During the evening, several NC State head coaches and administrators spoke to the crowd and gave insight on how things were going with their respective squads as the University enters final exams and the spring semester winds down.
Women's Hoops Coach Wes Moore
Wes Moore is coming off his second season at NC State. The Wolfpack finished 18-15 this past year and reached the third round of the WNIT, losing in overtime by one point to Temple on the road.
With three players suffering season-ending injuries, and another not being granted clearance from the NCAA to play last season, State’s run to the postseason was considered remarkable in a campaign where many felt the Pack’s chances of a winning season were slim at best with a full team.
Entering a rugged four-game stretch to close the regular season, with the final three versus top-10 ranked schools, the Wolfpack pulled off impressive victories over Miami (after trailing by 20 in the second half) and No. 10 Duke. The wins enabled NC State to reach postseason play when doing so appeared unlikely.
Moore spoke of the challenge that lies ahead:
[On playing at Broughton High School next season]:
“It is what it is. We are so excited about Reynolds. It is such an unbelievable venue...It is worth it. Sometimes you have got to bite the bullet a little bit. Broughton has been great to open their home to us. We will make it our home court. We are excited about next year in general.”
Some other quotables from Moore...
“We will be a young team next year, but we will be a talented team.”
“It is funny, Duke and us flew out right before [NC State upset the Blue Devils], and I heard some people who saw them say, ‘Wow, that looks like a basketball right there’ and then we walked by and they said, ‘Is that the miniature golf team?’”
“I am very proud of them. It was a challenging year. We knew that when we came in two years ago... then we lose three kids for the season."
"I am excited about next year. We have got six kids coming in. I think ESPN ranked [the incoming class] 16th in the country.”
Associate Director of Compliance and Senior Associate of AD Carrie Doyle
She spoke briefly to the crowd, and a lot of her remarks were about what was permissible in regards to student-athletes and incoming recruits.
Perhaps the most important reminder pertained to tweeting to potential recruits about attending school at NC State, which remarkably occurs at most schools 365 days per year.
Head Football Coach Dave Doeren
There is a palpable excitement for the football program at NC State. The late-season burst that began at Syracuse in 2014 gave the Wolfpack its fourth bowl appearance in five seasons and almost certainly played a part in the ensuing recruiting class.
Doeren spoke briefly, but there was some interesting assessments, particularly during his Q&A session with the fans.
What conclusions did you come to about your team after three spring practices?
I love going to practice. It used to be a lot more difficult than it is now--these guys get to the field and they know what to do. They compete. We call it “co-op-petition.” It is cooperation and competition together. They work really hard but they are pushing each other.
How excited are you about the progress of Jalen McClendon?
I am really excited. We have, maybe, the best two quarterbacks of any team I have been with. Jacoby [Brissett] is very serious about what he wants to accomplish this year. He studied what he did a year ago and knows what he need to do better. He is going to have a chance this summer to go to Peyton Manning’s Academy and work with Peyton a little bit which will be great for him.
Jalen, everyday you coach him he gets better. He is so coachable. His attitude, personality and skill-set is off the charts. He can throw the ball a mile and is extremely accurate.It is just repetitions now. I know for [the coaching staff] to know if anything happens he can come in and run exactly what you are doing, exactly the same way.
Are we getting closer to Clemson and Florida State’s talent?
Clemson and Florida State’s talent? We have got a long way to go. We are working hard at it. Those two teams are very, very elite. I think Florida State is going to tie the NFL record for most number of [first-round] draft picks for a three-year span this year, something like 16 first-round picks in the last three years. We have got a ways to go before we are there.
As you saw last year, our coaches can coach. Our kids are going to play hard. We are close to pulling one of those games and beating them. That is what we will continue to try to do. Obviously, you want to have the same talent they do, but we are not there yet.
I do think we can be tougher than them, and we can be as well-coached. Those are the things we are going to work on.
Swimming And Diving Coach Braden Holloway
Holloway has been in charge of the swimming and diving program for four seasons. His squad is coming off its best season, both in the pool and in the classroom. The Wolfpack earned not only an ACC championship but also had 14 members of the squad named to the All-ACC Academic Team.
There were two moments at the caravan that demonstrated Holloway’s resolve to succeed.
When Director of Athletics Debbie Yow introduced him. She mentioned that NC State’s pool was unsuitable to train due to one end of it actually not being deep enough. She recalled that she asked Holloway if this would be a problem. He replied succinctly, “Water is water.”
Later when on stage, Holloway was asked by caravan host Tony Haynes if he--who guided his team to an eighth-place finish in the NCAA Championships--could win a national title at NC State. His answer was once again straight to the point.
Men's Hoops Coach Mark Gottfried
NC State Athletics is an interesting place. The offseason for the men’s basketball program encapsulates how unique it actually is. Trevor Lacey declared for the NBA Draft, despite being projected as a mid-2nd round pick at best, and two players (Kyle Washington and walk-on Patrick Wallace) have transferred.
NC State head coach Mark Gottfried spoke to the crowd and addressed the Lacey situation along with with several other topics.
“I think we live in a time now in college basketball where, I think, last year in Division One college basketball there were close to 700 kids transfer at [that level]. It is something for us that sometimes you don’t expect it but you almost do expect it.”
“Obviously, you have kids that sometimes surprise you and choose to enter the Draft, which Trevor did, which was surprise for us. That is something that obviously hurts our team. You don’t replace a guy that’s going to be a fifth-year senior and maybe one of the best guards in the conference. Collectively, everybody will have to step up.”
“We have to figure a way to be good, and I think we will be good.”
“I think [Lacey] is going to swim up water a little bit. I don’t think his stock is where we’d all like to see it for a guy that is entering the draft. For him it is going to be hard. It doesn’t mean he can’t make it. Hopefully he will get some opportunities to compete in front of some teams and prove that to them but it is a tricky situation to enter into the NBA draft in the position he is in.”
“At the end of the day, everybody makes their mind up for a number of different reasons. [Lacey] is somebody that finished the academic year for us and did really well in school. So from an APR-standpoint it was important for him to finish. From here forward, I am going to try to help him best I can.”
“It what is going to be exciting for us is to watch these guys to take one big step. For example, this is BeeJay Anya’s third year. It is real simple for me in that he has got to find way to his weight back down. He got down to about 282 at one point of the year, blocked 10 shots in a game--set a NC State record. He gained weight throughout the year. For me, it is time for us to look at a guy that is about 270 pounds. I think he can become really good.”
“I was sitting with a college coach the other day and I was telling him that there was a time when college players had a hard time being the 10th guy or the 11th guy. His comment was ‘Now they have a hard time being the seventh or eighth guy.’ They really do. It is evident with how many kids are transferring all over the country.”
“I don’t know that I want 13 guys on scholarship, which I am allowed to have. Nine, 10, 11; that is kind of where we have been about every year I have been here. We are sitting here with seven guys obviously. We can’t afford an injury and we need a few more guys. I think we will add a few good pieces in the next month.”
“We have got the Big Ten Challenge. We are waiting [for the opponent] and hopefully that will be a home game. We were at Purdue last year. The ACC doesn’t promise you that it is a home game every other year but hopefully it will work out that way. We have to return the game to Missouri that we played [two seasons] ago and we have got to go to South Florida. We are sitting on a game right now with CBS, possibly with Oregon at home. We go up to New York and play in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with LSU, Arizona State and Marquette.”