July 1, 2003 RALEIGH The way expansion turned out surprised everybody, but both Chuck Amato and Herb Sendek had reason to smile, and not just because they were on vacation when it all came down.
Amato long has been in favor of expansion, and the fact that the league chose two of the biggest football powers in the nation didn't trouble the coach at all. In fact, he said he believes it will only help his recruiting base for the budding program he is building in Raleigh.
He already has a recruiting toe-hold in Miami, and going head-to-do-rag with the Hurricanes is likely to increase the number of South Florida recruits for Amato. He figures those players who aren't chosen by Larry Coker and his staff might just as well go to a school that likely will play Miami almost every year, and Amato has a well-rehearsed and well-executed pitch about why that school should be N.C. State.
One thing that might be troubling for Amato is that by not choosing Syracuse and/or Boston College, the ACC might have damaged some more fertile recruiting grounds in the Northeast. After tabbing three of the best players in Pennsylvania (quarterback Marcus Stone, running back Darrell Blackman and defensive end Raymond Brooks) in his most recent recruiting class, Amato is looking north for another round of blue-chippers.
But why would Sendek be happy, besides the fact that snooty old Duke and North Carolina were against expansion for basketball reasons? Well, it should be pretty obvious: Miami and Virginia Tech basketball don't scare anybody, and finishing fourth or fifth in a 10- or 11-team conference looks better (and is better) than finishing there in a nine-team league.
Unlike Boston College, which beat N.C. State in Raleigh last season, and Syracuse, which did something like win the NCAA title in March, there is essentially nothing to fear from the Hurricanes and the Hokies. Those programs will improve once they get into the ACC, right? Sure, just as Clemson and Florida State have over the years.
Miami is a football town, and despite its new basketball arena, people down there still can spend nice Saturdays in January on the beach instead of watching basketball. Virginia Tech has about as much chance of luring top-notch basketball players to Blacksburg as Clemson does bringing in high-level recruits to a place where Frank Howard is still a cultural icon.
So that means Sendek, assuming he's around long enough to go against them, should have relatively few worries about the league's newest members. Sure, adding the two teams dilutes the overall quality of the basketball league. But for someone who has spent more time with bubbles than Don Ho, facing two opponents who will more likely than not hand the Wolfpack victories is an excellent prospect.
Top Dogs Took Great Vacations
Looking forward to a good vacation? Maybe you ought to go back to school, as a coach or top administrator.
Amato and athletic director Lee Fowler already had spent one week in Arizona as part of a Fiesta Bowl junket. Then, in mid-June, the two went with their families on a Caribbean cruise sponsored by the Orange Bowl. Their expenses were paid, sources said, but those for their families were not.
So all that is left to do this fall is the exciting process of trying to earn their way back to one of those locations.
As nice as those trips were, they were nothing compared to N.C. State chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who spent one week at a conference in Colorado and another at a conference in Switzerland.
Fox left one early Council of Presidents conference call to go hiking, and she reportedly had the phone to her ear while in the Alps for the final call. Considering her last-minute switch on Boston College, which left the Eagles one vote short of their expected entry as the 12th team in one popular expansion scenario, some of her colleagues undoubtedly were wondering if she was getting good reception.
Real Powell Story Remains Untold
The story of Wolfpack sophomore center Josh Powell might turn out OK, even though (as universally predicted) he was not taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
But the dream of every early entry the guaranteed millions that come with being chosen in the top round well, that's gone forever. Powell now faces an infinitely more difficult road to NBA riches. Of the 50 or so former ACC players who received NBA paychecks last year, only one (former UNC center Scott Williams) made it as a free agent. Everyone else was either a first- or second-round draft choice. Those are very long odds.
The fact that Powell wasn't taken in the second round actually was a good thing, because it left him free to choose from among a variety of free-agent offers. He and his agent were evaluating pro rosters in early July, trying to calculate which team offered Powell the best chance of sticking. If he somehow makes it, he's likely to make the NBA minimum salary, which at more than $350,000 a year ain't bad. In the more likely scenario, he'll go overseas, earn a decent living (lower six figures) and perhaps even get noticed by NBA executives some day. That part won't be easy.
One little-discussed aspect of Powell's saga after the draft was that, thanks to an NCAA rules change of a few years ago, undrafted underclassmen can return to their college teams with their eligibility intact as long as they didn't sign with an agent, agree to an endorsement deal or do anything else that constitutes professionalism. Yet, in Powell's case, there wasn't a single whisper that this was a possibility.
Obviously, Powell was a young man who had decided in absolute terms to end his career at N.C. State, regardless of the details. But why? After all, he was likely to be a key figure on what could have been a very successful team in 2003-04. He was a solid student. He liked his teammates. Many scouts thought he could have turned himself into a first-round NBA pick with another year of seasoning. Even some of his own coaches, at the prep and AAU levels, agreed the situation didn't add up.
Several logical explanations were floated by NCSU insiders he didn't get along with Sendek, he didn't think another year of post play (where's he's locked on defense) was what he needed, someone had done something to jeopardize his eligibility, etc. but only Powell could have confirmed the first two possibilities, and he wasn't talking. The third possibility, if true, also would be very difficult to prove.
Of course, perhaps Powell simply listened to the wrong people when talking about his value as a professional player, an unfortunate scenario that often unfolds with impressionable underclassmen these days. Based on some of his own comments about his marketability, he clearly listened to some people who hoped to help themselves more than they hoped to help him.
Another known complication was Powell's mother, who became so distraught over his departure from their home in Atlanta two years ago that Powell admittedly became distracted during the latter part of his freshman season. Perhaps he felt obligated to go pro following his sophomore season, to help his family financially, but a career in Europe certainly does nothing to maximize quality time with the family.
Powell flourished at the end of last season, averaging 19.4 points in four postseason games. He looked like the sure-fire pick to win the MVP award at the ACC Tournament, right up until Duke's J.J. Redick buried the Wolfpack in the final 10 minutes of the title game.
But Powell clearly was not ready to be in the NBA, as he proved even in the pre-draft camp in Chicago. One observer who was there called Powell the least ready player at the camp.
Nevertheless, the Wolfpack certainly will be hurt by the loss of Powell, since it has no other reliable big man. Sendek likely will have to rely on redshirt sophomore Ilian Evtimov to produce more rebounds and more inside muscle, even though he would be more productive for the Pack as an outside forward capable of running the Pack's complicated offense.
Our goals and expectations will remain the same, Sendek said after Powell announced his intentions to stay in the draft. We have a tremendous nucleus with which to work. Although we may not be able to singularly replace (Josh), collectively we have a chance to be an excellent team.