In the midst of the Wolfpack’s 9th straight loss on the gridiron this weekend, we flippantly made reference to the start of basketball season. With that said, we should probably not ignore some of the relevant roundball issues:
* Let me start by thanking 850TheBuzz for highlighting what we all know related to the recent rash of injuries in Raleigh. (There is a lot more re: Johnny Thomas below). If you lived in Charlotte, you’d have no idea that NC State players like Toney Baker, Anthony Hill and DeMario Pressley were hurt. Last Saturday morning’s Charlotte Observer did not make a SINGLE reference to DeMario Pressley’s injury or Alan Michael-Cash’s absence prior to the Pack’s big game with Boston College despite the Friday afternoon announcement of Pressley’s injury.
* Wake Forest continues to pare down their roster with their 4th transfer this offseason. Ouch. Skip Prosser’s tragic passing is completely unrelated to the exodus, but it will insulate the Wake program from public criticism of over-recruiting and running off players to make room for more talented high school recruits.
* Speaking of UMass^…may I please offer up a suggestion the Quintin Jackson (bio) and the Wolfpack Basketball program. Can we PLEASE schedule some games with UMass in the near future? One of the major impacts of the Les Robinson/Herb Sendek era was that NC State’s series record with a lot of lesser programs was significantly negatively impacted with losses that pull down our program. I know that this is relatively insignificant, but it is something for fans to note. Robinson had the misfortune of losing to the best UMass teams in the program’s history. Sendek, with his MISERABLE out of conference trend, managed to lose to a lesser UMass teams in both Amherst AND in Raleigh (in an inexcusable loss). With this said…it sure would be nice to get some of these wins back against programs recognizable names that we should clearly compare more favorably in head-to-head competition.
* You want to talk NC State Basketball with numbers and stats? Then you need to click here and go to your heart’s content.
* Andy Katz is calling Herb Sendek’s Arizona State squad a “legitimate NCAA Tournament contender” this season. (Link) I am sure that Sendek cannot be happy that Katz, or anyone, would dare to heap any expectations on his squad; ESPECIALLY before his sixth year in the job. This link it full of interesting comments that ESPNINsider’s will enjoy. Just to wet your whistle…does anything here sound familiar?
“We became a pain in the ass to play,” said second-year coach Herb Sendek. “We played hard, we became a very good defensive team. Our struggles were on the other end of the floor. We didn’t make enough shots to give ourselves any room for error. We had to pitch shutouts.”
* The news of Johnny Thomas’ season ending injury has now hit the national wires.. Any injury to any player – no matter what uniform they wear – is a tragedy. This injury to Thomas’ knee is particularly nerve racking due to Thomas’ extreme athleticism as evidenced by his recently measured 43.5 inch vertical leap. Evidently, JT was turning heads with better-than-expected basketball skills since arriving in Raleigh and those around the team expected him to earn more playing time than was originally projected. Ultimately, however, if there is a year for JT to have to redshirt then this is the best of them as the Wolfpack has plenty of help on the wing with Fells, Grant, Marques Johnson, Dennis Horner and even Brandon Costner.
* While we are on the topic of Johnny Thomas, we should highlight a a good article that linked by aloyal reader in the past. The source website is horrible and doesn’t contain the article anymore…luckily, we copied and pasted the piece and it can be seen below. Although not particularly well-written (as each sentence is its own paragraph), the article provides some good information. Additionally, it is a good time to turn your attention to this entry from last year to grasp the condition of NC State’s program when Thomas committed to the Pack.
Thomas living a dream at N.C. State
By J.J. Smith, NEWS-TIMES
MOREHEAD CITY — For every boy who grew up in the state of North Carolina with a passion for basketball, a dream existed of one day suiting up in N.C. State red or Tar Heel or Duke blue and competing in arguably the greatest basketball conference in the history of college basketball.
For Morehead City’s Johnny Thomas, that dream is close to becoming reality as the former West Carteret Patriot will lace up his sneakers for the Wolfpack and compete in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference this season.
When the 2004-2005 News-Times Player of the Year begins play in November with N.C. State, he will become only the second male basketball player – and the first in more than 40 years – from the three current public high schools in the county to make it to the ACC.
The last male basketball player to play in the ACC was also a West Carteret Patriot that attended N.C. State.
Robert McLean graduated from West Carteret High School in 1965 and went on to play for legendary coaches Press Maravich and Norm Sloan with the Wolfpack.
A number of male basketball players from the old Beaufort High School competed in the ACC as well, including the Hassell brothers (Butch, Ray and Charles) who led the Seadogs to three straight 1A state championships (1959-1961).
Butch was part of the 1959 and 1960 state champion teams.
Under the tutelage of coach Tom McQuaid, the Seadogs set a state record with 91 consecutive victories over the three-year period.
At Wake Forest, Butch became the captain of the team while earning all-conference honors.
Ray and Charles both attended UNC-Chapel Hill.
Gehrmann Holland led the Seadogs to their first state championship in 1955 and accepted a grant to play basketball for Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire at UNC-Chapel Hill.
While there, Holland played on the legendary 32-0 Tar Heel team that defeated Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas for the 1957 NCAA Championship.
Thomas himself is no stranger to championships, having led Greensboro Day School to a 32-2 record and the NCISAA 3A state championship in 2006.
This past season, Greensboro Day finished 31-2 and lost in the state title game 53-49 to Christ School.
Thomas made the NCISAA 3A All-State Basketball Team each of the last two years.
