Anybody want to be the leadoff batter?
Do you have an injury update on Ilian Evtimov?
Sure. About ten days before we started practice he had his knee scoped. It was the same knee he had surgery on this past summer. When they went in to scop his knee, they were able to clean up some flakes and debri.
He has not returned to practice as of yet. Our best guess is that he will be back on the floor sometime early next week.
How far is he behind?
He went through all of skill with us, with maybe slight modifications. He wasn't playing pickup through the fall.
It's not good to miss practice, but fortunately Ilian is such a cerebral player. As we've put things in early in the season, he's able to pick it up. He knows our system inside and out.
You've got several newcomers. Can you talk about them?
I think our team has nice balance. We have three seniors with a good measure of experience and then we have three freshmen that we bring into the fold as well as Tony Bethel, who was with us last year.
I think the freshman class gives us additional size in our program. All three guys are long, athletic players, and they just help the overall size of our basketball team. They are also very talented young men, and we're really excited about the group as a whole. I think they've done admirably well through the first four days of practice.
Can you talk about Andrew Brackman, and what did he do in the fall with baseball?
Andrew is a young man who really came on fast. I saw his high school team play in December of his junior season. I don't know if I would have noticed him if I didn't have a scorecard. He was a nice player who blended in with the rest of the guys on the floor. Then I had a chance to watch him play in the summer before his senior year. It was as if he had gone into a phone booth and come out a different player. He was dramatically improved.
I just think he has terrific potential and is going to continue to get better and better in basketball. He has great size, as we mentioned, but he also really knows how to play. He has a tremendous skill set and he's a great competitor.
During the fall he did some throwing with baseball and he participates in team activities. The early indication is that we'll be able to balance both sports very well. I think it's helped along by the fact that he's a pitcher as opposed to an everyday player.
Do you have a set plan with Elliott Avent on when he can throw during the season?
We do, and we've talked about that. Elliott and I are good friends so I think we're going to be able to work together.
Could you talk about Tony Bethel and how he's developing?
Tony has already helped us win games. We can't point to his name in a boxscore or a defensive stop that he came up with. Just by his presence in practice last year our team benefited. He made things so much more competitive and he's such a good person he brought intangibles to the table that produced results. Now we're excited because he's able to play in games this year.
Maybe the one most striking difference with Tony is that he's really developed his body. He's a great deal stronger and physically more imposing than he was a year ago. Obviously, a year in the system has helped him get more comfortable with what we do.
I'm really looking forward to having Tony on the floor for us. He gives us another guy that's able to put the ball on the floor, go off the dribble, and create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
You mentioned the balance among the team. Is there any reason why this shouldn't be your best team?
We have a chance to be a very good team. It doesn't take anything to sit here and make bold predictions. Anybody can do that. We've just got to go to work and do the best that we can.
I've never been one to make predictions, but I think we have a good basketball team. One that should expect to do well. We have a group of guys that have a lot of confidence in themselves, and they have a measure of success that they can point to.
Can you talk about Engin Atsur and how he's improved?
He's already taken some real positive steps forward. Once again, maybe the most striking difference is his physical strength. He's really matured. He's gotten stronger in the weightroom.
He had a heck of a freshman year. He basically started the entire year once he was able to play and was instrumental in our season's success.
He's just a great guy to have on the court because he plays both ends, he plays smart, he's completely unselfish, and he's fun to play with for other guys. He's really an important player for us.
He helps our program too because he's such a great ambassador because of his character.
How does being stronger help Julius' game, and how does it change his game?
Strength can only help your game. Julius came in weighing 170 pounds as a freshman with 3.8% body fat. He's now stable over 200 pounds. He's gained roughly 35 pounds of muscle mass, but the key is his body fat percent has virtually remained unchanged. Although he's added 35 pounds, it's not because he put rolls on his stomach.
At a quick glance, you can tell he's a sturdier and stronger player. He's never going to be a widebody, but he's so durable. He has the ability to take a hit and bounce up. He's very durable. Some guys are big and strong, but not as a durable. Julius is extremely durable.
Did you ever think when you installed this offense, in this day in age with freelance basketball, kids would want to come to NC State to play in this offense?
We had a lot of confidence in the offense, and we've always admired it. Some of the concepts it's founded on are beautiful, and we've been able to add our own philosophies to give it our uniqueness. I think our guys enjoy playing in the offense for the most part.
Can you talk about your program and where you feel it is right now?
I think we've made measurable progress. I think it's been steady, and I think it's been significant.
I always take the opportunity to answer that question by making sure I give credit to guys who played on our earlier teams. In so many ways they overachieved, yet because we didn't make it to the NCAA Tournament, I don't know if they were able to feel good about their efforts. In hindsight, some of those guys who decided to cast their lot with us before it became as popular as it is today and some of those guys who poured their hearts out really provided a nice bridge to some of our more recent teams.
We've made progress and we know we still have a lot of room to keep getting better, but I think the way our program is received right now is very favorable.
Last year people wondered how you would replace Josh Powell, and the year before it was Ilian. What holes do you see at this point?
That's really not my mindset at all. I don't see us as having to patch up any particular holes. I think we have a very reasonable amount of depth, balance between our backcourt and frontcourt, and balance between our youth and experience. I don't see any one area that somehow we have to patch up... in terms of personnel.
As Coach of the Year in the ACC, do you feel you're more respected by the fans?
Probably so, but you would probably be better served to ask them that. I think so.
Who will fill the role of Marcus as a rebounder?
That's a good question. I remember when Marcus was a freshman, I probably emphasized rebounding more than anything I've ever talked with him about. I would literally write him one word notes with the word 'rebound' and stick it in his locker. I just felt like he had the ability to be a good rebounder but hadn't bought into that area like he needed to.
Last year he bought into that and became a very effective rebounder.
I think overall we have many more guys capable of being good rebounders. I think this is the biggest team we have, not to imply that size means you'll be a good rebounder. But, we have any number of guys who, with their size and talent, should be able to rebound the ball.
I think we've talked in recent years that rebounding was one area going into the season that we should be concerned about. We should be a good rebounding team this year. We should be able to compete on the backboard.
Your season ended with a difficult loss. How did that factor into your work this summer? It was a gut-wrenching loss. It was one of the most difficult losses that I've ever been a part of. It literally brought me to my feet. I fully expect that we'll continue to use it as a powerful learning tool.
You have a big day Saturday. Can you talk about what you have setup for fans?
The Red-White game is on Saturday. We're going to get started at 5:45, and we're going to play two 12 minutes halves with stop time.
We have a couple of special activities involved with this year's annual Red-White game. We're going to bring Tommy Gugliotta home. He's certainly one of the all-time great Wolfpack players. He's had a tremendous NBA career, and we're going to put his numbers up in the rafters where they deserve to be.
We've been fortunate to have two legendary coaches who are no longer with us. We're going to also honor them in a special way. We're going to raise some money for the V Foundation by shooting free throws, and we're also going to raise proceeds for the Norm Sloan scholarship fund by shooting free throws. Fans will have a chance to make a pledge in the main concourse during the game or they can log on to gopack.com. Thank you.