Scott Wood was the first player to commit for NC State in the Class of 2009. He also became the first from the group to make a strong impression Thursday night against St. Paul's College in front of 5,123 fans at Reynolds Coliseum.
Wood went on a first-half three-point shooting spree against the undermanned Tigers, making all four of his shots from beyond the arc for all 12 of his points. Junior center Tracy Smith scored a game-high 21 points to complement Wood in the Wolfpack's 84-42 victory in their lone exhibition game of the preseason.
Wood wasn't nervous about his debut in front of the Wolfpack fans.
"I've trained myself not to get nervous," Wood said. "I get excited, but I don't really get nervous. Once you hit your first shot, you feel so good. You come down with a lot of confidence. Then your second one goes in and your third one goes in, and you are pretty sure your fourth one is going in."
Wood made his bid to remain in the starting lineup, but he's not going to worry about what his role is.
"To me, it's who finishes the game and not who begins the game," Wood said. "It's all right to start, and it would be nice to do it, but I'm sure there are games where I won't start. I'm a freshman and I have to get acclimated to everything."
NCSU coach Sidney Lowe didn't want to declare that Wood will start the season opener against Georgia State on Nov. 12 at the RBC Center, but was impressed by his play. Wood or fellow freshman small forward Josh Davis have been battling for the starting spot.
"I don't want to jinx him, but that's what I've been saying about him all summer before he got here," said Lowe about his shooting prowess. "He's capable of doing that. It is such a big boost when you get a guy who knock down a couple consecutive shots like that. That is what he has been doing.
"We've got some very interesting situations. We are young, so guys are battling for positions. Josh Davis has been great in practice, and so is Scott. We gave Scott the nod tonight."
Wood was the lone player from the Class of 2009 to start, but three of his classmates played extensively. Power forward DeShawn Painter had eight points and six rebounds, center Jordan Vandenberg had six points, five rebounds and three assists, and Davis added three points and three rebounds. The last of the freshman, power forward Richard Howell, sat out with a knee injury.
If it wasn't Wood spotting up on the perimeter, then it was 6-foot-7 Smith working underneath. He powered his way for 11 of his points in the first half against St. Paul's, whose tallest player was 6-4.
"They were pretty short, but we just went out and played hard, executed and were pretty unselfish tonight," Smith said.
Smith said Wood's ability to knock down jumpers will help create space for him to operate down low.
"It will definitely free me up on the inside with me and Scott on the same side, with him being the three-point shooter that he is," Smith said. "He'll get me some open looks on the inside."
Junior point guard Javier Gonzalez ran the show, and while he wasn't looking for his shot, he seemed to be in the right place, collecting six assists, five rebounds and four steals, but did have three turnovers. He pushed the tempo along with fifth-year shooting guard Farnold Degand, who is making the transition from point guard. Gonzalez had five points and Degand had six points, six rebounds and four assists in 17 minutes.
"I want to be more aggressive and make plays," Gonzalez said. "This team needs me to make plays for them. I felt pretty good out there. I felt the young guys were listening to me.
"Farnold was a great help out there. He can also push the ball. A couple of times, he just grabbed the rebound and pushed it up the floor and I ran the wing."
When Gonzalez pushes the tempo, he knows to keep a close eye on where Wood is spotting up.
"If he's open, it's going to be a three," Gonzalez said. "He's about 85 percent when he's open. If you get him the ball at the right time, he's going to knock it down."
NC State shot 15 of 27 in the first half for 55.6 percent, while St. Paul's struggled, going 9 of 34 for 26.5 percent.
NC State continued its hot shooting in the second half. The Wolfpack finished 33 of 56 for 58.9 percent, while the Tigers were 15 of 68 for 22.1 percent. Lowe saw improvement in his players since the Richmond "secret" scrimmage that took place Oct. 24.
"I thought our pace was better," Lowe said. "Our communication, our deflections and hands was much better. Our understanding of our positions in reference to the ball, I thought we got better there. We still have a ways to go."
The Wolfpack did struggle some on the boards, with St. Paul's collecting 19 offensive rebounds in the first half.
"We are probably going to work on that at practice tomorrow morning about how many offensive rebounds they got," said Smith, who had four rebounds. "They were small, but we just have to locate them and box them out, so they won't get around."