Abdul-Malik Abu

VIDEO: NC State builds teamwork through ‘The Program’

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While the offseason for college basketball programs is very much about helping individual players improve their skill sets with an eye towards the upcoming season, it’s also about improving teamwork and leadership traits. In recent years more teams have gone to some form of military-influenced training to help in those areas, and there have been positive results. VCU and Utah are among those who have used such methods to help them on the court, and NC State has taken a similar path.

Mark Gottfried’s team, coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance, participated in The Program, a two-day session led by instructors and United States Marine Corps veterans Jake MacDonald and Jamie Slife with an eye towards improving in areas such as teamwork, leadership and communication. Those aspects will be important for a team that lost three of its top four scorers from a season ago in Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Kyle Washington.

Above is a short video of the team’s experience in The Program, with multiple players having to step forward in leadership roles. Guards Cat Barber and Terry Henderson and big men Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya were among those entrusted with the task of leading certain drills, and at the end of the camp Caleb Martin received the Spartan Warrior t-shirt that all participants strive to earn.

The Wolfpack have the talent to make yet another NCAA tournament appearance under Gottfried, but in an ACC that will be tougher than it was a season ago the intangibles improved upon in The Program could prove to be highly valuable during the season.

Video credit: NC State Athletics

NC State’s Rowan arrives to help depleted Wolfpack roster

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Maverick Rowan arrived just in time to help short-handed North Carolina State.

The freshman wing was a late addition to the Wolfpack’s recruiting class, a player who reclassified to graduate from high school over the summer instead of waiting until 2016. He joins a team that needed him badly, both from a numbers standpoint and the fact that his skillset appears to fit perfectly on a team with some significant losses from last year’s NCAA Sweet 16 team.

“It was definitely a big factor,” Rowan said Thursday during the team’s preseason media day. “I didn’t want to go to a team where there was 14 other guys or they already had the team set and I was just going to come and be just another body. But here I can come in and be a big piece of this puzzle here.”

The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Rowan took courses to earn his high school degree over the summer and arrived at North Carolina State for the fall semester.

“We’re so used to nowadays where players always get here in the first of July, we have them for that couple of months of summer school to get academically acclimated and we can get in the gym and work with them,” coach Mark Gottfried said.

“He’s a player that wasn’t able to do that. . He is behind maybe just a hair, but I do think once we start practicing – we’ve got enough time right now to get him caught up – I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player here.”

North Carolina State headed into the offseason with optimism after reaching a fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament in as many seasons under Gottfried. But after losing fifth-year senior shooter Ralston Turner, things changed with the unexpected departure of all-conference guard Trevor Lacey for the NBA draft – he went undrafted – and the transfer of forward Kyle Washington to Cincinnati.

Suddenly, the team was down to just six scholarship players who saw action last year and adding just West Virginia transfer Terry Henderson, who sat out last season.

Gottfried said the program was “in dire need” of help. And the players noticed that thin roster, with sophomore Caleb Martin saying the players were more focused on having enough players to scrimmage than worrying about games.

“Concern wouldn’t be the word,” sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu said, “but you start to realize when you go in the locker room, it’s kind of spacious in there.”

The Wolfpack secured a spring commitment from instate freshman Shaun Kirk, a three-star prospect according to Scout.com, to help those numbers. Then came Rowan’s reclassification and commitment late in the summer out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, bolstering the perimeter with a four-star prospect known for his outside shooting – a weakness for this year’s team outside of Henderson.

Henderson said he’s told Rowan during pickup games to be ready to shoot when open from the wing on the break, a mentality that will come in handy once the games start and point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber is running the break.

It’s a sign of why Rowan – named after Tom Cruise’s nickname in the 1986 movie “Top Gun” – said he’s settled in quickly.

“I felt real comfortable with it,” Rowan said of his eventful summer. “Nothing felt really fast or rushed. I’m just happy with my decision.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap .

N.C. State’s Abdul-Malik Abu throws down three impressive dunks

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#TBT @highleveltraining / @cporter_ / @champagnepapi / @smoothszn

A video posted by Abdul-Malik Abu (@ovohabibi) on

Abdul-Malik Abu had a solid freshman season, averaging 6.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.1 minutes per game for North Carolina State. The 6-foot-8 forward came up big in the NCAA tournament, specifically in a Round of 32 upset over top-seeded Villanova, coming up with 13 points and 12 boards.

The Boston native took to Instagram on Thursday night to show why the fans in Raleigh should be glad he has three years of eligibility remaining.

2014 forward Abdul Malik Abu chooses N.C. State

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North Carolina State landed a big commitment on Saturday afternoon as 6’8″ power forward Abdul Malik Abu announced his collegiate decision from the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury Crossing, Massachusetts alongside Expressions Elite AAU teammate Jared Terrell.

Abu, regarded as Rivals’ No. 50 overall prospect in the class of 2014, gives the Wolfpack and head coach Mark Gottfried a huge boost in the class as he joins twin wing-shooters Caleb and Cody Martin in N.C. State’s 2014 recruiting class.

