The scores, though, weren't the focus. After a summer of workouts and one week of official practices, the team had its first opportunity to strut its stuff in front of an anxious crowd, and did not disappoint.
Both squads began the scrimmage running the team's trademark perimeter offense, with Brackman opening the scoring with a quick trey form the top of the top of the key. Combined, the players had a solid night from behind the arc, hitting 7-of-19 (.378) from long range, including 6-of-12 shooting from the Red squad. Brackman and redshirt sophomore Adam Simons both drained three-pointers, significant for the two 6-10 players that will be counted on to help fill the void of the departed Marcus Melvin, one of State's most productive players on both the inside and outside over the last two years.
The second game featured more high and low post play, and the two big rookies – Brackman and Simmons – more than held their own banging up against seniors Levi Watkins and Jordan Collins. It was the team's other rookie, though, 6-7 freshman Gavin Grant, that had the biggest night in the paint, totaling nine points and eight rebounds. Not surprisingly, Grant did not look overly comfortable with State's complicated system, but he more than made up for that with his impressive strength, athleticism and versatility.
The biggest impact from a newcomer, though, was clearly Bethel; the transfer from Georgetown now ready to play in his redshirt junior season after practicing with the team last year. The 6-2, 178-pounder gives the Pack a true point guard, one that made his presence known on both ends of the floor from start to finish. Bethel ended the night with seven points, and game-highs with nine rebounds and four assists. More importantly, he controlled the tempo, consistently bringing the ball up the court against Hodge in the first 12 minutes, and working well with the reigning ACC Player of the Year in the second. No time did that pairing work better than when Bethel faked a handoff to Hodge on the perimeter, only to keep it around the outside corner and race in for a one-handed dunk. Hodge was relatively quiet in the opening matchup against Bethel, scoring only four points, but took over in the second period to end with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
The only other player in double-digits was Bennerman, who finished with a team-high 17 points. After a strong end to last season, the 6-4 guard picked up where he left off, looking smooth and confident as he drained three three-pointers and had two rim-rattling dunks in hitting 6-of-9 shots overall.
With only two starters gone from last year's squad, and redshirt junior Ilian Evtimov scheduled to return from a knee injury before the season begins, early indications point to the Wolfpack being significantly