The past week has been tough on a pair of NC State players and their knees.
NC State coach Sidney Lowe said Friday that both redshirt junior point guard Farnold Degand and sophomore center Tracy Smith are both battling minor knee injuries, but both are expected to play Sunday against Virginia Tech. Degand is still battling pain from last year's season-ending injury.
Whether Degand will start vs. the Hokies is still to be determined. Lowe painted the picture that Degand, sophomore Javier Gonzalez and freshman Julius Mays, will all get cracks at the spot, and whoever is playing the best will get the bulk of the minutes.
Click below to listen to Lowe's press conference:
How has NC State been able to defeat Virginia Tech six games in a row?
"I'm hoping it's one of those things where certain teams just matchup well against other teams. It's hard to describe why. I think we in the past just matched up well with them. They are a little different this year. They have a big three that can really score some points [A.D. Vassallo]. We are hoping to continue that, but it's going to be extremely tough, we know that. We want to come out and play as hard as we can and get a W."
Have the NC State big guys given VT trouble?
"They play well against them, yeah. This is this year, and I'm sure they've watched film from last year from our games last year and this year. Maybe they'll do some different things against us, but our guys have been pretty good."
Will there be changes in the lineup?
"We are still looking. If Tracy is healthy, if he's healthy, we might look to go back to the big lineup again. They can go big across their front line. We made an adjustment in our last ball game because that team [NCCU] was smaller. We could look at going with the big lineup again."
Is Smith not healthy?
"He's been having some problems with his knee, his right knee. He took yesterday off actually, just trying to give him another day off."
Do you expect him to play?
"Yes, I do. Yes."
Your team seems to have had a decent amount of injuries. How do you coach through that?
"You just hope that they do, and that guys take advantage of the opportunity. As a coach, you have to make some adjustments in terms of your rotation, your lineups. And hope that guys are ready to play. That is one thing that you can't control are the injuries. You just have to put a group out there that can get it done. It's no real secret to it, just hope that you put in guys that are ready to go."
How do you view the three point guards?
"You know, someone put it to me the other day that it is a three-headed monster. I think what we have, we just haven't had one guy that really stepped forward and dominated the position. They all three are capable of bringing something to the table on any given night. We haven't had that one that has been consistent throughout, like I said, just dominate the position to where they are the starter and you know they are the starter. With that, not just in practice, but you have to do it in the game, and be ready to play big minutes in a game. We haven't had one really step up and take control of that. It's a tough thing to do, but you are trying to see who is the guy. I look at practice quite a bit to see who is playing well.
"We talked about Javi, and how well he has been playing in practice, and it translated to the ball game. The same thing he did in our practice, he did in the Central game. That is something when you are in a situation like that, who is dominating at practice. Who is doing the right things at practice. He's done that over the last week.
"Julius is Julius, he's solid. You pretty much know what you are going to get from Julius."
What kind of shooter and driver is VT's Malcolm Delaney?
"He is a very good basketball player. That's one of the biggest differences in their ball club this year. He is the difference. Obviously, you have Allen and Vassallo, but Delaney is the difference. H's a difference maker, controlling that ball and supplies that pressure on you. He can pull-up, shoot the three, get to the basket. He's a very good basketball player and we have to be solid on him. Hopefully, we can't allow him to do both. Not allow him to shoot over us and get to the basket at the same time."
How do you handle four road ACC games out of the next six?
"One at a time, just take one at a time. Try to get that one and then move on from there. There are certain things that we will have to do well. We really are going to need our three key guys to play well for us. They are going to have to play well for us, no question about it, and then some solid play from our point guards, in terms of taking care of the basketball and getting us into our stuff. We are going to need our three guys to play well.
"Our defense is going to need to be strong. That's going to be key for us, how we defend. We are playing against teams that can obviously score the ball. We are going to take one at a time, and see how we do there and then try to build from there. Hopefully, we can get something and get some momentum. If we can get a couple in a row, and have some momentum going forward, then we should be OK. We have to establish ourselves and do a couple of things well. One of our things is that our defense has to be solid because we are going against teams that can score."
What is C.J. Williams' role right now?
"C.J. is just continuing to work, continuing to work. Where we are right now, and getting that rotation down to where we want it, and having Courtney being back at the two, that's a factor obviously. C.J. is doing well, working hard in practice and played well again yesterday. He has a lot of time here. He'll be instrumental in our future, no question about it. He's a very good basketball player, but obviously, he's young and he's learning everything right now. His time will come. The crazy thing about this game is you never know when. I think he'll keep himself ready because he has a good head on his shoulders. He's a team guy and he understands. If he gets the call, I think he'll be ready to go."
