About mid-way through the 2nd quarter of Saturday’s loss to UCF I turned to my friends and uttered something that I haven’t been able to say in almost twenty years when I asked– “When does basketball season start?”
In that spirit, it is worth noting a couple of basketball-related items to help us get into a better mood. (But, you must use what you read to NEVER FORGET the imcompetence and mismanagement that delayed this excitement for YEARS longer than was necessary.)
NC State (20-16): I was so impressed with the toughness of Sidney Lowe’s kids in the ACC tournament. Yes, the Wolfpack won’t have tenacious guard Engin Atsur, but the future is bright. Brandon Costner will be a big-time factor for Lowe’s club this season.
Man…this is BAD NEWS for the former HSSS crew aroud Raleigh. (Forgive me for the use of the term…but, until we find a new label to apply to the ‘do-nothing’ crowd of appeasement then we are stuck with ‘HSSS’ since it is the perfect embodiment of the contrast between the tenants of Lee Fowler’s management and what is reality. Admit it – when you read it, you knew EXACTLY who/what I was talking about. Didn’t you?)
I expect Lee Fowler and his small group of NC State zombies to immediately contest and question Vitale’s praise and excitement about the direction of Coach Lowe’s program. They obviously have no choice but to criticize Vitale since Vitale’s comments and the general excitement around NC State’s Basketball program fly directly in contrast to their philosophies and behaviors over much of the last decade. After YEARS of publicly staking themselves to the belief that it takes five or six years to get a basketball program rolling, there is nothing more for Fowler to do but to contest Vitale’s excitment. The experts obviously don’t ‘know basketball’ as well as ‘Coach Fowler’. Success does not happen after just one year. Or two years. Or three years. Or four years. Or especially five years. Give Coach Lowe until year six and MAYBE NC State will be good enough to be considered for an NCAA Tournament bubble bid.
Similarly, the Fayetteville Observer ran a piece today titled – “New State staff has success in recruiting.”
The article emphasizes the difference between a basketball program’s 13 players and a football program’s 85 players. It also heaps praise on the direction of Coach Lowe’s basketball program after only one season by using the commitment of JJ Hickson as the centerpoint of the article:
“J.J. is almost unconscionably strong,” State assistant coach Pete Strickland said. “He’ll turn, guys will get wedged out of the way and he’ll look like, ‘What happened there? I did that?’ He’s just a thick, strong guy and very, very skilled. And there’s some strength there that he’s not aware of.”
The same may be true of the Wolfpack’s recruiting pull. It’s crazy how these things sometimes unfold.
Just 16 months ago, after a jumbled and laborious search to find a replacement for Herb Sendek, State gave the controls of its basketball program to Sidney Lowe. But the former national championship point guard took over with one prevailing question looming: without a day of college coaching experience to his name, would he be able to recruit at a high enough level to compete on Tobacco Road?
Sixteen months later, the answer is a resounding yes. This year’s crop of freshmen is nothing short of impressive. Hickson, the headliner of the class, is joined by forwards Tracy Smith and Johnny Thomas and guard Javier Gonzalez, additions that will undoubtedly enhance the Wolfpack’s talent level, depth and competitive fire in practice.
Sixteen months? That doesn’t equal six years!? Say it isn’t so!!! Surely this guy doesn’t know what he is saying! This is completely opposite of the Fowler-doctrine that after you delay any kind of accountability until six years after you build the BEST facilities in the country.
This is the beauty of college basketball. Unlike football, where programs need two or three recruiting classes with a half-dozen difference-makers each to vault to championship levels, the fortune of a basketball program can improve exponentially with one decision.
^ We’ve talked about this many times in past conversations but it is something that can never be over-stated. It is much easier to turn around a basketball program in a shorter time period than it is a football program.
For State, Hickson provided that springboard. Suddenly, prospects all across the country were able to see the Wolfpack as a legitimate player at the highest level of recruiting.
With the start of practice less than six weeks away, State has a golden opportunity to make this season its best in recent memory. After a strong finish to last season the anticipation is ready to explode as State returns to the hardwood with even more firepower, thanks to the strong initial recruiting efforts of Lowe and his staff.
With the future of NC State Basketball looking so bright it may be best to leave you with a great article to help you remember the past. This piece about the of the history of NCAA Tournament turned up on the internet recently and does a great job of paying homage to the NC State’s impact on the tournament’s evolution. The article did not mention the political and administrative role that NC State Athletics Director Willis Casey played in the expansion of the tournament in the 1980s.
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