In Defense Of C.J. Leslie

Leslie Celebrates Win over DukeIt seems that most State fans are in agreement that this season’s basketball team (while they had a good season and expectations were perhaps a bit too high) underachieved. The other constant seems to be a lot of criticism for C.J. Leslie.

After last year’s Sweet Sixteen run, there were signs of Leslie’s maturation. There was a SI story that SFN wrote about in August that featured AD Debbie Yow’s involvement with Leslie. This was also evident when the two had a nice little moment after the Georgetown win (mentioned in this SFN entry).

Then there was the win over #1 Duke at home where Leslie scored 25 points and had a big assist after the game, rescuing wheelchair bound student Will Privette during the court storming and the pair were featured on The Today Show where he represented himself, the team and the university well.

Seems like things were going pretty well for C.J. Leslie at that point after beating the Dookies. Sure, he still had his moments here and there. But there were signs of his off-season maturation, he had scored in double figures in every game except the Oklahoma State debacle, had only fouled out of one game (OK State again), dropped 25 on the #1 team in the country and had the awareness to help out a fellow student in a sea of court stormers.

So what went wrong?

Here’s my opinion of when things changed – when Lorenzo Brown turned his ankle at UVA. With our point guard out of the lineup, I think Leslie tried way too hard to put the team on his back and completely screwed up his game. While he may not have gone about it in quite the right way, I think it’s still admirable that the guy tried to step up.

In the 3 games Brown was out of the lineup, Leslie averaged 18 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 57%. But, going back to my theory of trying too hard, he also averaged 4.3 turnovers per game. This is also the point in the season when it seemed like Leslie started to force the ball in the paint against double teams, resulting in turnovers and travels from switching pivot feet more than Ron Kelley. And because he was forcing the action, he wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt from ACC officials. And we all know that ACC officials wouldn’t have any preconceived opinions on player tendencies to begin with.

So now Leslie is dealing with the team losing some games, bad habits creeping into his game and no love from the officials. And as the season went on you saw Leslie getting more and more frustrated with the officiating (as did plenty of State fans). When he starting forcing the action Leslie probably lost what little benefit of the doubt he had from ACC officials. But when legitimate fouls weren’t being called, Leslie was obviously frustrated and rightfully so.

I’ve read countless times where people complain that Leslie isn’t coachable. But it seemed to me like down the stretch, a lot of those bad habits in his game were scaled back. After a 6 turnover game in Chapel Hill (after which Coach Gottfried called him out in public), one of multiple games with 4 to 7 turnovers a game, Leslie never had more than 3 turnovers in the last 8 games of the season. He started looking for his jump shot more and going straight up with the ball more rather than picking up his dribble, switching pivot feet and forcing the ball up inside against multiple defenders. It even seemed like he cut down on the 1 or 2 obvious goaltends he would commit every game.

And even though the kid messed his game up trying too hard and then made an effort to fix some his problems, I’ve read nothing but criticism. And to be fair, he’s not free of blame on how the season ended. He could have been a little more composed with the officiating, played better defense and hit more free throws.

But I’m not sure C.J. Leslie deserves the level of criticism he’s been getting. SFN linked to a N&O story on Leslie trying to roll with the criticism. I haven’t ventured on the Pack Pride monkey boards much after the Temple game so I can only imagine what has been said there, but here on SFN (where I like to think folks have a little more common sense) I’ve read comments that if Coach Gottfried goes to UCLA he should take Leslie with him, comments that neither Leslie or Brown should be welcome back on next year’s team and plenty of people that just want him to leave.

While he absolutely has his flaws and plenty of room for improvement, C.J. Leslie is the most physically gifted NC State player in the past 20 years, an All-ACC performer putting up 15 and 7 and everybody wants to throw him out on his ear. I find that kinda sad.

Personally I want him to stay. I can’t imagine his NBA draft status has risen after this season so I’m not sure he’s ready for the pros. And if you’re like me, you’ve loved seeing Richard Howell blossom in his senior season, getting the most out of his potential. I would love to see C.J. Leslie do the same in his senior season. It’s unknown if he would ever put it all together as a senior but I’d like to see him have the opportunity.

But if I’m C.J. Leslie, I go pro. I wouldn’t blame him one bit. Why deal with no respect from the fans and the officials here in Raleigh for free when you can go get paid in the NBA.

I don’t know how many people will agree with me, based on a lot of the previous comments I’m guessing not many although I’m hoping there’s a few that agree. And I might be way off on all this, I have no knowledge of any of the team’s internal issues, I only know what I’ve seen on the court. Like Dennis Miller always said: Of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

About WV Wolf

Graduated from NCSU in 1996 with a degree in statistics. Born and inbred in West "By God" Virginia and now live in Raleigh where I spend my time watching the Wolfpack, the Mountaineers and the Carolina Hurricanes as well as making bar graphs for SFN. I'm @wvncsu on the Twitter machine.

