First overseas travel for several
NC State's trip to Spain will be the first time leaving the country for several players, including Scott Wood, Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie. All three are excited to go overseas for the first time in August. The Pack plays five games from Aug. 5-15, and are currently practicing for two hours per week.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," senior Wood said. "I've never been overseas, so I think it will be a good experience for us.
"I think it will be a good bonding exercise for us, we're going to a place we've never been don't know what to expect. It's just you and your teammates figuring out what to do and where to go."
Leslie also noted that the trip gives the team a head start on its upcoming opponents for the 2012-13 season.
"We're going to get ready for the season with some preseason games, it's a chance to get a step ahead of everybody else," he said. "We're going to take that time and get better, but we're going to go out there and have fun. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and not a lot of people get to enjoy something like this."
Interestingly, at least two of the Pack's freshmen are experienced playing outside of the country. Rodney Purvis went on the road with the U.S. U18 National Team, playing at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Brazil in June, while Tyler Lewis and his Oak Hill teammates played some exhibitions in China.
Sharing the point
With Lorenzo Brown out following a knee operation, several other players have had to step up and share the point guard duties. In addition to freshman Tyler Lewis taking the reigns, classmate Rodney Purvis and senior Scott Wood have also taken turns running the offense.
Wood thinks that it is an experience that will help in the long run, but he's anxious to get Brown back in the fold and get back to where he's more comfortable, although he does have experience running the one from high school.
"It's one of those things that is definitely going to help me, I'm continuing to get better at it and I have to do it," he said. "I told [Lorenzo] that I'm ready for him to come back because I like coming off down screens. I told him he needs to hurry up and get well."
Brown has been impressed with his rookie understudy, Lewis, and noted that he can even learn a thing or two from watching his young teammate run the offense.
"He's a very smart guy," Brown said. "He knows who to pass it to at the right time and he just got here, I had to figure that out in the middle of the season. He already knows how to do it, so I'm just picking up what he does by watching him."
Brown said he returned to practice on Monday and pronounced himself at 75-80 percent. However, he knows the season is the most important thing and he won't push himself to play in Spain if he's not ready. He said he's fine whether he plays overseas or not.
"Either or, it doesn't really matter to me," he said. "I just want to give my support any way I can.
"Just being there is big for me, I've never been overseas, so I'm just excited to go. My job right now is to talk to [the younger guys] and keep their heads level. I'll cheer on my team and do whatever I have to do.
Is there a chance on him playing in Spain?
"It depends on how I'm feeling next week," he said. "If I'm jumping like normal, I might as well play but, if not, I'm not even going to try it."
Although Brown is not able to practice right now, he has also helped Lewis with pointers from the sidelines and has served as another coach for the youngster.
"Lorenzo has been a great leader and teacher to me," Lewis said. "He's telling me all of the things that I need to do. In my opinion, he's the best point guard in the country so just learning from him is a great opportunity."
NC State's three freshmen - Purvis, Lewis and T.J. Warren - all played in the McDonald's All-American game this spring, so each brought considerable hype to Raleigh. However, the veterans have been impressed by the rookies, who have met expectations so far.
"They definitely are [as good as people said they were]," Brown said before singling out Warren. "I like T.J. a lot because he's a go-getter. He can score anytime he wants to and he has size. He's a quiet guy, too, and I like that about him."
Wood has been similarly impressed with the first-year guys.
"I think they've done a really good job," he said. "Rodney Purvis is a freak athletically. T.J. Warren is going to be a matchup problem for a lot of guys and Tyler has really impressed me with how he's come in here and shot the ball real well, he's picking up the system really quick. They've all done a real good job, they just have to continue to pick up the system and get acclimated to the college game.
"[The college game] is different for any freshman, even the guys who have been McDonald's All-Americans and had the spotlight on them. It's going to be a transition for anybody. I think you've got to step unto a role in your first year, and it's going to be a lot different, it's going to be difficult, you'll have your ups and downs, but at the same time, you'll have your moments. You have to utilize those moments and when they call your name, you've got to step up and do what you know you can do."
Lewis' presence has already been felt by center Jordan Vandenberg, who enjoys playing with the young point man.
"When Tyler is on my team, it gives me that extra motivation to run the floor because he'll just throw it in front of you and you can go get it," he said. "We've done that a lot at practice recently."
The young point guard noted that the freshmen are excited to finally reach college, but they haven't felt too much pressure, despite the high expectations.
"We're really excited, we know we have high expectations coming in here, but we know we don't have to come in here and take over the lead role right away because of all of the players that are returning," he said. "We're not going to sit back and relax, but we're going to learn from the others. Like for me, I'm going to learn from Lorenzo."
Vandenberg reshaping his body
Strength and conditioning coach Bob Alejo's impact on the team last year was obvious when looking at forward Richard Howell and his slimmed down physique. This year, he's working to reshape another big man, Vandenberg.
The Australian noted that he's already lost about 16 pounds since the beginning of summer and coach Mark Gottfried noted in his press conference that the center has been living in the weight room. It's just continuing the progress that the big man started during his redshirt year, when he felt like he improved despite being sidelined with an injury.
"[The redshirt] helped a lot because I got to work out a lot more and I put some touches to my game - I've got a hook shot now," he said. "I got a lot stronger, a lot faster. It should be a good thing."
Gottfried went as far as calling Vandenberg a key during his time with the media and the big man knows that he's an important cog in the team this season. However, he also knows that his biggest impact needs to be made on the defensive end, with the already proven Leslie and Howell taking care of the heavy lifting on the offensive end.
"I'm ready to take over defensively," he said. "Richard [Howell] knows what he has to do and he proved last year that he's a solid inside player. Thomas [de Thaey] and I worked out over the summer a little bit ... we know we have to go out there and prove ourselves."