Today was a huge day for State fans. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We’re excited, and rightfully so. For the first time in two decades we have competent leadership, a coaching staff that embraces the lofty expectations of this passionate fan base and an experienced team committed to winning championships. And now today, with Calvin making official his decision to return, we turned the tables on NCStateSh** (even though it’s impossible to define exactly what it is, we all know it when we see it). We’re not safe yet, but today was like our D-Day, and Calvin’s decision is our beachhead.
We haven’t hung the banner(s) yet, but it should be fun to watch Gottfried’s second team work towards it.
Here’s what folks are saying.
C.J. Leslie (WRAL):
“I still haven’t reached the goals I wanted to reach,” Leslie said Wednesday. “That’s why I came back for another year. We started a good thing last year, I thought we might as well finish it.”
“I think I can improve on everything, what I did good and what I didn’t do so well,” Leslie said. “I have to step up and take on that role (as a leader). I think I am ready to take the team on my back.”
Brett Friedlander (Wilmington StarNews Online):
“After talking this over with my family, we have decided it would best for me to return for my junior year,” Leslie said in the statement. “I’m on track to graduate, which is important to me and my family and I’m excited about building on what the team accomplished last season. There are parts of my game I want to continue to work on and take more of a leadership role with the team.”
Leslie’s return immediately establishes the 6-foot-9 junior as a frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year honors next season. It also strengthens his team’s status as the team to beat in the league in 2012-13.
Dick Vitale (@DickieV):
NC ST Super 7 with CJ Leslie returning. #MarkGottfried
Coach Lee Folwer (@Lee_Folwer):
well, i guess cj leslie would rather live with a cougar than die with the bobcats.
Jim Young (ACC Sports Journal):
The widely held assumption was that Leslie was a guy itching to go pro and would do so even if his draft prospects weren’t that great. Instead, Leslie took his time, gathered information and concluded that he could do better for himself and his family if he went the patient route and came back for another season of college basketball.
If Leslie takes that sort of level-headed approach to his on-court performances next season, expect big results – both for him and for the Wolfpack.
Speaking of the team outlook …
It’s a scenario that has to quicken the pulse of every N.C. State fan: Leslie dominating on the boards alongside Richard Howell; Leslie out-quicking bigger defenders while jumping over and shooting over smaller opponents. Leslie attracting so much attention from defenses that Scott Wood gets plenty of open looks, Howell gets plenty of weakside offensive rebounds and freshman Rodney Purvis has plenty of open lanes that he can use to attack the basket.
If something like that comes to fruition then yes, N.C. State would be the best team in the Triangle and, by extension, the best team in the ACC and one of the best in the nation.
Luke DeCock (N&O):
A little more than a year ago, it was possible Leslie might not even come back for his sophomore year, let alone his junior year. So much has changed since then, and not just N.C. State’s run in the NCAA tournament. Leslie has embraced the program’s new direction; as much credit as the coaching staff has gotten for Leslie’s maturation, the 20-year-old deserves as much for making the most of it.
And now, his decision to return changed the entire landscape of the ACC. N.C. State is not a prohibitive favorite to win the league, but with four starters returning and three superstar freshmen arriving, the Wolfpack is as talented and experienced as anyone.
Ryan Greene (Yahoo!):
Wake Forest won the ACC regular season title back in 2003, marking the last time that Duke or North Carolina didn’t at least grab a share of the crown.
N.C. State appears to have a legitimate chance to end that run in 2012-13. The Tar Heels lost a wealth of talent to the NBA Draft, and next season will be playing with a mix of role players from the 2011-12 campaign, guards coming back from season-ending knee injuries and unproven freshmen. Meanwhile, Duke has plenty to prove after a season in which its defense leaked profusely and it was ultimately victim of a monumental upset in its NCAA tournament opener at the hands of 15-seed Lehigh.
A couple of programs — such as Miami and Maryland — could make a push toward the league’s upper crust, but there will once again likely be a visible divide between the handful of real contenders and the rest of the pack in 2012-13.
With Leslie’s return, it solidifies N.C. State as a member of that exclusive club, if not the odds-on preseason favorite.
Eamonn Brennan (ESPN):
Which is why this is such a thrilling time to be a Wolfpack fan. NC State fans are among the nation’s most dedicated and hungry for success. They’ve never accepted the role of third fiddle willingly, but for much of the past decade, as Herb Sendek decamped for Arizona State and Lowe fell astoundingly flat as his replacement, they’ve had to swallow an utter lack of success on a year-in, year-out basis. Now, with Gottfried reloading and Leslie returning, they may just be the favorite to win the ACC.
It’s been a long time since we could say that. Relish it, Wolfpack fans. It appears, after so much misery, your time has finally come.
SFN member codebrown (via text message):
“[LRM] if we win the acc title, you’re going to see me cry like a woman”
I think we all hope I get to see that, buddy.
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