Gottfried: "We're In A Better Position"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Mark Gottfried met with the media following a recent practice to discuss the Wolfpack.

Now you have newcomer that's getting a lot of attention, as he should. Markell Johnson clearly is not just this year but moving forward, barring a shocking development, he would be point guard next year.
Well he's done a really nice job. He's learning a lot. This is a whole new world for him. I think he's done a pretty good job. Obviously he needs to have a good year this year, and not only in the games but I think practice is great for him too because he's going against Dennis and Dennis is going against him.

I said that to Dennis the other day.  You know Cat last year, and we did play Torin a little bit some at point last year. Cat didn't have Markell to compete against everyday. Dennis does.

It's actually this has been good for both Markell and Dennis to complete against each other every day at practice. He just has to have a good year and then he should be next year in a great position.

Maverick was 19 when he arrived. He had lived in Pittsburgh area, moved out to Florida... I'm guessing Markell was a true prep-to-college adjustment.
Yes.

I think the environment, the structure, all those type things. He's getting a lot thrown at him at once time. I think he's done a pretty good job.

Could Dennis and Markell play together?
I think so. Time will see. Go from there. I mean look back to last year there was a lot where we played Lorenzo and Alex together. Obviously Trevor and Cat together were two point guards, and then nothing wrong with Markell and Dennis. They can feed off each other and compliment one another.

So I can definitely see it.

Feel it's as if you're playing with house money in terms of having a point guard in 2017? Like whatever you get is a nice bonus because you already have Markell?
Yeah, but I do think it's imperative though that we sign an elite level guard. It's important for our program.

I was asking Torin, the last time he played he was the leading scorer on his team. The last time reading the situation wrong, was probably not communicating last year, but what do you expect from him?
He's been a ... I don't want to say a pleasant surprise, because we watched him all last year, but he's improved a great deal. A great deal.

I use the term, he's like a freight train or a downhill running fullback sometimes. He's so powerful, strong. In the open court he's been tremendous in practice. He's had 5 great days. Not good days, but great days.

He's one of those guys, he's got such a good attitude everyday. He does everything right. He improves. Go figure that huh? Good attitude, do everything right, and you get better.

I just think the sky's the limit for him. He's got to improve as a shooter and he's working on that. He puts pressure on you because he's so strong. When he comes at you it's like a downhill fullback barreling at you.

We like him. He's done a good job.

He also gives you... he can play 1, 2, or 3.
Depending upon maybe Omer and Ted and the uncertainty of that, we may have to play four guards some early.  He's strong enough in there that he can maybe offset a 4, a stretch 4, an undersized 4 a little bit.

Big enough to guard that guy. They got to guard him too, which could be an advantage.

He's done a good job. He's versatile. I think he can just move around, play multiple positions.

You know last year you weren't really in a situation where you guys could pour it out on defense because you kind of had to reserve your ...
We do. We do. We do. Another thing I'm enjoying about this team: I think that Terry and Torin can both be lock-down defenders on perimeter players, and I think so can Dennis. Markell is just young and doesn't know yet, but he will become that.

I think we got 2 high-level defenders on the perimeter. There were guys last year having career days against us. Jimmy Gavin... I thought he was Jimmy Chitwood from the Hoosiers.

We had too much of that. I think we can defend better on the perimeter.

That's known to my Twitter followers as the Wolfpack hero for a day program...
William & Mary had the guy... I don't remember his name. He just torched us. All of a sudden he's the best player in the gym.

Kid from Michigan. Division 3 transfer from Michigan.
Yeah, it was one after another last year. We've got to obviously do a better job there, and I think we can.

I do apologize if you've already been asked this today, but how much of a relief is it to have the depth that you do this year compared to last year?
I think we're in a better position. Hopefully that's going to help us throughout the year this year. We're a lot deeper than we were a year ago at this time. I think what happens, too, is it creates competition in practice. Guys have to compete with one another for playing time. I always think that's a good thing.

I think we're in a better place.

I guess how's your view on the National... ACC race?
I just think there's a lot of good teams. I don't know that there's a ton of elite teams that on paper separate themselves. Obviously Duke has a lot back, maybe more than anybody. They got some fair talent, the freshmen. I just think when I look around the country I see a lot of good teams. When I look through the PAC 12, the SEC, you see 2 or 3 or 4 really high level type teams.

I think it's wide open this year on a national level. I think anybody could get hot. Anybody could get good by the end of the year and have a chance to make a run.

Is it weird seeing how the pundits have gotten very high or very low on the Wolfpack? It's like as high as 3rd or 4th in the ACC, as low as 10, 11, 12. It's all over the map.
It is all over the map.

It's been interesting to me that on some publications we can be picked 11th or 12th, yet still be picked in the top 25 in others. I think that says the respect level of the league this year.

You look down through the league this year. This is going to be my 6th year in the league. I think this will be the deepest year.

You look at a couple teams, maybe 2 or 3 teams that were naturally picked higher. Then you look at the teams that are picked 3rd or 4th all the way to 11th or 12th and you can throw all those in a bag and shake them up and there's no telling how it's going to turn out.

I think the league... when we went to 15, you know we like to brag about this is the best league now in basketball, but really it wasn't yet. I think now you're starting to see it. I think here's what's happened too. I've seen it throughout the league. I think the league as a whole is recruiting better. More kids around the country want to play in this league.

That's why I think the league is deeper. I think even a few of the teams that had been near the bottom they shouldn't be near the bottom anymore because they've recruited really well. I think everybody is using the ACC and the depth to their advantage to recruit better, and I think it's making our league much better. Hopefully this will pay off come tournament time.

You also have hired good coaches, if you bring in Buzz at Virginia Tech.  If you bring in better coaches...
No doubt, but the league is also... when I talk to recruits, it doesn't matter where they live, the ACC makes them perk up. It always has, but I think right now, it's the hot thing.  Kids want to play in this league.  Everybody is benefitting from that.


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