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.
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.
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