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July 24, 2012

NC State goes into Spain trip with high expectations




NC State is poised to be a preseason top 10 squad and potential favorite in the ACC, and some new NCAA rules changes and a team trip to Spain will give the Wolfpack a jump on their competition.

NC State has been in the midst of practicing two hours a week for an eight-week period this summer under new NCAA rules, and the Wolfpack will head to Spain for five games Aug. 5-15. NC State has been working hard during the offseason in anticipation of potential latitudes coming their way when practice starts in mid-October.

"This is the first summer where we've been allowed to have what we are referring to as summer access to our current players on our roster," NCSU second-year coach Mark Gottfried said. "Having two hours a week on the floor, and we can break it up a lot of different ways because it's your choice. Those two hours have been really good."

The NC State returns four starters from its 24-13 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 squad, but the team will have different chemistry. The Wolfpack knocked off San Diego State and Georgetown — both top 25 teams — before falling to Kansas in the tourney.

"We still have the four guys that played a lot, but around those four guys, the dynamics of our team has changed dramatically," Gottfried said. "Our team is really the haves and the have-nots."

Gottfried knows the expectations are high, but doesn't believe the team is in position yet to earn such praise.

"I know exactly where we are, and the expectations are probably farther ahead than the reality of where we truly are," Gottfried said. "We had a great run at the end of the year, and our guys should feel good about that run.

"We also lost 13 games and finished 9-7 in the league. We have to take that next step, and we haven't done that yet. I'm excited about our teams potential, but I'm not into or caught up in where others think we might be."

Star junior point guard Lorenzo Brown — a preseason candidate for ACC player of the year, along with junior power forward teammate C.J. Leslie — will make the trip to Spain, but might not play after having a torn meniscus repaired June 26. Brown has been going through shooting drills.

"He did a little bit more in practice," Gottfried said. "He's doing dummy drills, cutting, moving and he's not anywhere 100 percent. He's been shooting a lot, but we haven't put him in any live drills.

"My initial thought is to be really conservative with him and take our time. If that means he doesn't play in Spain, that's fine with me. We'll just kind of see how he feels."

If Brown doesn't play in Spain, freshman Tyler Lewis and senior backup Jay Lewis will handle the point guard duties. Senior small forward Scott Wood has also played some point guard in practice for the first time since his senior year at Marion (Ind.) High.

"[Lewis] is as good an open floor passer, really a passer in any aspect, that I've had," Gottfried said. "I've had Mo Williams, who has done a nice job in the NBA. He finds guys in transition. We always say to make the right pass to the right guy at the right time. He understands how to play."

The players will adjust to playing without Brown in Spain, and the Rivals.com No. 4-ranked recruiting class will try to push the veterans or fill glaring holes. Lewis, freshman forward T.J. Warren and freshman shooting guard Rodney Purvis will inject new life into the Wolfpack.

"I think when you are a good player, it comes with the turf," Gottfried said. "We think we recruited some good players. Part of the responsibility is understanding with what comes with being a good player, and some of that is expectations."

Purvis and Warren are both gifted scorers and local products from Raleigh and Durham respectively. Purvis' ability to the drive to the basket helps highlight one of his biggest strengths.

"If you could describe Rodney, the word I would use with him is the attack word," Gottfried said. "He is great in transition. If I was guarding him myself, I'm worried that he will run me right over and dunk it on my head because he's running 100 miles per hour."

Warren will likely help out at both forward spots if needed.

"T.J. as a scorer, has phenomenal potential," Gottfried said. "He can score the ball in a lot of different ways. For him, we have to make sure he is improving as a defender, rebounder and passer. When it comes to putting the ball in the basket, he is advanced for his age."

Redshirt junior center Jordan Vandenberg and sophomore power forward Thomas De Thaey will also have different roles this season. They'll be expected to provide depth behind starting senior center Richard Howell and Leslie.

"Jordan Vandenberg needs to take a major step forward," Gottfried said. "Thomas De Thaey needs to take advantage of a major opportunity.

"Jordan Vandenberg is a key for us. He has worked hard this summer. His conditioning is better, but he has to become a very good player for us inside."

One player who won't be able to make the trip to Spain is LSU transfer Ralston Turner, due to NCAA rules.

"He's done a good job this summer," Gottfried said. "He's a good-sized perimeter player at 6-6, he's strong and he shoots it well. He is a great young guy. All-in-all, our staff has been impressed with him."



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