Did you expect someone to emerge at point guard?
You always hope that someone would. We were hoping Farnold, he's still dealing with his knee and still not quite right. We were hoping that by this time he'd be ready to go full tilt even without the brace as some other players that have been in our conference has done, but his seems to lingers on right now.
But yeah you would hope that someone would've emerged and taken control of it, but it hasn't happened. We've got to work with what we have. Like I said there's three of them over there, and most of the time one of them is going to play well. One of them is going to play well, just which one is going to step in there and play well that ball game. It's a different thing or a difficult thing, but as long as we can get one in there and be solid for us. If we have two of them obviously that's great.
Do you watch the point guards closely the first 10 minutes of the game to decide who has the hot hand?
Depending on who you start first of all, and you're watching to see how he's playing, and there's different things can happen. He can be playing okay and you can go with the second guy and you can come back to that first guy. But if he's out there and he's just not really into at all, not playing well at all, turning it over, something like that, doesn't look like he's ready, then you got to go down the line. We don't, I don't have time to wait. I don't have time to wait. We need guys that are going to play. We're in the stretch run here. We're trying to win ball games and we need guys that are going to play.
Was Degand hurt against North Carolina Central?
Yeah, I think that was part of it, yeah, his knee, yeah, he actually there's something, he had a class or something that day he had to do some running in or something, I don't know, and it affected him that night in the ball game. Yeah that was part of his reason, his knee.
Is it a pain thing for Degand?
It's a pain thing. It's a pain thing, it's sore, and it limits his movement, his quickness, his lateral movement more than anything. If you don't have that, then it's going to be hard for you No. 1 to defend, which we are talking about getting ready to defend, but he can, the thing about that, he can have a day or two off, and then come back and he'll be okay with it. So it's almost like if it's too much work on it it'll wear it down and get sore, but if he gets time off, he comes back he's okay.
Did Degand injure his knee in class or running to practice?
No, I don't know, he just said it was something, it was a class where he had to run. I don't know if it's a PE class or something.
So the lesson is don't have PE classes during the season?
Not after he had knee surgery, I guess that's a bad idea.
What do you have to do to make a run over the next month?
I think it's all part of the one game at a time. I think we can't look forward. Obviously we have some things we like to do, but we got to take it one game at a time. The great thing about it is we are going to be playing some very good teams, and if we can some of these wins, then that would boost us big going into the ACC Tournament. Who knows what happens there? So there's opportunity there, but we still have to take one game at a time. We can't look down the road. We got to go to Virginia Tech and worry about Virginia Tech right now because we know what stands in front of us. We know what our schedule is like, so we got to take care of the first one.
Are the players drawing enough charges this year?
That's part of the game. That's a big play. You're sacrificing your body, and getting in front of people and taking it. Yeah I was a little frustrated because I felt we had a couple of opportunities that we didn't take it. Come Sunday, who knows, we might get about three or four of them and they are going to be huge. So we'll see what happens.
How big is position defense when you don't have a shot-blocker?
Exactly, that's how I am going to answer that, exactly. It's very important. We have to play position and be able to draw those charges. It's a double-whammy as they say. You put a foul on them and you get the ball. That's two positive things that coming out of that. Sometimes it's just as good if not better than the block, a blocked shot. I think it's better than a block shot if you can get in a take a charge. We are going to have our opportunities on Sunday because they are very aggressive. They go to the basket. We just have to be in the right position and be ready to step in and take it.
How do you teach drawing charges in practice?
We stop, we stop play, we'll stop the play and blow the whistle and put guys right there on the spot and show them the opportunity is right there. The funny thing about it is we do take charges in practice though, we do. When we're going. I haven't gone to the point yet where we line 15 guys up against one yet. We haven't gotten to that point yet, not yet, but you never know.
As an NBA guy, whose performance against the Knicks was better, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James this week?
Those are just great players. They're great players. They're all great players. They're great players. I don't know who's better. I don't know.
Whose performance was better?
Kobe, Kobe puts up numbers. Kobe, as they call it, Kobe is an assassin. He really is. I tell you what, I've never seen a guy that's really, other than Kevin Garnett is obviously Kevin Garnett, but Kobe in an All-Star really wanted to win that game when we coached him in the All-Star game. He really wanted to win so at halftime he got guys together. He wasn't happy with the play. He thought it was too friendly kind of deal. He came out and got the first two steals and set the tone and we went on to win, the Western Conference, the all-star game.
Having said that, Lebron James. He's unstoppable. Lebron is unstoppable. He's just too big, too strong, too powerful, too fast, too quick, offense, defense. Lebron will get other guys shots too, the thing about that, he can get his own but he can also get other guys shots. That makes him a little different.