Gottfried’s Real Problem: Center

Lots of gossip floating around Raleigh this week, but I’m not jumping into the Mark Gottfried/NC State basketball rumor rabbit hole. Rather, I’ll examine the puzzle that is NC State basketball in the Mark Gottfried era and break down the program position by position.  

Let me start with our most consistent areas. NC State teams are known for having NBA level point guard play. We’ve had Lorenzo Brown (Timberwolves), Cat Barber (All-ACC), and now Dennis Smith Jr (projected lottery pick). If you’re trying to find fault in the program, you won’t find it here.  One can’t go wrong with any of those guys when building a college basketball team. 

Moving on to the two and three positions. State has had a lot of guys in these two spots, so I’m not going to list them all.  But for the most part, the shooting guards have played supporting roles. The threes? Well, they’ve been just that — three-point bombers. Think Ralston Turner, Trevor Lacy, The Great Scott Wood and now The Okay Maverick Rowan.

The small forwards have been a great asset to these teams. They spread the floor on offense, open up driving lanes, and can turn momentum on its head if they get hot. Bottom-line: These guys have been consistent on the offensive end and are usually the energy guys on the team.

Then there’s the power forwards. State has had plenty of long, athletic stars at this position. Most notably CJ Leslie, Kyle Washington, TJ Warren, and now Abdul Malik-Abu. This position has had so much potential in the Gottfried era it’s ridiculous.  Aside from TJ Warren — who likely benefited from his professional father — the rest of these guys are all evidence of poor coaching and player development.  All of them have consistently missed defensive assignments and seem lost at times.  I want to make it clear that I am not knocking the players as much as I am the coaches, because, despite the lack of coaching, these kids still played pretty well at times.

The fifth piece, the big guy, where is he?  You say “Anya”, I say “NO”. Richard Howell was solid for Coach Gottfried’s first two years, but a true center hasn’t rolled down Hillsborough Street since. The big guy is supposed to be the anchor of your team and the player in the center of your defense that forces opponents to game plan around.  A true center is consistent for 40 minutes, sharp on defense, demands the ball in the low post, and opens up the perimeter for the shooters.  We have not had a player like this in years, and we’ve not had a solid assistant coach for the bigs either.  If all the rumors are false, then Gottfried needs to get out there and recruit a true center or hire the right assistant to coach up the existing players at the position.  In my opinion, this has been the missing piece to the puzzle for N.C. State basketball under Gottfried.

Basically, if we had a true center on our team and the right guy coaching him, then we wouldn’t be lost in the abyss of mediocrity and concerned about making the tournament every season. Problem Solved