Basketball Recruiting Update

It sounds like super-stud post man, JJ Hickson will be in Raleigh this weekend for a visit for the Boston College football game. After the loss of Cedric Simmons (and the expected loss of Andrew Brackman), Hickson would be a HUGE boon to NC State’s future.

In fact, Sidney Lowe and the Wolfpack remain among the top two or three choices for three of the consensus Top 35 high school players in the country – JJ Hickson, Chris Wright and Tracy Smith (who has scheduled a visit to co-leader Oklahoma State in late October). If the Wolfpack could complement Johnny Thomas’ commitment with a dream scenario of the three aforementioned recruits, Coach Lowe could safely choose NOT to expend the program’s 13th scholarship, giving him at least two (always potential for more to open) for the talented 2008 class in which he would have much more opportunity to position himself for “his” players.

Projected 2007-2008 NC State basketball Roster

Senior Class
(1) Gavin Grant (G/F)

Junior Class
(2) Courtney Fells (G)
(3) Ben McCauley (F/C)

Sophomore Class
(4) Brandon Costner (hopefully gets redshirt) (F)
(5) Trevor Ferguson (G)
(6) Dennis Horner (F)
(7) Fernold Degand (G)
(8) Bartosz Lewandowski (C)

Freshman Class
(9) Johnny Thomas
(10) N/A
(11) N/A
(12) N/A
(13) N/A

If you want to see some recent entries, information and conversations regarding NC State Basketball then simply click here. Additionally, David Glenn has posted a very nice update on Big Four recruiting on his blog.

Just a few months into coach Sidney Lowe’s tenure at N.C. State, a few things already are clear. Leading the good news is the fact that Lowe, a 46-year-old former Wolfpack guard (think 1983 NCAA championship), has the charisma, naturally bubbly personality and top-notch public-relations skills his predecessor Herb Sendek lacked. Lowe loves to talk, smiles a lot, and generally relates well to 17-year-olds, their parents, their coaches, the media and fans.

More good news: The new staff is aiming high with the Class of 2007 and has the Wolfpack in the running for three top-50 prospects: D.C. point guard Chris Wright (visit; top three), North Carolina forward Tracy Smith (top two) and Georgia big man J.J. Hickson (top five).

The bad news — potentially — is that the Pack is trailing for Wright and Hickson, it’s merely a co-favorite (with Oklahoma State) for Smith, and it’s unclear if there are enough viable backup plans. State does have a commitment from top-150 North Carolina forward Johnny Thomas, a very strong and athletic 6-6, 215-pounder who wants to play on the wing in college but offers skills that make him look more like an undersized power forward right now. Another player who will become eligible for the Pack in 2007-08 is Iowa State point guard transfer Farnold Degand, who’s already on campus but must sit out the upcoming season.

With at least four more scholarships available for the high school senior class, State will continue to look for help at every position in an attempt to upgrade its suddenly talent-thin roster. Months after watching Sendek’s last recruiting class fall apart, Lowe received the news in September that rising junior forward Andrew Brackman (a projected 2006-07 starter) likely will give up basketball and focus exclusively on baseball, where the 6-10, right-handed flame-thrower projects as a possible first-round pick next year.

In addition to Wright, Smith and Hickson, the Wolfpack continues to watch New York wing guard Rashad Green (now at a Maine prep school), Georgia forward Chris Barnes, North Carolina forward Kenny Belton, Kentucky forward Jeff Brooks, D.C. forward Jamar Samuels and Hargrave Military Academy forward Mike Scott. The unheralded Green, brother of North Carolina swingman Danny Green, attempted to commit to the Pack this summer, but the NCSU coaches had not yet extended a firm scholarship offer.

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66 Responses to Basketball Recruiting Update

  1. choppack1 09/20/2006 at 9:28 AM #

    Well, if we get these 3 kids or even 2 of the 3, there isn’t the need to extend additional ‘ships. The catch 22 we’re in is that if we don’t get them, we’ll need to expend a couple just replace the departing Atsur and Brackman. (You see, if we just sign Thomas) and you have Degand, we have the same lack of depth we do now.

  2. Rick 09/20/2006 at 9:42 AM #

    It sounds like we could do very well. It also sounds like we could do very poorly. I am encouraged that we are in wiht such highly rated players even though we are behind the eight ball.

  3. redfred2 09/20/2006 at 10:01 AM #

    Just to be in this position at the moment, with all that has gone on and the lack of identity that the program was saddled with, IS NOTHING SHORT OF A MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT for the Wolfpack basketball program. And a sure sign of a much brighter future.

  4. nycfan 09/20/2006 at 10:02 AM #

    From what I’ve read, Hickson is the longest shot of the three while Smith seems to be considered the most likely of the three to commit to State. Lowe is swinging for the fences with those three and the results will have a dramatic impact on the growth curve for the program in the next 3 years.

