N.C. State moves forward without T.J. Warren

NC State has to replace T.J. Warren's nearly 25 points per game next year, and the leading returner scorer is Ralston Turner (above) at just over 10 points per game. 

RALEIGH, N.C. — The way last season ended for N.C. State was not even brought up during most of the basketball team’s summer press conference.

But once it finally was, senior Ralston Turner visibly bristled.

"It took me awhile to get over that, but I think we’re over it," Turner said. "It showed us that we don’t want to feel like that ever again. If we’re able to be in that situation again, remember the feeling."

The Wolfpack won the NCAA Tournament play-in game against Xavier before watching a 16-point lead slip away in what felt like the blink of an eye against St. Louis.

Understandably, it’s not exactly a hot topic in the locker room.

"To be honest, I don’t think I’ve talked about it with anybody on this team since the day," Turner said. "I don’t think so."

And that’s because the look of the 2014-15 N.C. State basketball team is going to be a lot different now that ACC Player of the Year and No. 14 pick in the NBA Draft T.J. Warren is gone.

N.C. State has plenty of pieces on the roster that, by committee, can replace Warren’s nearly 25 points per game. The question is whether those players will be able to do that, though, making the necessary leap a season removed from watching Warren dominate the offense.

"The young guys now have a year under their belt. When I say the young guys, I mean BeeJay Anya, Kyle Washington, Lennard Freeman, Cat Barber and then even Desmond Lee finished the first year. So those guys, they’re far ahead now of where they were last year," N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said. "We’re going to have some more incoming young guys. We’re still going to be pretty young. The majority of our roster will be freshmen and sophomores this year. But we’re farther along as far as those guys understanding what we’re doing, our terminology, trying to run our system.

"Last year’s team, for us to become an NCAA Tournament team, we had to rely on TJ because the other guys weren’t necessarily ready yet to make big plays at key times. They could here and there, but with the absence of TJ now, those guys have a better opportunity. So the answer is we’ll see. That’s going to be a question."

Warren, along with center Jordan Vandenberg, are really the only big losses from last year, though point guard Tyler Lewis transferred. This year’s team is mostly intact. But only one of the returners — Turner — averaged double figures (10.5 points). Two others averaged over eight (Barber at 8.5 and Lee at 8.4). The rest, while they had some nice moments, weren’t consistent.

The wild card will be how quickly the frontcourt can come along. Washington was fifth on last year’s team in scoring with 4.8 points per game, while Freeman added 4.0 and Anya 2.1. But they all have room to grow, and will need to in a hurry.

"The trio of the three forwards of BeeJay, Lennard and Kyle — last year, those guys were good enough to make plays here and there and have a good game one night, hard to follow it up the next night. That group has to be more consistent. They’ve got to be better," Gottfried said.

Gottfried spoke glowingly of Barber’s progress as the team’s primary point guard, while Turner has been in the gym constantly, trying to become the consistent sharpshooter he knows he can be. He finished shooting 37.2 percent from beyond the arc, but had some stretches where he really struggled.

Anya needs to lose weight — the sophomore was as heavy as 349 pounds even towards the end of last season, but he’s dedicated himself to weight loss and is down to around 300 pounds. Gottfried wants him around 280.

There is an intriguing new addition, though, that could make an impact in a hurry — Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey, a combo guard.

"We’re excited about Trevor. I think he’s one of those guys, a year ago when you’re going against him every day in practice — he was on scout team every day — I think everybody in the gym gained a great deal of respect for him," Gottfried said. "I think he can give us some three-point shooting, which we desperately need. He’s a big, strong guard that can get into the paint and make contact, doesn’t get knocked off balance. He’s got a really good feel for all those type things. So my expectation is going to be high for him.

"I think he can be an impact guy in this league."

Gottfried said he and Barber will both play together, likely, and that while Barber will be the point guard, Lacey will play some point as well.

Lacey, who will be a junior in eligibility, averaged 11.3 points on 39.2 ppercent shooting as a sophomore at Alabama, playing over 30 minutes a game. He also shot 37.3 percent from three and added 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals.