Wolfpack followers will see a familiar face on the opposing bench when NC State faces Appalachian State. Justin Gainey, who played for the Pack from 1996-2000, is an assistant on Jason Capel's staff at ASU.
As a player, Gainey is mostly known for becoming the first freshman in ACC Tournament history to play all 40 minutes in four tourney games. Gainey was a three-year starter at State and an honorable mention All-ACC player. He also served on Sidney Lowe's NC State staff for three seasons.
Several NC State players changed their bodies this offseason in hopes of improving their game. T.J. Warren lost 20 pounds and is faster and has more stamina. He says he is playing the best basketball of his life. Conversely, Tyler Lewis was charged with adding bulk to his 5-11 frame. He gained 15 pounds of muscle. Jordan Vandenberg also trimmed down, cutting 40 pounds to prime himself for a successful senior season.
TYLER PASSING THE ROCK
NC State's players praise teammate Tyler Lewis and consider him one of the nation's best passers. Lewis posted a big assist total in NC State's two exhibitions, averaging 9.5 per game.
He had 15 assists vs. UNC Pembroke and four more against Morehouse. Of his 19 assists over the two games, five led to NC State dunks and eight resulted in lay-ups.
PRESEASON RECOGNITION FOR T.J.
T.J. Warren has received a few national accolades in the national college basketball media recently. Warren was tabbed preseason All-American by CollegeInsider.com and recently NBC CollegeBasketballTalk listed Warren among the country's top 10 wing forwards.
Warren was an all-freshmen team pick in the ACC a year ago.
NEED A COMPLETE T.J.
Mark Gottfried has said he has challenged T.J. Warren to become more of a complete player. The 6-8 sophomore will be counted on to improve defensively and to increase his rebounding. Warren accepted that challenge by dropping 20 pounds in the offseason. When asked how he dropped the weight, Warren replied he gave up Bojangle's chicken and Chinese food.
HIGH OCTANE OFFENSE
Mark Gottfried's up-tempo offense has resulted in some prolific scoring totals for the Wolfpack.
Last season, NC State ranked ninth in the country with 77.4 points per game. The Wolfpack was fourth in the country in field goal percentage (.496) and held the national lead in shooting for several weeks.
Mark Gottfried, who has signed four McDonald's All-Americans since coming to NC State, has brought some of the nation's top prep talent to Raleigh.
The 2013 recruiting class (BeeJay Anya, Cat Barber, Lennard Freeman, Desmond Lee, Kyle Washington) was ranked 12th nationally by Scout.com and 13th by ESPN.com. Rivals.com charted the class 15th in the country.
COACHING BRAIN TRUST
Mark Gottfried has built one of the most experienced coaching staffs in all of college basketball. In addition to the third-year NC State coach, the Wolfpack are mentored by three other former head coaches.
Associate coach Bobby Lutz won 399 games as a head coach at Charlotte and Pfeiffer, Orlando Early was the head coach for five seasons at Louisiana-Monroe and Dereck Whittenburg ran the programs at Wagner and Fordham.
Both of NC State's exhibitions had a charitable component. At last week's game vs. UNCP at Reynolds Coliseum, fans were encouraged to donate new toys for Toys For Tots. Last Saturday vs. Morehouse, NC State fans donated more than $9,000 to the V Foundation for cancer research.
After having standouts C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell in the frontcourt the last three seasons, NC State is starting anew with fifth-year senior Jordan Vandenberg and a group of newcomers in the post. Freshmen BeeJay Anya, Lennard Freeman and Kyle Washington are all projected to see significant playing time this season. Anya and Washington were top 100 recruits and among the top posts in the 2013 class. Freeman emerged late at basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy and signed during the spring period.
NC State recorded an 11-7 record in ACC play last year, the most wins in league play since the 2003- 04 season. It was only the fifth time in school history the Pack have won at least 11 ACC games in one season. NC State has 20 league victories over the past two seasons, the team's most in a two-year span since the late 1980s.
SCORING BALANCE LAST YEAR
The Wolfpack was the only team in the nation in 2012-13 that had five players average 12 points per game. NC State's starters formed a balanced scoring attack, with each player averaging between 15.1 and 12.1 points per game. C.J. Leslie scored a team-high 15.1 points per game, followed by Richard Howell (12.7), Scott Wood (12.6), Lorenzo Brown (12.4) and T.J. Warren (12.1).
