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November 10, 2011
NC State coach Mark Gottfried is no stranger to signing talented recruiting classes.
The first-year Wolfpack coach routinely brought in highly rated players while at Alabama, and was part of some quality classes as an assistant coach at UCLA. Gottfried's impact on the recruiting trail for NC State has been felt since getting introduced April 5, and resulted in one of the best recruiting classes of his career.
Gottfried signed three top 60 players Wednesday — all from North Carolina &mdash and has the current No. 3 class in the country by Rivals.com. Combo guard Rodney Purvis of Raleigh, small forward T.J. Warren of Raleigh, and point guard Tyler Lewis of Statesville, will add a new chapter to the history of Wolfpack basketball.
"I know their games very well, studied all three of them a lot, and I think myself and our staff watched them play every time they had the ball bounce," Gottfried said. "I was there personally a lot. I did get to learn their games, and I'm very excited about what they bring to us."
Gottfried isn't concerned about how high the class gets rated, but whether the Wolfpack are recruiting the best players for his program.
"Fortunately, for us, there are a number of players in the state of North Carolina this year," Gottfried said. "Year-in, year-out, we want to recruit the best players, period. I've had people tell me that it makes a statement, but I'm not as much concerned about that. I just want to improve our program."
Lewis, Purvis and Warren, all share the common trait of loving to play basketball and are gym rats. Gottfried has often said he hopes to have a program built on players who love to compete.
"They are winners, No. 1," Gottfried said. "I think they play the game to win and that is important. They are individually talented but my mindset is they want to win the game."
Lewis originally committed Oct. 28, 2010, and stayed firm with NC State throughout the coaching transition. The 5-11, 168-pounder attended Lewisville (N.C.) Forsyth Country Day for four years, and is now going to Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy.
Lewis, who Rivals.com ranks No. 55 overall and No. 9 point guard, quickly won over Gottfried.
"I watched Tyler and immediately, I was thinking Steve Nash or John Stockton," Gottfried said. "He passes the ball so well. The second the ball is in his hand, his eyes go up the floor and he has the ability to see the game two steps ahead of everybody else."
Lewis first gained recruiting attention when Charlotte, Virginia Tech and Auburn, offered him before he played a game as a freshman in high school. NC State assistant coaches Bobby Lutz and Rob Moxley both recruited Lewis while at their previous coaching jobs.
"I sold many of the other recruits that if I'm a good scorer, I want to play with Tyler Lewis," Gottfried said.
Purvis, who attends Upper Room Christian Academy, selected NC State Sept. 30 after a hard-fought recruiting victory. Duke, Missouri, UConn, Louisville, Memphis, Ohio State, Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth and North Carolina Central, were some of the schools Purvis considered during the recruiting process.
The standout for the Chris Paul All-Stars, which is sponsored by NBA star Chris Paul, has been a household name in the Raleigh area for basketball fans for the last four years.
Purvis originally committed to Louisville, but following some changes to the Cardinals coaching staff, he opened his recruitment up May 2. The timing couldn't have been better for new NC State coaching staff.
"He bought in to the fact that we could turn our program around and that says a lot about him," Gottfried said. "That says a lot about his courage and that he's not afraid of that."
Gottfried and his coaching staff tirelessly recruited the No. 6-ranked Purvis throughout the July evaluation period. The 6-4, 195-pounder combines great athleticism and determination, and is the No. 2-ranked point guard in the country by Rivals.com.
"Rodney is such a competitor and he's the guy that you don't want to play against," Gottfried said. "If he's on the other team, you have your hands full because he is going to play you to the death."
Warren was the most recent of the commitments. The 6-8, 230-pound physical small forward attended Durham (N.C.) Riverside for two years, transferred to Raleigh Word of God for his junior campaign, and now attends Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy.
Rivals.com ranks Warren the No. 23 overall player and No. 6 small forward. He picked NC State over scholarship offers from Georgetown, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio State, Wake Forest, and numerous others.
Warren emerged as one of the top scorers in the class of 2012 while playing in the Carolina Challenge on March 26, NBPA Camp in mid-June and with the Garner Road traveling team organization, which is aided by NBA player David West.
Warren's signing with NC State is also special within his family. Tony Warren Sr., T.J.'s father, played for NCSU in the late 1970s.
"I think that is a great thing," Gottfried said. "No. 1, I know his mom and dad are very proud, as they should be. It's a great thing for them to be apart of for their family. Not a lot of times, that players have sons that are good enough. It's unique, but I know the family is very excited."
Gottfried is used to butting heads with some of the traditional powerhouses of college basketball. He landed elite prep players such as Rod Grizzard, Gerald Wallace, Maurice Williams, Kennedy Winston, Ronald Steele, Richard Hendrix and JaMychal Green, while at Alabama.
Gottfried and the Wolfpack had to beat out several of the top programs in the country to land Lewis, Purvis and Warren. The latter two are among Gottfried's top six highest-ranked players he has landed as a head coach, joining Wallace, Hendrix, Williams and Green.
"There was a long list of those guys," Gottfried said. "I went into the SEC West with Rick Stansbury, who is terrific [at Mississippi State]. John Brady was at LSU and terrific. Nolan Richardson [at Arkansas], Cliff Ellis [at Auburn] and you aren't even getting over to the other side where you have Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, so it was a war every time you turned around.
"It was healthy. At the end of the day, you move on one way or another, but we battled against each other hard."
NC State has at least one scholarship remaining for its recruiting class, and No. 36-ranked Amile Jefferson of Philadelphia Friends Central High could be deciding early next week. The early signing period runs Nov. 9-16.
Gottfried can't talk about unsigned players, but feels good about the direction of the program.
"I'm excited for our fans and I sense their excitement, but they also need to have some patience," Gottfried said. "These guys are going to come in and will be young, and it's a transition from high school to college, and they will all be going through that."
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