12-13 Basketball

83 Responses to In Defense Of C.J. Leslie

  1. NCSU84 03/26/2013 at 9:55 AM #

    Let the prognosticators determine where he will possibly rank in the NBA draft. If he has a favorabe draft postion, he should leave. Otherwise, stay one more year and increase his value. The heck with what we State fans have to say about him or his playing style/ability. Ultimately, CJ needs to do what is best for Calvin.

  2. st0rmin 03/26/2013 at 9:55 AM #

    Would love for CJL to come back, but our fans are Morons. CJL is the best athlete we have had with more potential. No one understands that he has been asked to play a true PF position where he routinely gives up significant weight. At the next level, he will be tweener of SF/PF. If his shot comes around, he could definitely played smaller.

  3. 44rules 03/26/2013 at 9:58 AM #

    Amen. He routinely gives up major poundage to the guys he’s banging against inside. I’ve had problems with aspects of his play, like all Pack fans, but I think a lot of that comes from trying too hard to be the “superstar” he’s reported to be rather than the player he is. I’ve never thought it’s from lack of caring, but from caring too much.

  4. Tyler_Durden 03/26/2013 at 10:00 AM #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if he comes back (and he should his ‘game’ is nowhere near NBA ready), he should be given a mandate: “If you shoot anything more than an 8-footer, be prepared to ride pine. You either drive or facilitate”.

  5. sjmac11 03/26/2013 at 10:05 AM #

    Very well written article by someone way smarter than me. In my level headed thinking after the blood has came back down from a boil I can agree with some of your points. He may have tried too hard, and he definantley gets “no love” from the officials.

    People speak their minds on this thing usually based on the kids actions on the court and if we’re being honest with ourselves it looked many a time as though CJ just seemed hesitant to compete when he knew he was in for a challenge. He also DID appear dis-interested many, many, many times. He is a super talented guy and without him we would have lost even more games. I will not beat him up anymore for his WTF plays.

  6. VaWolf82 03/26/2013 at 10:07 AM #

    But if I’m C.J. Leslie, I go pro.

    With the amount of money we are talking about, I hope that CJ evaluates his draft position and makes the decision that makes the most sense with regards to his long-term financial security.

  7. old13 03/26/2013 at 10:07 AM #

    Agreeing with your article, WV, I would add that CJ has a built-in double whammy in that he has a lot of fire, which is good. But that fire also fuels his frustrations which he has not fully learned to control. As one who was very slow to mature, I can sympathize with his frustrations. I do not think he is ready for the NBA because mainly of his maturity level. And another year at State could really help him in that area. If he can develop more of an attitude like “The Beard,” I think his game will come around on a consistent basis. But I wish him well in whatever decision he makes.

  8. sjmac11 03/26/2013 at 10:08 AM #

    Also all of you please listen to this…..Tyler Lewis put up as good of numbers as Zo when he stepped in and played while Zo was out. Enough of the Lorenzo Brown excuses, jeez get real.

  9. StateMan 03/26/2013 at 10:11 AM #

    amen, I have read lot of unfair criticisms about CJ. I cannot believe any legit State fan would no LOVE to have him back next year

    Quite frankly, it hurts my head to read all of the negativity.

    My personal opinion is that it is the same small whiny section of the fanbase that creates much of the negativity. The majority of fans, while not satified with how the season ended, aren’t ready to run off the coach and the most talented player.

    Season ticket holder in football and basketball

  10. ncsu74-83 03/26/2013 at 10:14 AM #

    Without Leslie, NC State does not see the NCAA tournament last year or this year and maybe not even the NIT, Last year when he was forcing the issue they could bring Painter in and let him sit for a few minutes to refocus and as they say “let the game come to him” but this year there was no other option on the bench when he was trying to do too much

  11. Lumpy 03/26/2013 at 10:19 AM #

    He’s a gifted player no doubt. One of the best players to watch in transition. But in the half court I would evaluate his game as just OK. He moves well without the ball, and does work hard to try and get open, but he’s very predictable when he gets the ball down low. He’s either going to try the spin move baseline or spin move middle of the lane. Defenders know that. Instead of trying to kick back out he forces up shots with two defenders on him looking for the foul, and if you’re going to do that you need to be a better foul shooter. If he was able to add a fadeaway or develop a jump hook like Plumlee he would probably get 6-8 more points a night.
    Leslie is physically gifted, no doubt. But he always seems to be trying to outrace, or out jump his defenders rather than outsmart them.

