RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Devon Daniels, C.J. Bryce and Blake Harris spent the better part of last season leading North Carolina State’s practice team and working on their games — along with their ability to stay patient — while sitting out as transfers.
The Wolfpack’s success this season could depend on how successful they were in turning that time into sharpened skillsets, particularly with so many new faces on the roster for coach Kevin Keatts’ second season.
“They know how the game is,” sophomore guard Braxton Beverly said Monday during the team’s preseason media day. “They’re a little more mature. They know how everything goes, so that makes it a lot easier when it’s not a lot of freshmen who’ve never experienced this level.”
N.C. State has only three returning players — Beverly, senior Torin Dorn and junior Markell Johnson — who played for the Wolfpack last season. The roster now features 10 newcomers, though not all are eligible to play this season. The list includes a pair of graduate transfers who weren’t with the team last year: forward Wyatt Walker (Samford) and guard Eric Lockett (Florida International).
Daniels is a 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore who averaged 9.9 points and shot 57 percent while starting 26 games as a freshman at Utah. Bryce, a 6-5 redshirt junior was a first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association performer under Keatts at UNC Wilmington while averaging 17.4 points.
Daniels and Bryce were with the Wolfpack from the start of last season, working in practices while sitting out to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.
“Last year we competed every day against the starters, when we were leading the practice team,” Daniels said. “We just got each other better. We came in here by ourselves and got better a lot — ballhandling drills, shooting together, all that. I think it was good.”
Bryce said he particularly worked to improve his 3-point shot by keeping his elbow in more to tweak his shooting stroke.
“It was a year of work,” Bryce said. “I feel like throughout it all, I stayed pretty dialed-in for the most part.”
Harris, a 6-3 sophomore, joined the program in January after playing 14 games for Missouri. The native of nearby Chapel Hill later received a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to play immediately instead of sitting out the fall semester as typically required by the rules.
To listen to Keatts, they all handled that sitting-out time well, even if it’s not easy.
“The tough part of when you sit out as a transfer, you’re the best player on the (practice) team,” Keatts said. “So we really don’t have a chance to coach you all the time. So you take bad shots and you really don’t know the system as well as you think they should.”
Yet to listen to Dorn, the practices were “super competitive” and helped last year’s team improve enough to return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-season absence.
“They were ready to play,” Dorn said. “They were in street clothes (during games) so they’d come in at practice like this is their game. . I appreciate those guys for doing that because it pushed us to be the team we were last year.”
Now those guys get to show what they’ve learned in games that count.