NC State Men’s Basketball was represented by Head Coach Kevin Keatts and Guards Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner at the ACC Tipoff event today. You can watch the video above from their press conference, or read the transcript below.
Q. Coach, you know you’re coming off of a rough season, and this is the first time you’ve had to kind of come off of a losing season. Can you just speak on the challenges of the adversity that you will face, especially with an entirely new team and just bouncing back from the year that you guys had last year?
KEVIN KEATTS: Yeah, you know, one of the things that we did after last year is as a coach, I always go back and — whether we had a great year or we had a disappointing year, I go back and evaluate some things that I can get better at and as a team that we can get better, and we did that, and we went out and we addressed a lot of our needs. We struggled because we had young post guys. We went out and got two centers that were post guys who were really good players, and then added a couple guards in Jarkel and Jack Clark to our mix. Then we also have a brand new staff. I just wanted different energy. I wanted some older guys to be able to play with guys like Terquavion and Breon Pass and Ernest Ross. I like the direction that our program is going in. I feel good about it. We want to get back to playing the way we played my first three years. We won 20 games. We were .500 or better in the ACC. I like our team. We’ve got depth. We can get back to pressing. We can get back to running. That was the biggest changes that we made.
Q. Last year there seemed to be some issues with fit and maybe chemistry, whether it’s personality or just positionally. Can you talk about how you’re working on improving in that area and if the players could talk about their chemistry, as well. KEVIN
KEATTS: Yeah, I don’t think we had a chemistry problem, we had a depth problem. When we started our season, Manny Bates went down within one minute and then we ended up losing Ernest Ross for the year and then Greg Gantt. Unfair to these guys, Cam Hayes was a sophomore, Terquavion Smith was a freshman, Breon was a freshman, and Dereon Seabron was a sophomore, so we had so much youth at the positions that we needed. I think our chemistry was really good. Our team got along. We just didn’t have depth. So we played a lot different than we normally would play. What we have addressed this year is we were fortunate enough to take a foreign trip, and we went to Bahamas. We were able to get 10 practices in because of that. That’s certainly going to help with our chemistry. The other thing, we played two really good teams, and we had some adversity throughout some of those games, so we were able to come together. But our guys are tremendous. We’ve got older guys like Jarkel Joiner who’s going to be really good in our locker room, and I think that’s going to make a big difference for our guys this year.
JARKEL JOINER: Just building on what Coach is saying, we’ve got great chemistry, great energy. In practice we’re very competitive, hardworking, and looking to have a better year.
TERQUAVION SMITH: Just I feel like keeping our energy up, staying together, and we’ve got this thing in our facility that says play for the front of the jersey, not the back. So I feel like if we buy into that, we’ll be fine.
Q. Following up on the Manny Bates from last year, we left out of here last year with Manny joining us, and then a minute into that first game he obviously sustains what he sustains. What did you learn about yourself during those first couple of days, first couple of weeks?
KEVIN KEATTS: You’re talking about of the season?
KEVIN KEATTS: Well, it’s a challenge. I don’t know if you guys have ever — when you lose one of your kids or one of your players, man, it’s one of the toughest things for the season. And not that you think about, at that point you think about your basketball program, because you think about that young man and you think about the family and how much time that you spent and he spent trying to get better. I think that was our main concern. But as a coach, you have to figure out how to make some adjustments, and we did. We had two really young post guys in EB Dowuona and Jaylon Gibson that we thought would play as a sophomore, and obviously they had to play a lot earlier than we thought. And as you know, when you play in a power league like the ACC, you can’t play a lot of guys who don’t have experience. So we really struggled in that area. But it was a very humbling experience for me because this is the first time in my life that I had to go through a situation, even when the year before Devon Daniels went down with an ACL, but we were able to overcome it. We finished that year with five road games to give us a 9-8 record in the ACC. I learned a lot as a coach from that situation.
Q. Coach, given the way last year ended and the season that you had, is having a completely new roster or having a lot of different faces, does that kind of serve as a fresh start for you?
KEVIN KEATTS: Well, it’s not so much — I never blame anything on the players. Those guys last year, they played their hearts out for me and our program. If you want to look at someone to blame about last year, you completely look at me. I’m the coach. I’m the guy who should take all of the heat, and I am. What we did this year is we went out and we got experience. I’ve said for so long that it’s hard to win in college basketball in general when you are young, and, man, I caught myself being young last year. So I went out and I got some older guys that have played and been through some adversity. I know Jarkel is with us. He is a guy who’s proven — he started off Division I, transferred back home to the SEC, has played against some great teams, and certainly he’s going to be great for T, he’s going to be great for the rest of our players, and all of the transfers, including a guy like Casey Morsell who’s been in the program last year all our guys have benefitted from. When you look at college basketball last year, the teams who were really good were the teams that were — I’m not going to say the word “old,” but those guys who were experienced, and that’s what happened.
Q. Terquavion, what was the process like after declaring for the draft and deciding to run it back with the Wolf Pack?
TERQUAVION SMITH: It was a good process. I enjoyed that process a lot. I feel good to be back with my team, with my family. Great environment in Raleigh, North Carolina and at the school, so there’s always great vibes.