The future Wolfpacker also led his N.C. Gaters squad, a 19-under team that consisted of nine Division I college players, to the last two AAU state titles.
In his last year at West, Thomas averaged 23.2 points and 8.8 rebounds while leading the Patriots to their second consecutive trip to the conference tournament championship and the state playoffs.
The 6-5, 210-pound shooting guard transferred to Greensboro Day – a college preparatory independent school that boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate – after his junior year at West.
The Morehead City native chose to transfer to Greensboro Day to experience a tougher academic and basketball environment.
“It really wasn’t a hard decision,” said Thomas, who was home for a few days last week after attending a summer school session at N.C. State.
“I knew it was something I would have to do to get where I wanted to be. I was only able to come home about twice a year the last two years, but you have to make sacrifices. And so that was one my sacrifices, leaving my family and friends.”
Greensboro Day played against some of the best teams in the state and the surrounding area in Thomas’ two years there.
In 2006, the Bengals defeated Greensboro Dudley, with University of Cincinnati and UNC-Chapel Hill signees Kenny Belton and William Graves, by 18 points.
Dudley would go on to win the 3A NCHSAA state champion that season.
This past season, Greensboro Day gained a victory over George Washington High School from Danville, Va., that was ranked as the top team in Virginia at the time.
Thomas’ coach at Greensboro Day, Freddy Johnson, is no stranger to ACC talent, having coached former N.C. State point guard Justin Gainey and former North Carolina forward Jason Capel.
It was at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions last May where Thomas made a name for himself in recruiting circles, leading his Gaters squad in scoring while garnering all-tournament honors as well.
Thomas was particularly impressive against the World Wide Renegades team that featured future N.C. State freshman teammate J.J. Hickson.
“That was when a lot of the ACC schools started taking an interest in me, and once Miami offered me a scholarship, the other ACC schools started offering,” said Thomas.
“Virginia Tech and then State offered, and I always wanted to go to State. But with the system the last coach had, I don’t think I would have fit. I thought it was a dead issue, until coach (Sidney) Lowe took over, and then I thought I could go there.”
Lowe was named coach at N.C. State on May 6, 2006, after a month-long search to replace Herb Sendek, who left to coach Arizona State.
Other schools that showed interest in Thomas included Wake Forest, Xavier, Old Dominion and UNC-Wimington.
Thomas signed his letter of intent to attend N.C. State on June 25, 2006, so that he could concentrate on his senior year at Greensboro Day.
“It was a relief making the choice so early,” explained Thomas. “I mean it made my senior year a whole lot easier, because being at a private school, I had so much to do. If you have good study habits, you could get the job done – it was very time consuming, since we had a lot of homework at night – but because of it, I am well prepared for college now.”
Education is something Thomas takes seriously, evidenced by his academic performance at the challenging Greensboro Day School.
Thomas made the Headmaster’s List twice and finished with As and Bs the other two semesters in his two years at the school.
“If you play basketball, it is your life’s dream to play in the NBA,” explained Thomas. “But it is only a small percentage that gets to make it to the pros, so you have to have a backup plan.”
The soon-to-be N.C. State freshman plans on majoring in architectural design.
Thomas is quick to praise his mother and father for making him such a well-rounded person.
“My parents (James and Gloria) had a huge influence on me,” he said. “They weren’t the type of parents that were sports fanatics and pushed me to play sports. They supported me in whatever I was interested in.”
Thomas credits his brothers, James and Elijah, the latter an all-conference performer in basketball at West, for making Thomas the basketball player he is today.
“My oldest brother James actually got me started playing basketball, and I used to play one-on-one with Elijah, and that really helped me develop my game.”
Thomas will be joining a Wolfpack team that finished 10th in the 12-team ACC last year but showed signs of improvement late in the season under first-year coach Lowe.
Lowe, the point guard on N.C. State’s 1983 NCAA Championship team, directed an undermanned Wolfpack team to three wins in four days in last year’s ACC Tournament before losing to the Tar Heels 89-80 in the championship game.
The Wolfpack will welcome six new members to the team this season – two transfers and four freshmen – with Thomas and the other freshman rated as the 14th best class in the country and second in the ACC behind Duke, according to PrepStars Recruiter’s Handbook.
Thomas, who was Lowe’s first recruit at N.C. State, is living in an apartment with the other three freshmen and has spent the summer getting to know them and the other members of the teams.
“We can’t participate in any sanctioned practices yet, but we play pickup ball just about every day,” said Thomas. “It’s helped me to realize that I can play on this level. I just need to continue working on my ball handling – and I do a ton of shooting. If I can continue that, it will pay off.
“I know that as a freshman I have a lot of things to learn, and so I am in the learning process right now. But I know that athletically I can compete on this level. We have a high-powered freshman class coming in, and we are just ready to play. We are going to try and do a lot of big things this year.”
The Morehead City native has also found his new home for the next four years to his liking.
“I love it at State,” said Thomas. “I’m really comfortable up there. In fact, I’m ready to go back. All of the coaches are really cool. It’s like family up there.”
The former News-Times Player of the Year is anxiously awaiting the start of the season, one that will begin at N.C. State this year with Midnight Madness.
“I was really excited when I heard we were actually going to have Midnight Madness,” said Thomas with a big smile. “With the freshman class that we have this year, it should be a really big thing.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the first home game and playing in the Dean Smith Center and at Cameron (Indoor Stadium), just because of the way their fans are.
“I’m looking forward to all of it. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait to get into a jersey and out onto the court.”