NC State Wolfpack

Mark Gottfried
Associated Press

NC State’s Henderson out 6-8 weeks with ankle injury

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Friday was quite the emotional roller coaster for the NC State men’s basketball program. The happiness that came with the news that head coach Mark Gottfried’s contract had been extended gave way to disappointment, as the Wolfpack not only lost decisively to William & Mary but lost a key contributor as well.

Guard Terry Henderson, who sat out last season after transferring in from West Virginia, suffered an ankle injury in the loss that is expected to sideline him anywhere from six to eight weeks. X-rays and an MRI revealed torn ligaments in Henderson’s right ankle, with the injury occurring during the first half of NC State’s 85-68 loss to the Tribe in Raleigh.

With Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner being the two biggest losses from last year’s Sweet 16 team, Henderson was expected to have an immediate impact for the Wolfpack this season. Now with the 6-foot-5 off guard sidelined for a timeframe that could reach the start of conference play, NC State will have to find other answers on the perimeter.

“Obviously, this is a big blow to Terry and to our team,” Gottfried said in the release. “I feel badly for Terry. He worked extremely hard to get ready for this year. Our team has to adjust and we will need some young players to step up.”

Among those who will need to step forward for NC State are sophomore Caleb Martin and freshman Maverick Rowan. Martin was part of the starting lineup Friday night and he was NC State’s most productive offensive player, scoring a game-high 21 points and shooting 5-for-10 from three. Rowan played 34 minutes against William & Mary, absorbing many of the minutes that became available when Henderson left the game, finishing with 16 points but shooting just 1-for-8 from three.

Cody Martin played 16 minutes off the bench but failed to score, and Cat Barber’s off night from the field (4-for-16 FG, 11 points, six assists) didn’t help matters as NC State struggled on both ends of the floor against William & Mary.

NC State, Ole Miss among eight teams in 2016 Paradise Jam

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While the 2015-16 season has yet to get underway, some in-season tournaments have already begun the process of finalizing teams for the 2016-17 campaign. Wednesday evening the Paradise Jam revealed its eight-team field for the 2016 edition of the event, which is scheduled to be played November 18-21, 2016 at the University of the Virgin Islands.

NC State, which has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons under head coach Mark Gottfried, is part of the event as are Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels. Completing the field are Creighton, Loyola-Chicago, Oral Roberts, Montana, Saint Joseph’s and Washington State.

Of the eight teams just two have made prior appearances at the Paradise Jam. Phil Martelli’s Saint Joseph’s team finished fifth in 2009, with Ole Miss finishing third two years later. Washington State may have the most interesting connection to this tournament, however.

The father of forward Josh Hawkinson, who was the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last season and will be a senior in 2016-17, created the Paradise Jam back in 2000. That should make for a fun return to the Virgin Islands for Josh next November. Nels Hawkinson is the executive director of Basketball Travelers, a company some may be familiar with as they’ve set up foreign tours for many college basketball programs over the years.

While NC State and Ole Miss are the lone teams in this field to reach the NCAA tournament last season, Montana is one of the favorites in the Big Sky entering the 2015-16 season and ORU is expected to be a factor in the Summit League. Scott Sutton’s Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the Summit League preseason coaches poll.

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 .

NC State’s Moxley back to work after offseason health issue

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina State men’s basketball assistant coach Rob Moxley remembered struggling to walk down the stairs in his home, then waking up in a hospital.

He knows he’s fortunate his wife was with him to call 911 in time to save him from that life-threatening offseason health scare.

“Very lucky for sure,” Moxley said Thursday. “I don’t know, I guess it was meant to be.”

The 46-year-old Moxley is back at work after being hospitalized for several days in May that caused him to be on medical leave for a time, though the school didn’t specify the nature of his medical issue.

In his first public comments, Moxley said he had complications from diabetes that ultimately led to him going into cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He also had “a few strokes.”

“It was a very scary moment for me and my family for sure,” Moxley said. “But I’ve fought through it. I’ve rehabbed. And I’m back and I’m back full-time working here at State where I want to be, where I love to be. It’s just I’m blessed to be sure, that’s for sure.”

It hasn’t been an easy recovery for the coach, who said his blood-sugar level “got out of control a little bit” to set off the May 6 problems. He had foggy vision for about two months afterward, making it impossible to watch TV or read the stream of text messages that kept dinging away on his cellphone to wish him a fast recovery.

“I couldn’t see very well at all,” he said. “And I was scared I wouldn’t get to see and watch the guys play or work out ever again. So yeah, definitely, there was a time I was worried I wouldn’t be able to coach again. Then I fought through it and my vision’s come back.

“It’s good now. I’m driving again, which my wife likes, because she doesn’t have to drive me everywhere.”

In July, head coach Mark Gottfried sounded unsure exactly when Moxley would be ready to return, saying “what he needs right now is just some time to hopefully continue to get better.” At the time, director of basketball operations Jeff Dunlap had assumed Moxley’s recruiting duties.

But Moxley was able to return to the recruiting trail by late that month, including a trip to Las Vegas.

Moxley has been an assistant known as a tireless recruiter for the Wolfpack since Gottfried’s arrival before the 2011-12 season. North Carolina State is coming off a fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and a second appearance in the Sweet 16, a run reversing the program’s long-running struggles that included missing the NCAAs in 15 of 21 seasons since Jim Valvano coached his final game in 1990.

Before arriving at North Carolina State, Moxley worked as an assistant at Middle Tennessee State, Charlotte, Maryland, Pfeiffer and Gardner-Webb. During the Charlotte and Pfeiffer stops, he coached under current Wolfpack associate head coach Bobby Lutz.

He’s still working with a physical therapist on rehab exercises once or twice a week with his left side a bit weaker than his right. He jokes that shouldn’t keep him from holding a clipboard, and adds he’s checking his blood-sugar level “eight or nine times a day” to better stay on top of it and avoid future health problems.

The father of four who says “I live to coach” is just as eager to watch his kids play soccer.

“It just makes you appreciate life,” he said. “Every day I appreciate my family, my kids especially, my wife. It makes you realize that it can be taken away, that’s for sure. It’s a great feeling to be back healthy and to be back at it, though.”

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

Five-star point guard commits to NC State

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One day after being visited by NC State head coach Mark Gottfried on the first day of the fall recruiting period, a top prospect in the Class of 2016 has made his pledge to the ACC program.

NBC Sports confirmed that Fayetteville, North Carolina point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has verbally committed to NC State. News of his commitment was first reported by ESPN.com, and the decision doesn’t come as a surprise. While Smith trimmed his list to six schools in mid-July, it had been believed for some time that NC State was the team to beat for his commitment.

In Smith, the Wolfpack add an explosive guard who can both score and distribute the basketball at a high level from the point guard position. Unfortunately Smith will be on the sidelines for a little while, as he suffered a torn ACL at the adidas Nations camp in southern California in early August. The injury is expected to keep him out of action for anywhere from six to nine months.

With Smith in the fold NC State has taken care of the point guard position in 2016-17, regardless of what current starter Cat Barber (who’s a junior) may do at the end of the upcoming campaign. Smith is NC State’s first commitment in the Class of 2016, and with him on board Gottfried and his staff can focus more of their time on elite big men Bam Adebayo and Udoka Azubuike.

As he did with Smith, Gottfried used a helicopter as his mode of transportation to see Adebayo Wednesday.