RALEIGH, N.C. — Anthony “Cat” Barber is ready for a chance to lead North Carolina State’s overhauled roster this season.
The McDonald’s All-American is the top incoming recruit for a Wolfpack team with just three scholarship returnees who saw action last year. That means Barber and his fellow freshmen will see significant roles for a team that’s in flux heading into coach Mark Gottfried’s third season.
“I think there’s a 100 percent chance I’m going to come in and play right away,” Barber said.
Barber, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound native of Hampton, Va., was the nation’s fourth-ranked point guard according to Scout.com. He’s part of a five-man recruiting class that includes junior college guard Desmond Lee. He’ll join a backcourt that includes sophomore returnee Tyler Lewis and LSU transfer Ralston Turner, who sat out last year.
That group will be forced to replace NBA second-round pick Lorenzo Brown, senior Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis, who transferred to Connecticut after one season.
That turnover means Barber will have the opportunity for a big role right away — and he’s not fretting about the pressure that could come with it.
“I’m expecting to be a starter coming in as a top recruit,” Barber said. “Everybody else expects me to be a starter, but I’m just going to continue to work hard.”
Gottfried called Barber “a very talented guy that’s extremely quick” whose most immediate challenge is adjusting to college life.
Lewis saw time at the point behind Brown last season, though Gottfried didn’t rule out the possibility of using both together this fall.
“I think he’s going to be an awfully good player over time,” Gottfried said. “Even in the pickup games our guys have played, the word is he and Tyler feed off each other and like playing together. We’ll see how all that works out. We’re excited about both of them, both of those two guys.”
Pamela Barber, Anthony’s mother, said her son picked up the “Cat” nickname from his older sister, Pam. She said it came because of how nimbly her son moved around as a youngster, along with the speed that would ultimately be a key asset for him as a point guard.
Pamela Barber said she had tried to treat her two children as adults from an early age to make them independent, which helps explain why her son doesn’t seem worried when asked about the high expectations sure to follow him all season.
“He’d say it doesn’t even seem like he’s a grown-up — everything just seems the same, which is great for me because that means the pressure is off,” she said. “It’s almost like he’s done this before.
“He’s really calm and humble and laidback to where it does good for me because I don’t have to worry about him. He’s really smart, he knows what he wants, so hey, I’m proud.”
Barber said he’s focused most on being a leader for the young Wolfpack, who will likely be picked to finish in the bottom half of the Atlantic Coast Conference after all the offseason defections. He isn’t going to worry about anything else for now.
“It’s one of the biggest conferences in college basketball so it’s going to be tough,” Barber said, “but I’ll have fun.”