Is Mark Gottfried looking for any additions to a very solid 2014 recruiting class?
RALEIGH – When the basketball early signing period arrived on Nov. 13, Rivals.com rated N.C. State’s three-man haul of power forward Abdul-Malik Abu and twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin (both likely college wings with Caleb more suited to play shooting guard and Cody small forward) No. 16 in the country.
There is a catch to that. When those rankings were released, Duke was not even in the top 30 because at the time the Blue Devils just had a pledge from well-regarded guard Grayson Allen, himself a one-time prime N.C. State target. Then the Devils landed top-five talents Jahlil Okafor, a center, and Tyus Jones, a guard, which would surely leap-frog NCSU in the Rivals.com ratings.
Nevertheless, it appears that Mark Gottfried will have a top-20 class and for his third straight effort will bring in a group that on paper should have the Pack well positioned to remain competitive in the new-look ACC. But the class may not be complete yet.
It’s obviously very early in the season, but the returns on the three freshmen big men have not been quite as desired. BeeJay Anya showed up massively overweight and is limited in how much he can play and what he can provide when on the court.
Kyle Washington has good length and tools, but he’s also playing like a freshman, looking lost more often than not on the court. Lennard Freeman is a battler but with a limited skill set, and at 6-8 he is probably more suited to play the four.
Abu is a good talent. He’s ranked No. 50 in the 2014 class by Rivals.com, and he comes with a reputed well-developed skill set. However, Abu is a pure power forward that observers have noted may be closer to 6-7 than the listed 6-8.
During a 68-57 loss at Cincinnati on Nov. 12, the Pack’s inability to compete around the basket on both ends of the court was noticeable. The Bearcats outrebounded NCSU 43-36, outscored the Wolfpack in the paint 36-22 and blocked nine N.C. State shot attempts.
Some of those issues may be partially fixed when fifth-year senior center Jordan Vandenberg, 7-1, returns from an ankle sprain in early December. But Vandenberg is a short-term fix who exhausts his eligibility after this season.
Thus, it would not be a shock if NCSU looked to add another big man if the right one was on the market. There was a report on Rivals.com that suggest NCSU has offered 7-1 Anas Osama Mahmoud, an Egyptian who is playing at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Fla. NCSU is not alone. Reportedly, Arizona State, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Minnesota and Texas A&M are in pursuit of Mahmoud.
There is always a chance that Anya will slim down to a more manageable playing weight. If so, Anya should be able to use his almost comical 7-9 wing span to give State the presence around the basket it needs. Or perhaps the gifted but raw Washington will polish off his game.
But the question Gottfried has to ask himself is, are those chances that he wants to take?
Growing Pains For Young Head Coach
To say this has been a frustrating season in football would be an understatement.
Athletic director Debbie Yow took a chance when she fired Tom O’Brien after his third straight bowl appearance and brought in Dave Doeren, who had a brief and wildly successful stint at Northern Illinois.
From the moment she held a press conference to announce O’Brien’s dismissal, Yow has stressed that N.C. State football was in rebuilding mode. ACC sportswriters were not necessarily buying it, picking the Pack to finish third in the Atlantic Division behind heavyweights Florida State and Clemson.
It’s inconceivable, though, that a winless mark in the ACC heading into the season-finale against Maryland Nov. 30 is what Yow meant when she talked about rebuilding.
O’Brien was fired less for what happened on the field than because of Yow and O’Brien’s deep philosophical differences. Yow is a staunch believer in recruiting. O’Brien felt that recruiting was more hype than substance and that the key to the program is finding the right fits for your systems and coaching them up.
Doeren is doing well on the recruiting front, but his on-the-field product shows that there is a balance coaches must have. Among the head-scratchers:
• Against Clemson, during NCSU’s lone touchdown drive through the first three quarters, sophomore tailback Shadrach Thornton received his first two touches of the season. He had a 32-yard catch and run out of the backfield and then scored on a 21-yard run up the middle early in the second quarter. Strangely, those would be the only two times Thornton would touch the ball all game.
• After jumping out to a quick 10-0 lead against archrival UNC, the Pack surrendered all the momentum back after they failed to convert a fake punt on fourth-and-8 at its own 30 in the first quarter. Disregarding that those were odd circumstances to attempt a fake punt, the direct snap was to linebacker Robert Caldwell, a hard-hitter in the middle of the defense but not exactly known for his swift feet, making it questionable how many yards Caldwell would have gotten even if UNC had not apparently worked against that exact fake punt play during the week.
• Down 7-0 at Duke in the second quarter, Doeren chose to go for it on fourth-and-inches at the Pack’s own 26. The decision was made after first Doeren sent the punt unit on the field, then put the offense back on and finally had to call a timeout because the play clock was running out. Failing to get it put Duke immediately in comfortable field goal range. Duke went three-and-out and tacked on a field goal to take a 10-0 lead.
• After Duke went up 24-20 with 3:31 to go, N.C. State at least had all three timeouts. That was until the Pack used one before Duke kicked off. In the grand scheme of things, the lost timeout did not matter, but it could have loomed large had Duke’s DeVon Edwards not returned two interceptions for touchdowns on ensuing plays. The procedure after a touchdown is Football 101. Not being prepared on a kickoff and calling a timeout is hard to understand.