On Wednesday afternoon, news broke that CJ Leslie would be returning to NC State for his junior year.
The importance of this decision shouldn’t be understated. While Leslie currently falls in that dreaded tweener category in regards to his potential as an NBA player, at the college level he is a perfect fit at the four spot. He can score in the post, he can attack the basket from the perimeter and he can hit a jumper if he is left open. He’s also big and athletic enough to be a defensive playmaker and a threat on the glass.
With Leslie, who averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds as a sophomore, returning, it means that the Wolfpack will have a much more balanced lineup. He’ll be joined on the front line by Richard Howell while Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and a trio of talented freshman — Tyler Lewis, TJ Warren and Rodney Purvis — man the perimeter.
There is enough talent on that roster that the Wolfpack will be the trendy pick to win the ACC in the preseason. That wouldn’t have been the case if Leslie had decided to go pro, a fact that head coach Mark Gottfriend was surely well aware of. Which is why Leslie decided to have a little bit of fun at his expense:
He said the decision wasn’t difficult. He was leaning toward returning the whole way. Last week, teammate Lorenzo Brown guessed as much, sensing that the hints Leslie was dropping about putting his name into the NBA draft pool were just part of a joke.
Leslie kept that line of humor alive until Tuesday afternoon. During a face-to-face meeting with coach Mark Gottfried, Leslie said he’d made a decision. He then started indicating that he was finished with the Wolfpack.
“I kind of played a little joke on him and acted like I wasn’t coming back,” Leslie said. “He kind of put his head down like ‘Man, is he going to tell me this?’”
Well played, Calvin. Well played.