Big Upside for N.C. State Freshmen Going Forward; Julius Randle Still Slated to Visit Pack in January
NEW YORK — N.C. State’s talented freshmen trio were not at their best during Tuesday night’s victory over UConn in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
T.J. Warren (pictured), Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis — all former McDonald’s All-Americans — combined for just nine points, five rebounds and two assists in the 69-65 victory.
But as the Wolfpack attempt to challenge for an ACC regular-season championship and an NCAA Tournament run going forward, the three frosh could play increasingly key roles alongside veterans C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, Lorenzo Brown and Scott Wood.
“They’ve barely tapped where they’re going to be throughout the year,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said of the freshmen. “I think their upside is tremendous. They’re still learning what we’re doing.”
The 6-foot-8 Warren, a Durham, N.C., native, has started two games for the Pack (5-2) and is second behind Howell on the team in scoring at 13.4 points per game. He put up a career-high 22 points in a win over Penn State and 18 in a loss to No. 3 Michigan.
In the Michigan game, Warren played against his former Brewster (N.H.) Academy teammate Mitch McGary and said the two exchanged some chatter.
“We go back and forth a little bit,” Warren said.
Warren said his year at Brewster, where he played alongside McGary, St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson and Xavier’s Semaj Christon, helped prepare him for the college ranks.
“Definitely, I’m used to playing with a lot of good players,” Warren said. “It really helped me out coming here.”
In fact, all of those former Brewster players are doing well for themselves. The 6-10 McGary, at one point ranked among the top recruits in the Class of 2012, has not lived up to the hype but is averaging a solid 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. The 6-8 Sampson is averaging 13.6 points and 6.6 rebounds. And the 6-3 Christon is averaging 16.0 points and 6.2 assists.
At N.C. State, the 6-2 Purvis has started five times and is averaging 9.6 points and 2.6 rebounds, while the 5-11 Lewis is averaging 2.3 points in a backup role at point guard.
The learning curve is big for all of them.
“There’s a couple key times in the game [against UConn] when we’re trying to execute something and they’re not there yet where it’s not natural to them,” Gottfried said. “And then our older players are frustrated some.
“Calvin [C.J.] is saying, ‘Run the play’ because he’s used to last year at the end we ran everything really well. Now sometimes the freshmen are thinking, they’re not sure. So that’s going to come a little bit more as they more play games.”
This group of freshmen — and N.C. State’s overall profile — has also helped the Pack recruit well.
They already have another Brewster player, 6-8 forward Kyle Washington, signed for next year, along with 6-8 DeMatha Catholic big man Beejay Anya and 6-1 Hampton (Va.) point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber.
N.C. State remains in the mix for 6-9 power forward Julius Randle of Prestonwood (TX) Christian, who is sidelined three months with a fractured foot.
Still, he is slated to visit N.C. State Jan. 26 for the North Carolina game — after visits to Texas and Kansas this month. He is also considering Kentucky, Florida and Oklahoma.
“We’ll hopefully add one or two more [recruits] this year,” Gottfried said, speaking generally. “You gotta have good players, I know that.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.