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December 27, 2012

Mark Gottfried relishes challenges in recruiting



NC State coach Mark Gottfried has made it clear that he isn't afraid of going after any player he believes can help the Wolfpack win a national title.

Gottfried signed numerous elite players when he was the head coach at Alabama, and his recruiting abilities along with those of his staff, have smoothly transferred over to NC State in a big way.

The Wolfpack signed the No. 4-ranked recruiting class in 2012 according to Rivals.com, and currently are at No. 11 in the class of 2013. Add in junior wing commits and twin brothers Caleb Martin and Cody Martin of Davie County High in Mocksville, N.C., who are both top-40 prospects, and Gottfried has managed to bring in six top-50 players since being hired in April 2011.

NC State is currently trying to land No. 2-ranked senior power forward Julius Randle of Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian for the spring signing period. Randle is down to the Wolfpack, Texas, Kansas, Florida, Kentucky and Oklahoma. NCSU made his final six, while both North Carolina and Duke did not.

Gottfried can't talk about Randle specifically, who is officially visiting Jan. 25-27, but the second-year Wolfpack coach has said repeatedly that he doesn't worry about the competition.

"We are going to recruit the players we think that we want, regardless of who else is recruiting them," Gottfried said. "We feel we have a lot to sell at NC State. I'm not going to back down from anybody just because somebody else is recruiting them. I'm not just talking about North Carolina or Duke. It could be Kansas or Kentucky or whomever."

NC State edged Kansas, Alabama and Louisville for senior point guard signee Anthony Barber of Hampton (Va.) High. Indiana and NCSU waged battle over center signee BeeJay Anya of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic, and Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy post signee Kyle Washington picked the Wolfpack over Ohio State, Washington and Iowa State, among others.

"We are going to try and get involved with those kids that we feel like we would like to have in our program," Gottfried said. "You miss a lot, too. That's part of the process - you aren't going to get everybody."

Gottfried noted that recruiting comes down to forging a bond with the player and the people around him, and explaining what the NC State basketball experience will be like.

"In recruiting, my belief has always been it's my job, and our job as a staff, to paint a picture of what our program is going to look like while you are in it," Gottfried said.

"How is this going to look for you? Are we going to win? Are we going to be a top-20 team? Can we make a Final Four? Can we play in marquee games like the Jimmy V [Classic Dec. 4 against UConn] and get national exposure?"

Gottfried went through the recruiting process with his oldest child, Brandon Gottfried, who is a junior tight end at Stanford. Brandon picked the Cardinal when current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was leading the program. Cameron Gottfried, a junior guard at Raleigh Broughton High, is also getting recruited in hoops.

"At some point, I have to look across and say: 'I trust you with my child, and that you are going to coach him hard, be honest with him and push him to another level,'" Gottfried said.

"Recruiting always comes down to that at the very end. We have a lot to sell here, too, which is great for us."

Landing a trio of McDonald's All-Americans in freshmen Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis in the class of 2012, and then reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, proved to be a perfect storm last offseason in getting positive attention for the Wolfpack.

"There is momentum in our program," Gottfried said. "What has to happen for us is we have to take the next step. We've wet the whistle, but now what happens next?

"The great thing for us is that we do have great history. For us, it's my job to sell that this is what this picture is going to look like, and I have to convince you of that. I don't think you can convince somebody with fluff and puff."

Gottfried was re-energized to return to coaching after working for ESPN for two years as a college basketball color analyst. He has been tireless in going to traveling team tournaments and individual camps, and stopping by high schools to see players with their prep teams or in offseason workouts.

"The recruits and their families, they have been able to sense the excitement I have about being here because it's genuine excitement for me," Gottfried said. "I am at a place where basketball is important - the Triangle with North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, and us and the ACC. This whole area, for me, is exciting and that comes out."

Gottfried knows what life is like being in the shadow of a great football program. He played hoops for Alabama and then coached there. He also knows what it is like to recruit for an elite program after being an assistant coach at UCLA. He called some recruitments a "10-cent phone call" because a Southern California prospect only needed a phone call and scholarship offer from the Bruins to want to come to Westwood, Calif.

Gottfried signed McDonald's All-Americans such as Maurice Williams, Gerald Wallace and Richard Hendrix while at Alabama. He also went head to head with the nation's elite as an assistant coach at UCLA from 1987-95.

"Mo [Williams] and Gerald [Wallace], everybody wanted them," Gottfried said. "Everybody in America wanted them, but proximity was on our side for both. They were close, with Mo in Jackson [Miss.], which is only about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Tuscaloosa. I had the same mentality then. Until a player says, 'No, I'm not interested' then I'm going to keep coming. We are going to go hard at them. That is the way it has to be."

NC State presents a different kind of recruiting dynamic than Gottfried's previous coaching stops.

"There is a fun part about the college experience when you are playing in an area where you sport is cherished," Gottfried said. "Our fans know who the backup two guard was 10 years ago at NC State or North Carolina or Duke. There are times in the SEC where the fans don't know that. They forget."

The UCLA brand does come up in NC State's recruiting pitch. Gottfried's UCLA-style offense has won 11 national titles, with the last one coming in 1995 when he was an assistant coach under his mentor Jim Harrick.

NC State has won national titles in 1974 and 1983, and Gottfried doesn't see any reason why history can't be revived in Raleigh.

"Our system that we play is a proven system that has won before," Gottfried said. "It has won and can win again.

"Because of the facilities and academics and the community and the city and our fan base, we are going to continue to recruit great players. Good players don't want to play with a bunch of bad players. They want to win."


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