Accepting Their Roles

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Mark Gottfried certainly isn't afraid to shake up his lineup if he feels like that is a move he needs to make.

Eight of the Wolfpack's nine scholarship players have started multiple games, and freshman center BeeJay Anya is the lone player to not start a game this season.

"We've got nine scholarship guys," Gottfried said earlier this week. "We need them all to play well, and I have confidence in all nine. If we have to play a different combination we're going to play it."

That type of mentality might be why different players have emerged recently to make big plays for the Wolfpack.

Sophomore Tyler Lewis began the season as the starter at point guard, but four games in Gottfried inserted freshman Cat Barber into the lineup.

Lewis, who has struggled with his shot much of the season, could have pouted or made excuses and not be ready when his number is called, but he doesn't have that mentality. Gottfried believes that's why he was able to give the Wolfpack a huge lift off the bench against Georgia Tech and Florida State.

"Tyler has had a great attitude," he said. "Because of that, it keeps him alive as far as how he played the other night. If he shut it down or got frustrated, it would be hard to have a game like he did.

"He's had a great attitude, and I think he's going to play well the rest of the way for us."

"I just have to stay ready and provide some energy and a spark when I come in there... provide for the team," added Lewis.

The most recent lineup change occurred on Sunday when Gottfried chose to start Ralston Turner, the Pack's lone reliable three-point shooter, in place of Desmond Lee, who had started the previous 19 games at shooting guard for the Wolfpack.

Lee, like Lewis, could have handled the situation negatively, but instead he has had huge plays in the next two games.

"Everybody wants to start," said Gottfried. "There's not a guy in America that wants to come off the bench. [Desmond] came in and really played well... made big plays down the stretch for us.

"Whether it's he, Ralston, or T.J., they all are going to play a lot."

Turner, who started four games earlier in the season before returning to the lineup against Maryland when T.J. Warren was out with an injury, wasn't used to coming off the bench. He had started two seasons at LSU before transferring to NC State.

"It was definitely an adjustment," he said. "It was something I never had experienced before. I had to learn how to be effective in a different way."

Not only has Gottfried shuffled his starting lineup, he's also mixed up his rotations. In the last two games he's used a smaller lineup that slotted T.J. Warren at the four position, something he did earlier in the year when center Jordan Vandenberg was out with an ankle injury.

The perimeter-oriented lineup allowed State to put more scoring options on the floor (while playing zone) and aided both recent comeback wins.

"We played a lot with our four guards," said Gottfried. "As one got tired or they were doing something we didn't like we just kind of play with five guards at four spots. I'm not sure we can do that every night, but there will be some times we can."

Is that a lineup Wolfpack fans can expect to see more of going forward?

"We've played most of the year with the two forwards for us, but I think our guys have the confidence either way," Gottfried stated. "If we need to play smaller we can, but some of that depends on what the other team is doing offensively, how well they are playing, and what they are exposing during the game. Those are things you have to figure out as the game unfolds."

It sounds like Mark Gottfried is going to continue to tinker with his lineup, looking to get the most that he can out of his roster.

"Our guys know each night it can be someone different," he said. "They want to win and they've accepted that. They know that's what we need to do to be good."

Pack Pride Top Stories