league. The Bulls were again among the top defensive teams in the country, ranking 45th in the NCAA in scoring defense (64.9 ppg).
Dixon came to Tampa after five seasons as an assistant at Georgia Southern under head coach Mark Byington. Prior to his stint with the Eagles, Dixon had collegiate assistant coaching jobs at Winthrop (2007-12), East Carolina (2005-07), South Carolina State (2003-05) and St. Andrews College (2002-03).
In his final season at Georgia Southern, Dixon helped lead the Eagles to a 21-12 record, including an 11-7 mark in the Sun Belt. In 2016-17, he helped Georgia Southern reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, playing in the College Basketball Invitational.
Prior to arriving at Georgia Southern, Dixon spent the 2012-13 season as head coach at York Comprehensive High School in York, S.C.
During his five seasons (2007-12) on the coaching staff at Winthrop under head coach Randy Peele, Dixon was recognized as the top assistant coach in the Big South by Fox Sports.
Before entering the college game, Dixon served as the head coach at Garinger High School in Charlotte, N.C. for three seasons. In 2001, he led Garinger to a North Carolina High School sectional championship and earned Mecklenburg County Coach of the Year honors from the Charlotte Observer. Dixon also spent one season as an assistant at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, N.C. and one season at South Rowan High School in his hometown of Salisbury, N.C.
Dixon graduated from Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C) in 1996, where he was a four-year letterman as a player. He was named the team’s most improved player following his junior season and the top defensive player after his senior season. He helped the Golden Bulls to a pair of CIAA Southern Division titles and a championship game appearance as a sophomore.
A native of Salisbury, N.C., Dixon has two children, Devin and Leah.