Lacey The Leader

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Mark Gottfried hasn't tried to temper the expectations of junior guard Trevor Lacey. In fact, Gottfried has consistently raved about him all preseason and during the early games.

NC State head coach Mark Gottfried hasn't tried to temper the expectations of Trevor Lacey. In fact, Gottfried has consistently raved about him all preseason and during the early games.

The junior from Alabama has backed up Gottfried's praise with consistent, stellar play for the Wolfpack. He is averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game while shooting nearly 49% from the field and 41% from 3-point range. He's also the team's second-leading rebounder (6.5) and is second in assists per game (3.7) while leading the team in steals.

But Lacey, who sat out all of last season after transferring to NC State from Alabama, stated last week that he's still not where he wants to be.

"I'm not going to say I'm all the way there yet," said Lacey. "I still have some things I need to work on, and I think I've adjusted well, but I think I can be better than where I am right now."

Lacey has provided the Wolfpack, a team that has six freshmen and sophomores in the rotation, with much-needed leadership.

Gottfried calls him a coach on the floor.

"What happens with Trevor is it's every day," said Gottfried. "When we're practicing, his wheels are turning right away... he may make a suggestion right away. He's constantly thinking, just like a coach would be.

"He's probably one of the most cerebral, coach-like players that I've ever had. He's constantly thinking. He's constantly evaluating what things may be helpful to your team. I think that's a strength of his."

Those traits are hard to spot on the recruiting trail.

"I didn't really know it as much until I started coaching him," Gottfried said. "Until you get a guy in your program and see it... the one great thing about Trevor was he won three state championships out of four years. The one year he didn't win it he had a minor knee surgery and missed the playoffs.

"He could have been a four-time state champion at the highest level in Alabama. He knows what it takes to win, he tries to win, and I think that's part of why his mind works that way too. He's always trying to figure out a way to get an advantage."

"I've been in a lot of close games in high school and college," said Lacey. "If you just go out there and do what you know how to do, the game shouldn't excite you. Winning should excite you, but in the process of the game going on you shouldn't let anything speed you up. That's what I try to elaborate to the guys."

Lacey has also proven to be clutch. He hit two big shots down the stretch in the win over Boise State and has consistently wanted the ball in closing situations.

"My freshman year in high school we won in three overtimes to get to the state finals, and I had a game-winning three-pointer," said Lacey. "Ever since then, I've been in close games in high school and at Alabama I had a couple of game-winners. It's just been a natural situation for me."

Gottfried wasn't surprised at all by Lacey's late-game heroics.

"I think I know him as well as anybody, watched him in high school, watched him play for Alabama," he stated. "He's made more big shots at big times than most anybody I've been around.

"It doesn't surprise me. He stepped up when our team needed him to and he made two huge baskets... he delivered at the right time for our team."

While it's a positive that Lacey made the shots, it's even more important for the Wolfpack that they've found a go-to player, a role T.J. Warren filled last year and a major concern coming into this season.

But will Lacey always shoot the ball in those situations?

"I'm not going to say I'm going to take the shot [every time]," he added. "But, I'm going to make the right play."

Exactly what a head coach would want to hear from his leader on the floor.

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