The Season that Could Have Been for NC State Basketball – Daniel Bayer/252 ESPN Radio
Things were looking up for NC State basketball. The team had just came off of a successful run in the NCAA Tournament, with beating the number one seed in their region (VIllanova) and making it to the Sweet 16, the team had signed Mark Gottfried to a contract extension through 2020, and Dennis Smith Jr. (top PG in 2016 recruiting class) had recently signed and enrolled in the school early. However, the outlook for the 2015-2016 season and the feel good vibes for NC State would quickly change with the 17-point opening night loss to William and Mary at HOME.
In what has been a pretty disappointing season up to this point (and one that will probably end in the team not making the tournament for the first time under Coach Gottfried), let’s take a look at what could have been for this year’s NC State team.
Even before the opening night loss, the decision of Trevor Lacey to forego his Senior year and enter the NBA Draft would be the first domino to fall. What was worse for State fans is that Trevor was not even drafted (although for him it was a smart decision because of his age) and is currently playing over in Italy averaging 13.4 points a game.
Another domino to fall before the season, yet one that was barely talked about, was the transfer of Kyle Washington (to Cincinnati). Though he started only 17 games last year (averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds a game), Washington figured to play a more prominent role in this year’s team before his unexpected transfer. He certainly would have provided more depth and scoring for a team this is depleted in the front court. These two sudden and unexpected departures left huge voids in the roster, which are not easily filled so late in the recruiting season and with transfers having to sit out a year before being able to play. It is not like the NBA where you can just go and either make a trade or pluck someone from free agency to fill holes in your roster. Coach Gottfried was left to scramble, and was lucky that Freshman Maverick Rowan was able to reclassify and enroll at NC State early or they would be on the same level as Boston College (yes, they have similar records in the ACC, but NC State is a lot better than the Eagles).
Transfers are nothing new, or at this point should not be surprising for NC State under Coach Gottfried. Kyle Washington was the 4th big name to transfer since Gottfried’s arrival. Tyler Harris, who would not have been on this year’s NC State team, transferred to Providence and is now a Graduate Student at Auburn averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds a game. Tyler Lewis (transferred to Butler and is averaging 7 points and 4 assists a game) and Rodney Purvis (transferred to UCONN and is averaging 13 points a game) would have been Seniors on this year’s team and probably would have really changed what this team currently looks like. On the other hand, NC State and Coach Gottfried have certainly benefited from transfers into their program: Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner, Terry Henderson, and next year they will be getting UNCC transfer Torin Dorn (C-USA Freshman of the Year who scored 12 points a game for the Niners).
Finally, it also hurts to lose your starting shooting guard 7 minutes into the season. Losing Terry Henderson and his 11 points a game (while at West Virginia), has essentially crippled this team. Henderson was expected to come in and replace the scoring and 3 point shooting that was lost from the previous year’s team, due to the departures of Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner. This has left NC State having to rely too heavily on Cat Barber to do all the scoring, and leaves the team without a true outside 3-point threat. There is still no timetable for the return of Terry Henderson to the line-up; however, by the time (or if) he returns, it will probably be too late.
NC State had hoped to build upon the success from the 2014-2015 season, but if you think of all the changes and the losses that this team has had to endure not just this year but in years past, it is not hard to see why this team is sitting towards the bottom of the ACC; however, it is hard not to think what could’ve been for this year’s NC State team.
*Note to Reader: Yes, I know that TJ Warren would have been a Senior this year; however, I purposely left TJ Warren out of this column because there is no way a player with his talent would have played into his Senior year.
Catch Daniel Bayer EVERY Tuesday on “The Drive” 4-6pm on the 252 ESPN Radio Network