    The down-side of missing all three is obvious. Landing one of the three won’t fill all the holes, but will help project Lowe as a player among top 50 – 100 talent, which by itself is an extremely valuable outcome. If Smith is the one of the 3, I think the boost to Lowe on the recruiting trail is the biggest impact b/c Smith is in the one position that State has real depth. If the one is Wright, then Lowe has his PG to build around, some one to sell to the 2008 kids as the guy who will get them the ball. Make no mistake, having a quality PG is something elite recruits look for.

    I think two of the three is probably the “realistic” best case scenario; landing all three would be astonishing and a HUGE boost to the future of the program. The key is to just get one of them to commit to start the ball rolling — I think kids like to be part of a “monster” class, but some one has to be the first domino.

    It’s a high risk/high reward strategy that Lowe is pursuing out of the gate. If he whiffs on all three, there is the danger that he will begin to be perceived as affable but not a deal-closer — I know, you know, the hoops world knows that Lowe started behind the 8-ball with the 2007 class and that perception would be unfair, but it would be there and could be heightened if the Pack, thin on talent through no fault of Lowe, struggles to an NIT season. It could be a negative snowball.

    OTOH, State is a high profile program in a high profile conference and Lowe has something to offer that recruits want: immediate playing time. If he and his staff are getting zeroed in on and establishing themselves with the 2008 class, the aforementioned negative snowball will be blunted through already established relationships.

    Should be an interesting October for the hoops program — the joy of starting the new regime and the pins and needles of watching the recruiting strategy unfold as guys begin to commit.

  5. BJD95 09/20/2006 at 10:18 AM #

    High risk, high reward. I like that. I have always been willing to take a gamble rather than settle for B-minus results.

  6. choppack1 09/20/2006 at 10:27 AM #

    nycfan – I don’t think labels can be attached to Sidney yet. If we see the same thing happen in the 2008 class (where here’s still behind), but moreso the 2009 class, that’s one thing. However, when you start behind the 8 ball like he did – it’s pretty impressive just to be getting OVs from these kids.

    Now, if we see him – like Les Robinson -constantly finishing second to the big prospects – see Donald Williams, Ray Allen and Stackhouse – we’ll know that he’s not a closer. No evidence available yet to suggest that.

  7. redfred2 09/20/2006 at 10:40 AM #


    Agreed on the labels.

    A style of play, with some much needed enthusiam injected by way the coach’s box, will do as much for recruiting as anything that’s said out there on the trail.

  8. BladenWolf 09/20/2006 at 11:04 AM #

    I think Coach Lowe is positioning himself nicely for the second and third seasons. So far I am very pleased with his efforts. I’m not sure we’ll see Wright in the Red & White (since the Sendick/Jed debacle left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth) regardless of how well Coach Lowe sells the program.

    I’m also not sure I see all the negative PR if we land none of the recruits because of the timing situation that Coach Lowe inherited. Thanks Jed.

    OTOH, if we land more than one of the three, we will be in remarkably good shape and could even hold on to another scholly for the talented class of ’08.

    I’m liking what I’m hearing and seeing so far from the staff. Very encouraging.

  9. Jeremy Hyatt 09/20/2006 at 11:09 AM #

    so far have only read the top but wanted to say…

    Thank you thank you thank you SFN for the basketball post!

  10. MatSci94 09/20/2006 at 11:11 AM #

    At this point, I’m not sure what we have to lose by swinging for the fences. The expectation is that this year’s team will not be any good. Besides, I think that Lowe will be able to win some games we aren’t supposed to win. Heart, passion, and rowdy fans still count for something in college ball.

  11. packbackr04 09/20/2006 at 11:24 AM #

    im with jeremyhyatt, thanks for the bball post. football has been depressing for the last few weeks to say the least. but way to go SId. close on one of these kids and it helps tremendously. I agree w/ nycfan. if one comes, it may just be the snowball that gets the other kids to come. Sid needs to seal the deal on one of these 3 soon, so the others will feel better about commiting. I would most like to see Wright, beacuse every team needs a guy that can handle to rock. Sell immediate playing time in the ACC to these guys and for petes sake tell them we will put their names on the jerseys.

  12. redfred2 09/20/2006 at 11:24 AM #

    “Heart, passion, and rowdy fans still count for something in college ball.”

    We’ve had one of those ingredients all along, the other two were not in evidence ever, at any point.

    Those two missing factors have more impact on basketball than any other team sport. They’re back, wearing Wolfpack RED and embodied in every aspect of the coaching staff, once again.

  13. GAWolf 09/20/2006 at 11:46 AM #

    BJD: “High risk, high reward. I like that. I have always been willing to take a gamble rather than settle for B-minus results.”

    Umm… it all sounds great to me right now, too. But isn’t this sort of what is killing Amato right now? He got too big for his britches, missed on some major recruits (especially on the O-line) and now he can hardly buy a win with the guys he wound up with.

    Swinging for the fence or high risk, high reward sounds awesome if Lowe can be a little more successful than Amato has been. However, the too big for our britches syndrome is nasty bug to get over.