  12. wolfmans brother 03/26/2013 at 10:20 AM #

    Good post, and a much needed influx of reason to some of the garbage I’ve heard.

    CJ likely has one foot out the door already. But, I, for one, would like for him to come back with another offseason of coaching under his belt. Don’t think it will happen though.

  13. LifeLongWolf 03/26/2013 at 10:44 AM #

    WV Wolf, I completely agree with you. Well said.

  14. bill.onthebeach 03/26/2013 at 10:44 AM #

    CALVIN… will be back next year… mostly for reasons not listed above….

    … him and Coach GOTT unfinished bizness !!!

    I, for one, would love to see how the CALVIN story ends….

  15. Master 03/26/2013 at 10:53 AM #

    I think it would be good for CJ and the team if he decides to come back for his Senior year. 1st, he has unfinished business in The ACC. 2nd, he probably needs the mental and physical maturity he will gain with another year in college. 3rd, he could really use that degree and it will be good for him and his family. 4th, I think it improves his draft selection and he will more than make up for the money lost by staying in college another year.

    For Calvin to go big time in his Senior season he needs to show as much fire on the Defensive end of the court as he does on Offense. Get down in the stance and just deny other people an opportunity to score. With CJ’s athleticism, his ball hawking ability should be off the charts.

  16. packof81 03/26/2013 at 10:59 AM #

    Are any star players perfect? Don’t they all have some kind of issue?

    I hope Leslie not only comes back next year but stays to get his degree as well.

  17. redcanine 03/26/2013 at 11:06 AM #

    Gott is going to continue to recruit 5-star players. What message does it send to those prospects if we, as fans, will try to run them off if they fail to become a Tim Duncan or Elton Brand?

    I’m ready for us to sign the next CJ Leslie, and the one after that too.

  18. Codebrown 03/26/2013 at 11:07 AM #

    To me, it’s simple. CJ is not a leader. He isn’t consistent with his defensive effort. A true upperclassman leader would have called himself out after the UNC game.

    To Gottfried’s point, I don’t think he bought in to the team concept completely. If he had bought in, he would’ve been a more defensive player towards the end of the this season. He’s shown glimpse of defensive brilliance. But I just don’t think he could stand being the 2nd or the 3rd option.

  19. Wolfpack93 03/26/2013 at 11:08 AM #

    CJL suffers from a oversized ego. In the NBA, he can flaunt his prowess all over the court (a major reason I am not an NBA fan). If he decides to run with the Pack another year, he needs to find some humility.

  20. NJpack 03/26/2013 at 11:13 AM #

    Leslie needs to spend the entire off season shooting free throws. If he could develop into ~ 80% FT shooter, he’d add 4 points per game to his average. After that, learn how to block out so you can get more rebounds and thus more points on put backs around the basket. Finally, learn how to play defense, not just going for a monster block so you can show up on SportsCenter, but down in your stance, arms active, feet moving, etc.

    It almost brings a tear to my eye to watch teams in the tournament playing fundamentally sound, and imagining what might have been if we had played that way.

  21. Wufpacker 03/26/2013 at 11:17 AM #

    Well stated voice of reason IMHO WV. Frustration of the fans is obvious and understandable, and yeah CJ can be frustrating at times…very much so indeed.

    But it seems we are assigning certain character flaws to the young man that we really have no clue about.

    It’ll probably be frustrating at times next season if he returns, but if I’m being honest I still hope he does (even though I don’t think it’s likely that he will).

    Regardless of any of CJL’s faults, real or imagined, he has played hard for NCSU, perhaps too hard at times which as WV pointed out likely is what has led to some of his foibles.

  22. tractor57 03/26/2013 at 11:17 AM #

    I would like to see all our underclassmen wear the red and white another year but if the numbers are right they should take the money. Leslie and Brown came back after the previous season and I think both are better long term prospects for that. Obviously the draft stock has fallen a bit for Leslie given the last campaign and I think you could use another year of development but I do not know the ins and outs of the NBA.

    Am I frustrated with the end of the season with so much potential unfilled? Of course.

    I also remember back to my college days and recognize I was not ready for the world (maybe even after graduating). My wish is they all do what is right for them and I hope the staff helps them all to further that aim.

  23. packalum44 03/26/2013 at 11:25 AM #

    Leslie has no feel for the game. No b-ball IQ. I think he should try to develop in the d-league. He’s maxed out his ability under the tutelage of Gottfried.

  24. Jediwolf 03/26/2013 at 11:28 AM #

    I hope CJ and Lorenzo both come back for their senior season. Any State fan that doesn’t is an idiot.

  25. wolfwarrior 03/26/2013 at 11:35 AM #

    D E F E N C E

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