10/18/01 Flashback: New Season, Same Quote from Sendek

From Durham’s Herald-Sun

New season, new look, same quote from Sendek
By AL FEATHERSTON : The Herald-Sun
Oct 18, 2001 : 12:53 am ET

RALEIGH — Herb Sendek’s N.C. State basketball team is back on the court with a bunch of new players, a new attitude and some funky new shoes. The question is, will all that be enough to help the Pack snap its 10-year NCAA Tournament drought?

Don’t ask Sendek, who has been polishing his answer to that question for the last six years.

“I think everybody who follows the Wolfpack is anxious for us to go to the NCAA Tournament,” he said Wednesday. “That’s been held as the threshold measure of success for our basketball program. Nobody wants to accomplish that more than the coaches and players. That’s a goal for us.

“Having said that, like with every team we coach, success is always doing your best, honoring the process and focusing on improvement.” That’s almost exactly the same thing Sendek said a year ago when asked about the prospect of breaking N.C. State’s nine-year NCAA drought. The Pack couldn’t do that with a veteran team, finishing 13-16 and missing even the NIT for the first time in four years.

“A lot of people in the league say we have a lot of young guys,” senior Archie Miller said. “Well, we had a lot of seniors last year, and we finished 13-16. In all reality, we could be a way better team this year.”

That’s because the Pack adds five highly touted freshmen — six if you count Mike Bell, who was redshirted last year with bad knees. Those newcomers bring more than talent to the table, according to Miller. They also bring a new attitude to the team.

“Our freshmen are so youthful and energetic,” Miller said. “The guys are so together. The more good vibes they get, the better they’ll get. I think the togetherness we’ve had from August until now has been different from teams past. They’re eager to be with our guys on the team. They want to play.”

Everybody at N.C. State — from Sendek down — believes that this is a special class. “The talent level is off the charts,” senior guard Anthony Grundy said. “Those guys that left were a great group of guys. But I think when you get a lot of young guys who are willing to come in and are hungry for success, I think that brings a different spirit to the team and the overall program.”

Of course, N.C. State might be the youngest team in the ACC this season. Miller, Grundy and junior Clifford Crawford — all guards — are the only players on the roster who have played significant minutes in the past. Sophomores Scooter Sherrill and Marcus Melvin got a taste of ACC action a year ago, but both found out just how difficult it is for a freshman to make an impact right away.

“It was hard,” Melvin said. “I had a lot to learn. They’ll have to learn quicker than I did.”
He pointed out that N.C. State’s freshman class goes beyond 6-6 Julius Hodge, the New Yorker who is the most highly touted member of the class.

“They’re all great players,” said Melvin, a 6-8 Fayetteville native. “Julius is a tough guy, but the other guys are great players. Like Josh Powell — he’s a 6-7, 6-8 guy who can get off the floor like Vince Carter Jr.”

Whatever happens on the court, in one respect, N.C. State already is ahead of last year. The Pack got into preseason practice without any arrests, without any injuries and without any distractions.

That’s a sharp contrast from last year, when senior forward Damon Thornton was arrested in a drunk-driving incident the night before practice opened. “It was an eerie feeling,” Miller said. “Just before practice, we had a senior get in trouble … it’s a distraction. When you open practice and your starting power forward isn’t there and you don’t know if he’s ever going to play again, obviously you’re not running around with all smiles, thinking it’s going to be a heck of a year.

“This year, we haven’t had any distractions. Guys are doing what they’re supposed to do. Our young guys are eager to learn, eager to be around everybody, eager to do what’s right. Right now, there’s a really fresh feeling around here.”

Fresh enough to propel N.C. State into the NCAA Tournament?

“No doubt about it,” Grundy said, speaking a bit more frankly that his coach. “I feel like I speak for the team. We want to make it there. That’s where we want to be in March.”

General NCS Basketball

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