  14. class of 74 09/20/2006 at 11:59 AM #

    When it’s all said and done Sidney Lowe will be spoken of in the same vein as Case, Sloan and Valvano. His first two seasons will be tough but he’ll get enough talent to survive and then thrive in the ACC. Actually we are very lucky we got Sid instead of Coach #1, #2 and #3 on LF’s rolodex. I’m reminded of that saying by Oral Roberts: “something good is going to happen to you”. I’m more excited over basketball this season with Coach Lowe than I’ve been in 16 years.

  15. Woof Wolf 09/20/2006 at 12:08 PM #

    Go Sydney. We have to shoot for the best players available. We can not consistantly compete with our neighbors with second tier talent.

  16. Mr O 09/20/2006 at 12:21 PM #

    At this point, there really isn’t anything to be impressed about as far as recruiting. Prior to Lowe’s arrival, Wright was commited to NC State and we were near the top of the list for Hickson (some thought he would have commited already had Sendek not left along with another top player).

    I am pulling for him big-time, but until he lands some top players or wins some games there isn’t any evidence thus far that suggests he is going to succeed at NC State anymore than our previous coach.

  17. redfred2 09/20/2006 at 12:28 PM #

    class of 74

    Agreed, on all points!

    As far as the excitement goes, I’m through the roof, but I’m sure I’ll have to feather it back on occassion.

    The path is still there, it’s just a little grown over. And there is kid back in in his somewhat familiar haunts once again, who still remembers the way. He’s even brought along some old buddies who’ve been there also, and remember it just as clearly as he does.

    This is just the very beginning, of a long and bumpy road back, to our rightful place, right there in the fray and among the nation’s elite basketball powerhouse programs.

  18. class of 74 09/20/2006 at 12:29 PM #

    ^I thought your moniker “Mr O” stood for optimistic?

  19. Gene 09/20/2006 at 12:39 PM #

    we were near the top of the list for Hickson

    From what I read, Herb wasn’t recruiting Hickson. He was going after Julian Vaughn, who was interested in NCSU.

    Anyway, next year will be interesting. I think what really soured Brackman was the hip-fracture he had suffered, which hurt his play during baseball season. If it wasn’t for that, who knows, he may have decided to play both sports again, this year and baseball only his senior year.

  20. tcthdi-tgsf-twhwtnc 09/20/2006 at 12:43 PM #

    After 16 years lost in the desert it is nice to have a basketball program again.

  21. joe 09/20/2006 at 12:58 PM #

    I thought ACC schools stayed away from Mt. Zion players because of the idea that the school has a lot of questions about their academics.

    If that is true, why did Lowe decide to recruit at Mt. Zion?

  22. packpigskinfan23 09/20/2006 at 1:34 PM #

    is their some form of “commit date” that these guys have to be commited by?

    please forgive me, I know NOTHING about recruitment.

    I agree that 1 of these guys would a great, 2 would be amazing, and 3 would be unbelievable(but not impossible, I hope)!!!

  23. redfred2 09/20/2006 at 1:36 PM #

    Mr O

    You sir, are sorely mistaken.

    Maybe a few left over from the Les Robinson era, but there wasn’t a basketball recruit ever commited (in the proper sense of the word) to NC STATE UNIVERSITY over the past decade.

  24. nycfan 09/20/2006 at 1:46 PM #

    As for labels, I would agree it will be too early to lable Lowe until several years to establish his style and establish recruiting relationships, but the fact is that will not stop negative recruiters from slapping on whatever label early failures might permit.

    In a tangent, I wonder if Lowe is caught in a bit of a catch-22 in terms of installing his offensive system (whatever that may be). The Pack really doesn’t have the personnel for an up-tempo style this season — I’m not sure how effective Atsur can be up-tempo and in any event depth will be a serious concern. State might take more losses this season than otherwise if they go ahead and install the system despite the mismatch with personnel, but that should pay long term dividends in training the underclassmen. But a disappointing (read: losing) season could dampen recruiting efforts. A compromise (more deliberate offense) system might yield more wins this season, but everyone starts over again next season (or whenever the personnel are available). More wins can help create a positive vibe to build on in recruiting, but an apparent continuation of a deliberate style might not attract the athletes Lowe wants for his permanent system.

    Lowe has some very tricky decisions in this first year.

    Landing one or two of his top 3 targets should make things easier, assuming the timing works out that he can include such commitments in his calculus.

    For instance, if you know you have Wright coming in next season, for instance, it is easier to go for wins this season with a “compromise” offense b/c you have to train Wright as the heir apparent at PG anyway and you can point to him as a sign that you will be going up-tempo (even though I thought Wright’s commitment to State was about liking Herb’s offense, which seems supported by his interest in G-Town, but who knows). But practice starts in less than a month and it may already be too late to include Wright in that decision-making process.

  25. choppack1 09/20/2006 at 1:55 PM #

    nycfan – You have to remember, a lot of the players on the current roster were sold on the theory of playing uptemp. Grant, Fells and Costner should be able to play up tempo. I have to agree w/ you on Atsur – but he’s smart – and if you’re smart, you can push the tempo.

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