Q. Coach, can we say ACC basketball is back to normal?
KEVIN KEATTS: Yeah, you know, I’m glad you asked me that question. I don’t think ACC basketball — I think ACC basketball has been great the whole time. When you look at last year, I think people from the outside completely judged ACC basketball from November and December. I just don’t think it was fair. When you look at what our teams — the few teams that we got into the tournament, we performed very well. It’s the best conference in college basketball. We’ve got the best coaches, the best facilities. Our guys do a great job. It’s ran very well. We have to do a better job as a conference. We’ve got to root for each other in November and December, because if the committee is going to look at those things over December, January, and February, then we’ve got to figure out how to get more teams in. I think the way we do it is we’ve got to change the narrative and we’ve got to win early. What’s happening is when we get into our league, everybody has kind of made their decisions about how good the league should be. You think about the two Final Four teams, that says a lot.
Q. Jarkel, the note I have says that you have already assumed the role of vocal leader. How long did it take for you to become the vocal leader? And what is your style in being a vocal leader?
KEVIN KEATTS: Well, first of all, he talks all the time, so that’s how he became vocal leader. We have no choice of that. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
JARKEL JOINER: I just want to say, I love to talk. I love to communicate. This team is amazing to be around. I’m very vocal. I like talking. Like I said, to my teammates, being a communicator, and just learning my teammates from day one was the goal.
Q. Coach, do you ever find a time in which you ask Jarkel to not talk so much?
KEVIN KEATTS: Oh, all the time. No, he’s been great. I’ll say this about T, too. Going through this process and going through the NBA combine and having the opportunity to go meet at some great programs in the NBA, man, he’s a different guy, and he’s matured. A lot of that is because he became a sophomore, but a lot of it is what he went through as a freshman. These two guys, they will have to be our leaders, and they’ve got to lead both on and off the court I think is what’s important to us to be successful.
Q. Terquavion, Coach talked about the lack of depth last year, especially in the front court. This year you’ve added two transfers in D.J. and Dusan. What have you seen from those guys in practice and what they add to this rooster?
JARKEL JOINER: Those guys are very competitive, they go hard every day, and with those two you’re going to get your all from them every time I feel like.
Q. Coach, how much pressure do you feel like you’re under to win now? You’ve brought in the experienced guys, which would signal you obviously want to win. But how much pressure do you feel to get those results?
KEVIN KEATTS: I feel the same pressure that I did when I was the head coach at UNC Wilmington and when I was the head coach here when I took the job. The only pressure that typically comes from a coach is what he puts on himself. I feel very confident in the program that we’ve built over several years here at NC State. We just want to get back to if you look at our first three years, we won 20-some games. We were 11-7, 10-10. Even the year when Devon Daniels went down, we found a way to finish up 9-8 in our conference, winning five road games at the end. We want to look at last year as, hey, it happened, it’s behind us, we’ve addressed some of our issues, and we’re completely ready to move on. We don’t talk about it anymore. As a matter of fact, there’s really only three guys on our team that played last year. That was EB Dowuona, Casey Morsell, and Terquavion, and everybody else is gone. So I think our new guys are hungry. They’ve got a new opportunity. I love our staff. Our staff has brought something different and a lot of energy to our program. So the pressure is hey, let’s figure out how to win and get back to winning like we’re used to.
Q. Terquavion, you do have new faces on the bench from a coaching standpoint. What have you learned about the process of this transition, about you, about the program? What is it that gets you excited about 2022-23?
TERQUAVION SMITH: Just to be around a lot of new people. We’ve got a whole new different staff and team, so I’m excited about that. The new coaches are great. Never had a doubt about them, so that’s great. And just a new team. I’m happy that we’ve got a team who is ready to compete.
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.
NC State Releases 2023-24 Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Schedule
NC State released their 2023-24 Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Schedule today.
Below is a look at each teams 2022-23 record, postseason play results, followed by their final rankings according to the NET and KenPom.
The Citadel – 2022-23 Record – 10-22. NET Ranking: 330/KenPom: 327
Abilene Christian – 2022-23 Record – 13-17. NET Ranking: 204/KenPom: 193
Charleston Southern – 2022-23 Record – 10-21. NET Ranking: 304/KenPom: 302
(Vegas Showdown) Vanderbilt – 2022-23 Record – 22-15. NET Ranking: 81/KenPom: 81 (Won 2 games in the NIT)
(Vegas Showdown) Arizona St. – 23-13. NET Ranking: 61/KenPom: 55 (Lost in 2nd Round of NCAA Tournament)
(Vegas Showdown) BYU – 2022-23 Record – 19-15. NET Ranking: 84/KenPom: 77
@ Ole Miss – 2022-23 Record – 12-21. NET Ranking: 129/KenPom: 122
Maryland Eastern Shore – 2022-23 Record – 18-13. KenPom: 251
UT Martin – 2022-23 Record – 19-14. NET Ranking: 251/KenPom: 273
(Hall of Fame San Antonio) Tennessee – 2022-23 Record – 25-11. NET Ranking: 5/KenPom: 6 (Lost in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament)
Saint Louis – 2022-23 Record – 21-12. NET Ranking: 97/96
Detroit – 2022-23 Record – 14-19. NET Ranking: 212/KenPom: 200
NC State Men’s Basketball to Play Vanderbilt in Opening Round of Vegas Showdown
The bracket for the Vegas Showdown on November 23-24 has been released, and NC State will play Vanderbilt in the opening round on ESPN2. They will either play Arizona State or BYU the following day, depending on how it shakes out.
Vegas matchup is set 👀
— NC State Men's Basketball (@PackMensBball) August 8, 2023
Vanderbilt finished the regular season last year with a record of 22-15, and were ranked 81st according to KenPom. Arizona St. finished the regular season with a record of 23-13, and were ranked 55th according to KenPom. BYU finished the regular season with a record of 19-15, and were ranked 77th according to KenPom.