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 .