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Different style at practice
At first glance, basketball practices at NC State seem to be a little more intense under head coach Mark Gottfried, and junior wing Scott Wood has the scar to prove it. He received four stitches on his chin after a recent practice.
That was the first time Wood has ever received stitches, but he's more thankful he didn't hurt his prized shooting wrist. Wood's least favorite drill may be what they called at his high school "war," a battle for the rebound.
"We definitely battle and do everything we can to get that ball," Wood said.
Sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown said that the drill is a perfect example of the changes in practice this year.
"Practice has been more intense this year, more physical type play," he said. "I think that's the thing that we need to be a great team. It's been more energetic this year. Practices last year would be kind of quiet, no one would say a word, go through the drills and leave. This year we are [pushing] people on to work harder."
"We're emphasizing getting up and down and going 100 miles per hour but at the same time we have to execute and make smart decisions," Wood added.
The Bob Alejo factor
You can add Brown to the list of fans of new strength and conditioning coach Bob Alejo, hired by Gottfried over the summer. Brown said that he has already added five needed pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame since Alejo arrived.
"He's made a great difference," Brown said. "He knows exactly what to do to have our bodies looking right and to be in the right condition. He's a great strength and conditioning coach. He has showed me technique and things that you can work on that can make your body stronger and quicker.
"His style of work is more structured than what we had last year. We'd do upper body for one day and then rest for two days, conditioning, then lower body and back to conditioning."
Breakout player? Impact freshman?
Who will be NC State's most improved player in 2011-12? Brown cast his vote for junior forward Richard Howell, noting that Howell has lost about 25 pounds per Gottfried's request.
"He's jumping a lot higher and moving a lot faster," Brown said. "Richard is going to be a great player this year."
Wood took a more diplomatic approach to that question.
"Everybody's been in the gym, everybody's been doing what they need to do, and I think everybody has improved since last year," Wood said. "As long as we keep coming together as a team I think we're going to be really good this year."
As for the newcomers, Brown said watch for Thomas de Thaey.
"Thomas, the Belgium guy," Brown stated. "He's a great shooter. You can't ask for nothing more. He's like 6-foot-9, knocking down a three-point shot. That's hard to defend. His low post moves are great. You don't see too many guys that actually go to the post that has moves."
"It's definitely going to be a transition, but I think they can all produce and all can get significant amount of minutes," Wood opined. "Tyler Harris is very versatile. He's 6-foot-8, put the ball on the floor. Thomas can stretch the floor and is a monster down low, and Jaqawn [Raymond] can probably guard one through four. There's definitely going to be some learning curves, but at the same time I think they are going to have great years."
Wood is hoping that this year's team will have better chemistry on the court. He noted that last year too many times individual players try to make a play themselves without "utilizing their teammates." He believes this team is trying to develop genuine relationships on and off the court.
"It has to be real," Wood said. "You have to want to be with your teammates. You have to want to come to the gym and work hard. We've gone out to eat. We go to [Sammy's Bar and Grill]. We've gone to a couple of bowling things. Little things like that, playing video games in the room, competing but at the same time hanging out."
Breaking down Gottfried
Wood's one liner summarizing Gottfried:
"Make a 6-5 version of John Wooden with slick black hair, that's what you are going to get."
UNC table popular
Most popular table for the print media this morning probably comes as no surprise: North Carolina with forwards Harrison Barnes and John Henson. Least popular? Georgia Tech's table of sophomore guard Jason Morris and junior guard Mfon Udofia was sparsely populated.
New ACC digital network
The league announced Wednesday the ACC Digital Network, a joint venture with Raycom Sports and Silver Chalice Ventures, a digital media company. The network should be viewable through a variety of platforms including theACC.com, iPhone, Android and Ipad applications.
The content will be free to users.