NEED #TONYBUCKETS TO GET BUCKETS
There is no question NC State will lean heavily on the scoring prowess of T.J. Warren this season. The Wolfpack is at its best when he's effective on the offensive end. In his 24 double-figure scoring performances of 2012-13, NC State posted an 18-6 record. The team was also 5-0 in games when he scored 20 or more points and 5-1 when he led the team in scoring.
T.J. Warren was one of the nation's most efficient scorers last season. He shot .622 from the floor (including 14-for-27 from beyond the arc), which was second only to Kevin Thompson's .624 mark in 1991-92. He had six outings with nine made field goals last season while never attempting more than 15 shots in a single game. Warren scored in double figures in nine of the last 11 contests of the year.
NC State was 16-1 at home last season, including a 15-1 record at PNC Arena. Mark Gottfried is 29-7 in home games as head coach of the Wolfpack. NC State is 14-0 all-time in season-opening games at PNC Arena, which opened in 1999.
NEWCOMERS ON THE WINGS
NC State will be relying on two newcomers - Ralston Turner and Desmond Lee - on the wings this season for scoring and also veteran leadership. Those two wings were very productive in the Pack's two exhibition contests. Turner averaged 15.5 points in the two games, including a 20-point effort vs. UNCP. Lee scored all 16 of his points in the second half against UNCP and then tallied 13 in the exhibition vs. Morehouse.
CAT IS THE NEW ANSWER
Like former NBA star Allen Iverson, Anthony ‘Cat' Barber grew up as quick, scoring point guard in Virginia. Barber broke Iverson's local scoring records in high school, totaling 2,097 career points. Barber tallied 11 points and four assists in the 2013 McDonald's All-American Game. Barber was ranked among the top point guards in the 2013 class, owning No. 9 rankings from both Scout.com and Rivals.com.
WELCOME HOME WHITT
Fans will see a familiar face on the Wolfpack sideline, as former Pack star Dereck Whittenburg has been hired on staff as the team's director of player development. In this capacity, he serves as a mentor to the players and provides not only decades of basketball experience, but a perspective of a former Wolfpack player who played on a championship team. It is Whittenburg's third stint on staff at NC State. He worked under Jim Valvano in 1985-86 and again from 1988-91.
LEWIS TAKES THE WHEEL
After averaging 3.5 points in 12.4 minutes per game as a freshman, Tyler Lewis appears to have the ball in his hands a lot this season. The 5-11 guard, a McDonald's All-American in 2012, is said to be one of the nation's best passers. He posted a 2.18:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last year. Lewis showed he's up to the task last year when starter Lorenzo Brown went down with an injury last January. Lewis scored 16 points off the bench against 14th-ranked Miami and then totaled 13 points and six assists at No. 4 Duke.
COULD BE RALSTON'S TURN
For the last four years, NC State could rely on the services of long-range shooter Scott Wood. Now that Wood is graduated and playing pro ball in Spain, the Pack is looking for a new long-ball threat. Enter Ralston Turner, a fourth-year junior who sat out last year after coming to NCSU from LSU. Turner made 95 shots from 3-point range in his two seasons in Baton Rouge.
As a sophomore in 2011-12, Turner shots 47-130 (.362) from deep. Turner is the only player on the NC State roster to have been a full-time starter at the Division I for two seasons.
ACC's KING OF TWITTER
In August, The Sporting News evaluated the prominent college basketball coaches related to their presence on Twitter. TSN named Mark Gottfried the ACC's King of Twitter, saying "his level of engagement is surpassed by no other league coach." As of Tuesday afternoon, Gottfried (@Mark_Gottfried) has 26,836 followers.
LENGTH AND WIDTH
BeeJay Anya was one of the more highly recruited post players in the 2013 class, ranking 32nd by ESPN.com and 44th by Scout.com. At 6-9 and 325 pounds, Anya is a commanding post presence. But it's his wingspan that sets him apart. He has a measured wingspan of 7-9, the longest wingspan recorded in the NBA Draft Express database for basketball prospects.