Freshman small forward Scott Wood showed against Florida State that his game at its best translates impressively at the ACC level.
Wood scored 31 points in the Wolfpack's 88-81 victory Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla., and also did a quality job guarding FSU wing Deividas Dulkys.
NCSU coach Sidney Lowe talked about Wood's progression this season, and the challenge of going against Clemson's pressure defense and senior power forward Trevor Booker on Saturday at the RBC Center.
Click below to listen to Lowe's weekly press conference, and a transcript is provided below:
About a month ago you were worried about Scott Wood's shooting. You feel that way now?
"No, no I'm not. I'm glad that it came around, but I think that obviously we and Scott never lost confidence in him. You heard me say it when he was struggling it's going to come around at some point because he's a good shooter. It was coming on slowly, slowly, then he just had a big game at Florida State. He got into that zone that shooters get into."
What impressed you about Scott Wood?
"I think it was his demeanor, the way he went about it. He always had great confidence in himself. He didn't take a lot of bad shots. Sometimes good shooters, they'll take some bad shots, but he doesn't take a lot of bad shots. If he can't really get squared up and look at it, then he probably won't shoot it.
"Then just watching him play the game, coming off screens, reading situations, very poised. You saw him at Florida State, very poised in those shots. That's kind of rare, in a freshman anyway. He had it that night."
He's really picked it up the last eight games or so with his shooting, was it something you changed or confidence?
"I think it's just being more comfortable and confident I guess. Being a freshman you're feeling your way through the thing. Sometimes you don't know when it's going to click in. Obviously it did for Scott. He realizes that I can do this, I can get these shots. It's going to get more difficult, obviously, but I think he starts to comfortable with it.
"I think he starts to get comfortable with the offense and knowing what we're doing and realizing what those shots are going to come from but also remembering to just play, just play. A guy like that I'll tell him, there's often times if we are not in a set, then you always look to come off screens, just come off to get open because you're always a threat even if thought might not shoot it, and I think he just got more confident in that."
Did he shut down Dulkys on Saturday?
"No question about it, no question about it. I don't want to jinx him but once again he's one of our, if not our best defender, on the perimeter when we're talking about knowing what the opponent wants to do. He's good there, doesn't give many looks from the three. He does a great job of executing the defensive game plan. He's done that really all year. We've put Scott on sometimes the best perimeter player whether it's a two or three."
That been the biggest surprise?
"That's been the biggest surprise, that's been the biggest surprise. I think obviously as we move forward and we're in conference play against certain players he's going to be tested even more, but so far he's done a great job defensively."
You mentioned he didn't lack confidence even when he was struggling, did that surprise you for a freshman?
"It did, it did, it did. I thought at some point I was going to have to talk to him, maybe lay him down on the sofa, something like that, play psychologists, exactly. Tell him relax, lay right there for a second, we'll talk.
"I could see that he was frustrated with the shots not going in, but he never stopped looking. He never got to the point where he saw himself open and he didn't shoot it. So I really wasn't concerned about it. I think I told you guys that when people said are you considered about Scott's shooting. Absolutely not, if he keeps shooting I just thought at some point around it was going to come around."
When was the last time you saw a shooting performance like that?
"In my years here we never had anyone like that. I'd have to go back to the NBA with guys like that. Chauncey Billups got on a roll one time. Mike Bibby got on a roll one time. But other than that we've never had that here since I got here."
When you have freshmen like Scott, are you curious to see how their game translates to the ACC level? And now that you know Scott can do what he does at an ACC level, what kind of confidence does that give you moving forward?
"It gives me great confidence, because you're right that's something that you try to prepare for going into conference play, knowing that's going to be tougher on freshmen and you do get a little concerned. You watch him, you watch them close, make sure they are able to handle it or if they are having trouble able to protect them in that way.
"Watching him play, I think what Scott does he plays his game. It doesn't matter who he's playing against, he just plays his game. I think that's why he's successful with it. He's a freshman. Is he going to stumble at times somewhere? Sure, he will, but for him, because that's who he is, he's going to succeed more times than he fails because he's just being who he is. He's playing the way he knows how to play regardless of the situation. He's as poised and as calm as any freshmen I've seen. He's just calm, doesn't panic, not that he won't make a mistake or turnover or something, but he's calm, and he's always reading, his decisions, he's calculated. He's always thinking. That's different, that's just different."
