TSX: Pack Welcomes Smith Back

North Carolina State looks to be getting back to strength at just the right time.

The Wolfpack had been playing without senior forward Tracy Smith for more than a month after he went down with a knee injury Nov. 19 until his return in the Jan. 1 win over San Diego.

After missing 10 games, he played 25 minutes in his first game back, which was a bit more than coach Sidney Lowe had originally planned. Lowe wants to take a cautious approach with his key inside player.

"I am still going to watch him," Lowe said after the game. "I don't think it is time to let him go full tilt, the whole two hours of practice. His conditioning is important.

"Right now, my main concern is how he feels in the morning after playing 25 minutes in a ball game.

"It's different than in practice."

Smith averaged 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game last season, leading the 'Pack in both categories.

He will have one more opportunity to get in court time before the 'Pack hosts Elon in a Jan. 5 home game before opening ACC play against Wake Forest on Jan. 8.

-- One player who apparently had immediate benefit from F Tracy Smith's return to the lineup was sophomore F Richard Howell, who had a career-high 13 rebounds to go with his 13 points. "The other team has to double down on him and it creates openings for everyone," Howell said of Smith's impact on the game.

-- It would be hard to find a team with more balanced scoring than North Carolina State. The Wolfpack had four players averaging between 10.8 and 10.0 ppg through the first 13 games.

-- The win over San Diego concluded a 5-1 homestand for the Wolfpack.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- The number of players who have led the Wolfpack in scoring through the first 13 games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I knew my teammates needed me. I missed them, and I think they missed me. We are back united and ready to win." -- Senior F Tracy Smith, after returning to the lineup Jan. 1 after missing a month-and-a-half because of a knee injury.

--vs. Elon, Jan. 5 (at Greensboro)
The game will be played in the Greensboro Coliseum, the site of this season's ACC Tournament. In addition to getting used to the surroundings, the Wolfpack's main objective will be to continue to work F Tracy Smith back into the flow of the game following his long layoff.

--vs. Wake Forest, Jan. 8
Wake has had some bad losses (Stetson, Presbyterian), but you never want to take a conference opponent for granted. The Deacons have five players averaging in double figures and have improved their perimeter shooting over their efforts of recent seasons.

FUTURES MARKET: With Tracy Smith returning to the lineup, sophomore F DeShawn Painter eventually will go back to a reserve role for the Wolfpack. That will give the 'Pack a deep bench with Painter and F Richard Howell, also a sophomore, available up front and freshman G Ryan Harrow spotting veterans Javier Gonzalez and Scott Wood in the backcourt.

-- Sophomore F DeShawn Painter averaged 7.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game in the 11 starts he has made following Smith's injury.

-- Freshman F C.J. Leslie averaged 11.8 points and 11.3 rebounds over a six-game span until being held to just two points and eight boards against San Diego. He already has recorded four double-doubles (points, rebounds).

-- Freshman G Ryan Harrow has yet to start a game but leads the Wolfpack in scoring (10.8 ppg) through Jan. 2. He was averaging 22.1 minutes a game while backcourt starter Javier Gonzalez was getting nearly two minutes less on the court.

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