NC State shows this it will be adjustment period sans Warren
RALEIGH, N.C. — NC State’s basketball history may not be quite as illustrious as its Tobacco Road counterparts Duke and North Carolina, but the Wolfpack do have two national titles (1974 and 1983), and one of the best players in the history of college basketball (David Thompson).
So they honored the past with a "Throwback with the Pack" night Friday at Reynolds Coliseum featuring a scrimmage between NC State legends like Chris Corchiani, Rodney Monroe, Tom Gugliotta and Julius Hodge, just to name a few.
Monty Towe, the point guard from the 1974 team, was named unofficial MVP. And as the clock wound down, the gray-haired, slightly-rounder Towe (already shorter than everyone else) yelled out: "This is Reynolds Coliseum. You’re supposed to win when you play here!"
NC State won there — a lot — and the Wolfpack’s events held there always take on a certain extra feeling of importance, even now. The scrimmage with the current roster was the first look at what an NC State team without one of the nation’s leading scorers in T.J. Warren.
But NC State head coach Mark Gottfried is never one to make excuses. He may be a bit more understated this year, making his entrance in a convertible instead of zip-lining in like he did two years ago, but he thinks this program
"We want to win a national championship and that’s why I’m here," Gottfried said, later adding, "Let’s go win it all."
Once the scrimmage began, it was clear that this team might have some struggles early on to score. The White Team shot just 7 of 25 from the floor and the Red Team was 11 of 22. The 20 minutes played were relatively low-scoring.
Senior guard Desmond Lee led the White Team (and all scorers) with eight points, while fellow senior Ralston Turner had seven points for the Red Team. Sophomore big man Kyle Washington had seven points as well. No one else expected to see significant playing time had more than four points, but there were some nice moments.
Point guard Cat Barber had just two points, but he was guarding Alabama transfer guard Trevor Lacey, who the Wolfpack coaching staff feels very strongly can be one of the better scorers in the league. Barber locked him down, though, and (with the help of his team, of course) held him scoreless.
Part of that defensive dominance was due to Barber working in tandem with the newly-slimmed down BeeJay Anya, another sophomore big man. He had just four points and his offensive skill set is still a work in progress, but he either swallowed up or swatted every shot that came his way. When Lacey drove into the paint to get a look, having somehow fought past Barber, Anya was waiting for him.
NC State’s three freshmen might make a contribution eventually — twins Caleb and Cody Martin combined for six points, while Abdul-Malik Abu added two on 1-of-6 shooting — but they’re going to be more complementary pieces, probably.
Although even Gottfried admits there’s not much you can learn from a glorified scrimmage, anyway. It’s just proof of something that he already knows — there will be an adjustment period without Warren.
"We’ve just got to get a lot better," Gottfried said. "We’ve got to become a team that really relies on execution. We don’t have that guy like T.J. Warren that can bail you out and get you a basket whenever you need to get one.
"So our team has to be a team that really knows how to execute to get things done and help one another. When you play a game like tonight, it shows maybe we’ve got a ways to go."