How did you recruit Scott Wood?
"We knew Julius. We were recruiting Julius. Actually Scott wasn't big on the AAU circuit. Monte and I were actually, Monte was told about this young guy in Indiana who was a shooter. It just happened we were actually on the airplane coming back from recruiting in Vegas, and this gentleman was sitting next to Coach Towe and recognized Monte and said hello because he's from Indiana, and said, 'You need to see my nephew, he's won all kinds of three-point shooting contests.'
"The guy said the name and Monte said yeah. Monte knew the name. Then we started talking, went and saw him, and that was it. That's how it started, on the airplane, on an airplane. We knew of him, but we hadn't seen him yet. You hear about players and hear people talk about them and you plan on going to see him, but now, 'Monte,' I'm like, "I don't know this is some kind of divine something here. We're on the airplane and now this guy's talking about the kid.' We went to see him and sure enough, sure enough. That's how it happened."
Next three opponents at home are all ranked.
"I don't think it is a measuring stick. It is important, certainly, to win at home, number one. Regardless of if they are ranked or not, it is in our conference. Certainly when you play a ranked team and if you are fortunate enough to beat them, it obviously does good things for your program. We have to approach each game one at a time and, once again, being at home, it is really important to control your home court because it is so tough on the road. We have to come out and be ready to play tomorrow."
Clemson's guards put a lot of pressure on everybody, talk about what you need to do to take care of the ball.
"They apply great pressure. The guards, when they are in man defense, are diamond trap. When they score, they get into that and are trapping you. The thing we talked about yesterday, worked on yesterday and worked on today is that they do a great job of speeding up the game. Speeding up the game with their aggression and their speed and quickness, they force their opponents to speed up the game and a lot of teams can't play that way.
"What I talked to my guys about was that when you're trying to speed up the game, it is really your mind that is speeding up and moving so fast. They get you going at a certain pace so your mind starts going at a certain pace and you start doing everything fast. What we talked about is while they're going at one pace, we need to be going at a different pace, at a slower pace. That means when we catch the ball, we don't catch it and put it down. You catch it, turn and look and make the next pass. That guy catches, turns and looks, makes the next pass and that's what we have to do. While they are speeding up our minds, we need to be able to slow our minds down and really see what is happening out there.
"And that is what we worked on yesterday and today. To try to simulate that a little bit, we put the guys in the diamond trap and we put six players on defense to try to simulate how active they are in their movement and get our guys to calm down, slow down and know where the receivers are. We show where the traps are coming from and we stop it to have the guys turn around with the ball to look where his receivers were. We really tried to slow it down and break it down for our guys because that's really going to be the key, they're forcing about 19 turnovers a game and we can't do that.
"Now, when we get across half-court, we have to be able to get into something quickly and we worked on a couple things that we can get into quick to execute."
Was there an emphasis against FSU to keep double-digit lead?
"Yes, we have had that situation before and I talked about it post-game, we are learning how to play with a lead. Knowing that team is going to comeback , knowing they are going to do whatever they have to, to get back in the game. We had one situation where we were up, we caught the ball and the guy hit our arm. They got the steal, went down and scored, and I called a timeout. The player was complaining that he got fouled and an official was there. I just said to the official, 'yeah, that was a foul but he should have held onto the ball. He should have been strong with the ball because I told you this is what was going to happen. When teams are down ,they are going to do whatever, hit you, grab you, hold you and you have to be strong with the ball.'
"I tried to get into our player's head, don't complain about a foul, I told you they were going to foul you and that's the mentality you have to take so you are stronger with it so you keep the lead opposed to giving it up because you were weak with the basketball."
What do you think got into your team's head to make some free throws?
"Obviously, we continue to work on free throws. We did some more drills and we will continue to do those things. I think the understanding of the game was important for our guys to understand there are different ways to win a game and there are different ways to lose a game. I think a lot of players don't realize it until the end but you can lose a game by missing free throws or you can win it by making free throws. We broke it down and showed them the Florida game, we showed them the Arizona game, we showed them all the games where we didn't shoot the ball well from the free throw line. Understanding that your one that you missed is very important to us winning or losing.