The 233-pound forward from Kimball Union Academy had a strong spring and summer in the EYBL and on the camp circuit as he displayed a high motor and an ability to score and rebound on the interior.

Abu, who chose N.C. State over his other finalists of Florida, Providence and UConn, averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this spring in the EYBL and helped lead Expressions Elite to a 13-5 record and an appearance in the prestigious Nike Peach Jam.

“Abdul liked N.C. State and the fact that he could come in and play right away,” Expressions Elite head coach Ty Boswell told NBC Sports’ Terrence Payne in late August. “He liked the overall atmosphere of the school, and he had a real good conversation with the coaching staff.”

Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell to announce September 7

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Expressions Elite teammates Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell have cut their respective list of offers to 10, then four and as of Saturday have reached a conclusion for their college decisions.

On Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, the duo will announce their commitments. Abu, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Kimball Union Academy (N.H.) is down to Florida, N.C. State, Providence and UConn. Terrell, a 6-foot-3 guard who plays at Brewster Academy (N.H.) will pick from Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Providence and Rhode Island.

Since Expressions Elite’s season came to an end last month, the duo has been busy cutting a list and then scheduling visits. Abu, made unofficial trips to N.C. State on Aug. 11 and then Florida on Aug. 14.

“Abdul liked N.C. State and the fact that he could come in and play right away,” Expressions Elite head coach Ty Boswell told NBC Sports in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. “He liked the overall atmosphere of the school, and he had a real good conversation with the coaching staff.

“He liked the tradition, and the way they develop power forwards for the next level,” Boswell said of the Florida visit. “He also liked Billy Donovan with how he interacts with past and current players.”

The most recent, and final visit for Abu was UConn earlier this week. Kevin Ollie showed the Boston native the new facilities, and according to Boswell, the staff made a great presentation to Abu.

Terrell returned from an official visit to Oklahoma State this past weekend, and is trying to plan a trip to Cincinnati this upcoming weekend.

“He liked the opportunity,” Boswell said of the OK State visit. “Obviously, Marcus Smart is leaving, and he’ll have big shoes to fill. He liked the fact he could come in and play right away.

Though he has the high-major offers, Danny Hurley and the Rhode Island staff have been aggressive in recruiting Terrell, which clearly has paid off.

“Jared liked Danny and the vision they have for him, coming in and being a focal point,” Boswell added. “They see him a guy that can help lead them to an Atlantic 10 championship.”

One school is still in play for both: Providence . Abu and Terrell have been high priorities for the Providence coaching staff, and landing commitments would be great additions to its 2014 class that includes Huntington Prep (W.Va.) small forward Jalen Lindsey. Rumors of a package deal have been consistent throughout their recruitments, though, both stated repeatedly that it would have to be the best possible option for both of them.

Abu and Terrell visited Providence on Aug. 10 for an unofficial visit, and participated in PC’s elite camp.

“It was a great atmosphere and a great situation,” Boswell said. “Ed Cooley has done a great job thus far, and has made it clear he really wants them.

“They have the opportunity to leave a legacy in the New England area.”

Boswell told NBC Sports that the two friends have spent considerable time talking to each other about the process, comparing and contrasting the visits they’ve had. Despite a date being set, Boswell says he doesn’t not know which way either of them are leaning at this point.

“Not yet … we’ll see,” Boswell said, “We’ll sit and chop everything up, and try to make the best decision possible as a group. Then we’ll leave it up to the kids.”

Abu is ranked as the No. 50 overall player in the Class of 2014 by Rivals. Terrell is listed as No. 62 by the same recruiting service.

With added athleticism, Abdul-Malik Abu drawing high-major interest from across the country

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.–Last summer, Abdul-Malik Abu was a rising sophomore with a wide body that he wasn’t afraid to throw around in the lane. The secret was, though, that he wasn’t nearly done growing or developing.

Now a rising junior, Abu has completely reshaped his body, hitting the weight room and transforming his game from being primarily under the rim to flying well above it.

“I think it helped me from a scholarship standpoint and from a game standpoint,” he told NBCSports.com at the Live in AC tournament in Atlantic City, N.J.

“I was a little under the basket, but I liked to pretend that I wasn’t under the basket,” he said with a laugh. “Last year, I still liked to dunk and stuff, but when you actually work on your body, you get stronger. And I hit a little bit of a growth spurt, which helped my game.”

College coaches have flocked to his games on the AAU circuit this summer, with one Division I coach calling him “a young Emeka Okafor.”

“My downside used to be ‘Oh, he needs to work on his body. He still has that baby fat,’” Abu explained. “I still have some, but now coaches see that I’m more explosive and say, ‘That’s something we can work on here.’”

He claims interest and offers from a long list of schools, among them Maryland Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Providence, Miami, Kansas, Michigan State, Temple, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Rutgers, and others.

He maintains that his recruitment is wide open, saying he is looking simply for the “best fit.”

And, if he keeps playing this way, he’ll have a long list of suitors to choose from.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_