November 11, 2002
|1997||4-12 (8)||17-15||NIT 2nd Round|
|1998||5-11 (8)||17-15||NIT 2nd Round|
|1999||6-10 (5)||19-14||NIT 2nd Round|
|2000||6-10 (6)||20-14||NIT Final Four|
|2002||9-7 (3)||23-11||NCAA 2nd Round|
x won ACC title
- returning starter
Last year's large freshman class will provide the foundation for the Wolfpack, beginning with guard Julius Hodge, a preseason first-team All-ACC pick. Hodge spent the summer working on his ball-handling skills, in case he needs to fill in as the Pack's point guard, and on his defensive skills, in case he ever has to guard someone as good as UConn's Caron Butler again. Hodge is the natural leader on a team that is in sore need of a Moses. Forward Ilian Evtimov, a do-everything player who is a perfect fit for State's offensive system, was lost for the season when he suffered a serious knee injury in the preseason. Forward Marcus Melvin is poised to have a big season as an outside shooting big man.
Other Key Returnees
Herb Sendek hopes to have a rotation of eight or nine players, and he must get more from inside players Josh Powell and Jordan Collins than he did last year. Powell has beefed up, adding some 15 pounds of muscle to his lean frame, which got beaten down at the end of last season. Collins, recovering from a broken bone in his hand, has a new, lean look to show off. He lost more than 30 pounds in the offseason, so he should be able to get up and down the floor better. The return of Levi Watkins from a season-ending knee injury last December is a big boost to the Pack's versatility. The hard-working Watkins can shoot and rebound and is the kind of athletic player Sendek likes to use in a variety of situations. Clifford Crawford probably won't be the guy who has control of the offense all year long, but like last year he will be a catalyst who can energize things without having to run them.
Sendek has the luxury of not having to rely on freshmen as he did last year, when there were six first-year players and one redshirt freshman on his roster. But early indications are that guard Dominick Mejia and swingman Cameron Bennerman are good enough to contribute immediately, if needed. Mejia, who can play the point, has lost about 10 pounds of baby fat since he got to Raleigh and is in better shape. Bennerman, a slasher who can shoot, is athletic and energetic. Justin Flatt (a big-time shooter) and 7-0 center Adam Simons are projects for a team hoping to compete for an ACC title, so both will benefit from sitting out this season.
ALSO Worth Noting
Evtimov spent much of the summer in Europe, playing for the French national 20-and-under team. He averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds while playing power forward. Powell looks stronger and claims to have added 70 pounds to his best bench press over the summer. The Pack makes its first appearance in the Jimmy V Classic, the 10-year-old doubleheader at the Meadowlands that is named for the late coach. The school will have a year-long celebration of the 20th anniversary of Valvano & Company's 1983 NCAA title.
CHART BY: THE NCSU INSIDER