"We did a drill where we had to make a certain percentage as a team and we did a drill to see how many we could make consecutive and we rotated, had two groups. At the end of practice, I asked the two groups how many they made consecutively and then I asked the guys, who missed the shot that stopped the run? They raised their hands and I said, 'OK, how did you feel after you missed that shot? I want to know a couple of questions. Did you just kind of chuckle and laugh, like, 'man?' Or did you just laugh? Or really were you mad? If you weren't mad, then there is a problem. If you weren't mad that you missed the free throw that stopped the run, that stopped the consecutive, then there is a problem.
"Just trying to do different mental things to make them understand how important it is that when you step to the line, you need to concentrate and make the free throw. We're taking all angles right now."
Were they mad?
"I didn't want to know. That's what I did, that was the other part. I didn't want to know but I wanted them to think about it. One might say, 'man, I wasn't really mad. That's not right, that's a problem, I should be.'"
Did it show maturity that the Seminoles would make a run but never could get over the hump?
"It definitely showed some toughness. Certainly, I think we matured there in that case. Plus, the fact that we had two freshmen in the ball game with Scott Wood and Richard Howell. Richard was in there the last four or five minutes of the ballgame and to finish a game off like that was big. What was real impressive is that Dennis didn't play well, Javi didn't play well and Tracy didn't have his best game. But Tracy did get rebounds, he got big rebounds. That was impressive the fact that he sacrificed, he knew I'm not scoring but I can get stops on the other end to help the team and get rebounds. He got big rebounds and that was impressive.
"The fact that we won the game without Dennis and Javi. Julius stepped in, Jordan did a great job and Richard did a great job. From a maturity standpoint, those guys recognized that I can do this, we can do this."
Challenge of going against Booker.
"We're going to have several guys that will have to guard Booker, he's tough. He's just tough. I tell you what, he just goes hard and I've yet to see anyone take a charge on him…There might be some kind of big-time something for someone to take a charge on Booker, they might get an extra meal or something."
Talk about Richard's progression.
"He is definitely playing better. He's been very active, been on the boards, and he's even starting to understand a little more what is going on with the offense and things to look for. I think once he really gets it, he is going to be good because he's an excellent passer. He's definitely coming on and we definitely need that. I don't know if we win that game at Florida State, if he's not there."
Thoughts on John Wall's performance as a freshman.
"He's done exactly what I knew he would do, he's done exactly what everybody knew he would do. He's just a tremendous, tremendous talent. It didn't matter where he went to school, he was going to make that team better, he was going to make that team a contender. He's just that good, he controls the game."
Where did it go wrong for NC State or didn't it and he just chose a different school?
"I think he just chose the school he wanted to go to, I don't think it went wrong anywhere. He just chose to go to Kentucky."
Farnold's impact in FSU Game.
"Farnold has been coming on. We've talked about the things that he brings to the team: his speed, quickness, ball handling, being able to take some pressure off of our point guards, being able to create. He's always in the attack mode, which is something that you need as long as it is smart and controlled. He just gives us that thing that we need in that position to be able to put the ball on the floor and create something or get to the gut of the defense. He has been playing very well defensively, he's been big the last few games."
It seems Degand and Javi have been playing well together and C.J. and Julius are in a rotation. How do you think that has worked out?
"You try to go into a game with a plan, you got your starters and you get the rotation going. As the game goes on, it could be Javi and Julius in there together or Javi and C.J. together, I think it just depends on what is happening, who is playing well and what combination is playing well because it depends on the game you're playing. I let the players dictate who is going to get the most minutes, that's coaching. If you're going to coach, you have your strategies, your X's and O's but then the players, in my opinion, dictate.
"Number one, it's not right when you have a guy in there, working and playing hard to help you win the ballgame and you say, 'OK, I've had enough. Now, let's go to you because you're supposed to be in there.' You're only supposed to be in there when you are doing what you're supposed to do and I think that our last ball game, and we've had another game like that, where the guys that were getting it done finished the game for us. Richard was in there and Julius was in there and they got it done."