On the young guys having experience
As much as we want to evaluate players or coaches or teams just on the surface of what happens on the court, all of us are people before we're players and the two aren't inseparable.
Certainly experience and know how is important. Strength is another important component of post defense. So hopefully all those kinds of things will be elevated another level this year.
Last year, we had a very young frontcourt and we are still young chronologically. We do have some experience because those guys played as freshmen. But the last year, with the exception of Marcus [Melvin] who was a sophomore and he played a lot away from the basket, but we were exclusively freshmen.
Do you have an advantage because all of your young guys have more experienced than everybody else's young guys?
(Laughing) I don't know. That question is too confusing for me (laughter). That's a befuddling question.
Do you know what to expect from the other teams in the league?
No, you don't yet. It's too early. I don't even know what to expect from our team yet.
Normally, though, going into a season, you know what to expect from everyone.
Oh sure, sometimes you have a better idea than others, but there are so many things yet to be determined. No body has seen the newcomers play. Nobody has watched the returners in a good while to see if maybe they gained a little too much weight, to see maybe if they really worked on their game and got better. There is no way of predicting for sure how a team will actually jell and come together.
Has [Jordan] Collins missed much practice time with his injury?
He's missed about two weeks. Sure he has.
How big a setback is that, considering?
Well, two weeks is a significant period of time. A lot can happen in two weeks. But I think Jordan has a pretty good handle on our system and we are hoping he can return to practice tomorrow (Nov. 4th) with some type of protective device. But anytime you break a bone, it's six weeks no matter how you cut it, before it heals completely.
TA McLendon played right away (laughter).
But his bone wasn't healed but he played with an unhealed bone (laughter).
Coach, what does the return of Levi Watkins add to the team?
I really like Levi a great deal. I think he is really going to help our basketball team. I thought right before he got hurt last year, he was really starting to round that corner. You could really see a difference in his confidence level, his comfort level. I thought he was beginning to play basketball at a whole new level. In fact, I think he had started a game and he clearly was an important part of our rotation. Then, he had that injury, and I've said this many times, I don't know if I have been around a player who attacks his rehab with the determination that he did. He is just somebody that works extremely hard and I think he's a good player who we are counting on to help us a great deal.
Do you have any firmer idea on Adam Simons' future?
Yea, I think all that will come together for us this week. I want to give myself through the Red/White game to make those decisions. I'll say this; I think Adam Simons has a really good future at NC State. I am excited about him. He is very skilled. The other day, he made 60 straight free throws. He does things like that that aren't real common for a guy almost seven feet. He has good hands and he's gaining strength every day. I really like his future a great deal. Now, we have to make some difficult decisions this week in terms of what we do regarding redshirting. But at this time, we haven't made any final determination. I wish we had the luxury of going through our exhibition games to make those decisions. Just from a philosophical standpoint, it would give schools an additional couple weeks of practice. It would allow you to see them in another set of circumstances, a game. I don't know what would be lost if we allowed everybody to do that.
Seems like you could make a much better decision if it were like that?
It would seem you would have a great deal more information. Sometimes you know almost immediately, but maybe not. Put it this way, we'll know a lot more about our team three weeks from now than we know now. In three weeks, some guys are going to emerge and others may submerge (laughter). But we'll a lot more about our team.
Is there any possibility that more than one guy will be a candidate to redshirt?
Yes, there is. I am going to give a good hard look to that and make the best decision we can.
Julius [Hodge] obviously had a great end to his first year. He progressed the entire time, but he really came on those last few games. I think he is expecting to be the guy you have with the ball in his hands in a leadership situation, similar to Anthony Grundy last year. What have you seen in his development over the summer and in these first few weeks and do you have to caution against him wanting to do too much which he would gladly do if you let him?
I think the answer to that question goes back to an earlier question. Maybe one adjustment in his role for our team this year will be simply that he has the responsibility of more guys other than himself. Whereas last year, Archie [Miller] and Anthony were able to take that kind of responsibility and it allowed Julius to be a freshman and benefit from their experience and presence.
Do you feel more confident about him [Hodge] after the last couple games of last season where Anthony was in foul trouble and Julius walked in that big a role?
Yea and I feel confident with it through I preseason practice. Even watching Julius in high school, he clearly demonstrated that ability.
He's a guy that normally attracts others in sharing his goals I guess?
Maybe the best way to frame it, he's the guy when you go to play pick up you say, "I hope I am on that guy's team, I hope we end up running together." He has that quality I think.
Do you think this is a year someone other than Duke or Maryland can break a hold on the top?
I think those two teams are going to be awfully good. They have certainly had a terrific run over the last few years. You have to admire and respect what they've accomplished. Once again, both of those schools have some changes to their personnel but if you look down their roster, I think both are still replete with good talent. I think there are some other teams in the league are also talent rich and will be very competitive as well this year. I'm sure there is not any team that is just a bad team that you would really have to play bad to lose to. I don't think that exists.
With Anthony [Grundy] and Archie [Miller] gone, what can we expect from State as far as leadership?
You can expect good things from us. We worked hard this offseason and in the preseason. We are ready to fill the void that Anthony and Archie left. We are basketball players and we're ready to play.
At the end of games last season, you could rely on Archie or Anthony. This year, is it you or is it Julius [Hodge]?
I think it's everybody. Everybody has worked on their three point shooting and their shooting, period. I think if you have guys that are open, they are going to knock down shots. That's the basic think to do. You have a lot of guys on our team that can shoot and can fill it up any given night. I think one of the greatest things about our team that went unnoticed [last season], we had a very balanced attack. Sometimes we had four or five guys in double figures and you never knew who it was coming from. We are a camouflage type of team. Nobody can look at us and say, "we have to stop Cliff Crawford tonight" or "we have to stop Julius Hodge tonight." I think if you do that, you focus on one guy, you have a lot of guys that can come in and burn you.
What was the difference last year, finishing 23-11 as opposed to NC State in the past, struggling?
I think the difference was the guys. Our coach preaches togetherness and I think we finally welcomed that with open arms. The guys were together and really looked out for each other on the court as well as off the court. Our camaraderie as a team was just that, we were a team. Nobody put anybody first, nobody was second. We all came together as a team and that really helped us as a team. It really skyrocketed us and helped us win.
Was there one specific moment last year that it all came together?
I think it was when we all went paintballing together. It just helped us. We did a lot of team building activities and things like that. We all recognized that basketball is not an individual sport. If you play as a team, you win as a team, you lose as a team. We really recognized that and really valued that and we embraced that. It did wonders for us.
What are the expectations for this season, realistically?
We have a good opportunity to win. We really don't make predictions. We come out Nov. 22 against Mt. Saint Mary's and the first thing we want to do is win our season opener. That's the goal right now. After that, we build on that. We are going to take it one game at a time.
Do you have any predictions for the league outside of State? Everyone has young guys.
Yea, I think it's going to be very wide open. I knew you've heard that. Everyone wants to win but only one can win the league. I think we are in the hunt for that.