NC State men's basketball coach Sidney Lowe might not know who will start next season for the Wolfpack, but he is happy with the flexibility and versatility of the players he'll be choosing from.
"I really think we'll have a team that can move guys around," Lowe said. "That will be a luxury for us. Hopefully, we will have at least two or preferably three guys that can handle the ball and make decisions for us on the floor at all times."
The one constant next year will be junior inside player Tracy Smith, but whether he will play power forward or center is still to be determined. Lowe would prefer to play Smith at power forward and said he could be an All-ACC player. One of three freshmen — 6-9 DeShawn Painter, 6-8 Richard Howell or 7-0 Jordan Vandenberg — would have to emerge and play center.
The 6-8, 240-pound Smith finished the season averaging 10.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in just 18.2 minutes per game.
"We made our nice run in February when we put Tracy in the starting lineup," Lowe said. "I think he is confident and feels good about himself. Any time you can have a little success in this conference, it has to give you a little confidence. Teams might key in on him, and if they do that, then that tells you he is doing a good job down in there.
"If we can play inside, and I like to play inside-out, then hopefully that will open up some opportunities for us on the perimeter as well."
Painter is probably more suited to playing center than Howell, but Lowe will play the five best players. Vandenberg's height brings a dimension that no one else on the roster possesses.
"DeShawn is longer and a little bouncier than Richard," Lowe said. "Richard can probably face-up and shoot it a little bit better.
"With his size, defensively, Jordan can help us out. He has a nice shot, 15, 16 feet out. He has good footwork, good hands, but he needs to get a little bigger."
Lowe has other versatile players at his disposal next year such as senior forward Dennis Horner, sophomore wing C.J. Williams, freshman combo guard Lorenzo Brown and freshman wing Scott Wood. Finding the right position for each player will go a long way toward snapping the three-year NCAA Tournament drought for the Wolfpack.
Horner has played both small forward and power forward for the Wolfpack, but Lowe said he'll be at the four next year. Smith would likely play center when Horner is at power forward.
"Dennis is going to be a four," Lowe said. "I think he can play some three, and that is the thing about our team. I really think we'll have a team that can move guys around. That will be a luxury for us. Hopefully, we will have at least two or preferably three guys that can handle the ball and make decisions for us on the floor at all times.
"I see Dennis playing more at the four because he has been more effective for us there. He gives us that luxury of pulling the fours out on the floor when he can get out there and make shots."
Small forward will be a battle between redshirt sophomore Johnny Thomas and Wood, but Lowe even hinted that he might dabble with playing two smaller guards together and have Brown slide out to small forward.
Wood will have every chance to come and be a starter next year.
"Scott Wood is a solid, solid basketball player," Lowe said. "He'll still be a freshman and make some mistakes, but he is a solid basketball player. I think he needs to get a little bigger and stronger, and he will. As far as understanding the game, how to play the game, how to win, he knows how to win."
The 6-5, 203-pound Thomas averaged 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 11 minutes per game in 14 contests last season. However, he didn't play in nine of the last 10 games and has had a difficult comeback from knee surgery, which wiped out his 2007-08 season.
"We know with Johnny, he's going to play hard," Lowe said. "I feel very comfortable with those two guys. It's just a matter of through practice who is going to start."
Williams has the ability to play small forward, but Lowe said he's found a comfort zone at shooting guard. Williams backed up Courtney Fells and showed flashes of what he could do down the stretch this winter.
The 6-5, 203-pounder averaged 3.7 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in 14.6 minutes of action for the season.
"I think he can play three at times, but he's a two," Lowe said. "I think he's settling in at that. I think he knows that is his position."
Williams will likely battle with Brown for minutes at the shooting guard position. Williams, Brown and sophomore combo guard Julius Mays could be the leaders next year for the Wolfpack.
Brown played point guard the majority of the time at Roswell (Ga.) Centennial High, but also played off the ball in AAU basketball.
"I think they [freshman class] all have a certain thing right now that they do well, including Lorenzo's ability to handle the ball at that two-guard position," Lowe said. "He can play two and one. He can defend, and he can run the floor; that's who he is."
Lowe isn't sure who will emerge at point guard, and mentioned that some of the three candidates — fifth-year senior Farnold Degand, junior Javier Gonzalez and Mays — could also see time off the ball.
All three players started at various points in the season for the Wolfpack.
"I think it's going to be a competition," Lowe said. "I can't say who is going to win the job. Our point guards have different personalities."
Lowe is expecting some spirited competition when practice begins in mid-October.
"A coach likes to go into a season with a rotation, but if that person coming off the bench first in that position is not playing well, then he won't be in there long," Lowe said. "You have to go back to your starter, or you have to find somebody else."