Sendek Preps Pack For Big Apple

The NC State players returned on Christmas night and travel today to New York City to participate in the ECAC Holiday Festival, with games tomorrow and Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Today, Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek spoke with the media about the upcoming tourney.

Many people are talking about Andrew Brackman off the bench, but can you talk about the contributions of Cameron Bennerman?
We're a team that's a lot like last year's from the standpoint that we rely on some key players off the bench, who, for all intents and purposes, are starters for us. Consistently, we get some guys into the game around the first media timeout that have given us a great lift, and Cameron is one of those guys. He's off to a good start his season, especially on the offensive end, where he's provided us with some scoring punch.

You've talked about a desire to play in some of those early-season tournaments. What do they bring to your team?
The way our schedule is set up simulates some possible end-of the-year scenarios. It gives us a chance to compete for a championship, like in the BCA Invitational and now in the Holiday Festival. It gives us a chance to have a relatively quick turnaround. Like in the BCA Invitational, we had games on three consecutive days, much like we would have to do if we were fortunate enough to advance in the ACC Tournament. Out west and here in New York, we'll play two games in three days, similar to a postseason opportunity, if we were fortunate enough to advance to one of those. So it's a good in-season simulation for where we would ideally like to be at the end of the year.

How concerned are you about your rebounding struggles?
That's something we haven't been real good at so far, quite candidly. If you've been with us, you've heard how often we talk about it, and that pales in comparison to how much we talk about it and work on it as a team. We'll just continue to grind away at it, and we're confident we can make it better. But through the early part of the season, that's not been one of the things we have done well.

Will Andrew Brackman's minutes come at the expense of Jordan Collins, or can you play them both at the same time?
We can play both of those guys together very easily, and we have done that. Andrew certainly has really given us a tremendous lift, especially lately, and I think Jordan is off to his career-best start. He's been rock solid for us.

Is there any concern that a return to New York could make Julius Hodge too emotional?
I think it's only natural to expect that there's going to be emotion involved; I don't think you can prevent that from being present. But I think the key is that he makes it positive emotion and relies on his experience and maturity to bring great focus to the game. Obviously it's a special opportunity not only to play in one of most famed arenas, but also to be in front of so many family and friends.

Is the team healthy?
Fortunately, we are. Tony Bethel has been battling a little bit of a cold, but hopefully he'll get that turned around before we play. He's been able to practice. We've been fortunate.

It seems like NC State is being mentioned more and more by recruits in New York City. Is that part of your recruiting plan?
Ever since I first got a start in coaching at Providence, New York City has been tremendously important in our recruiting -- regardless of the school that I've been at. Over the years, I've developed a very strong respect for the coaches and players from that area. We've been very fortunate to have Julius and Gavin Grant join us here at NC State recently, and I think it's important -- because we do recruit that area so hard -- that we try to get up there to play. A couple of years ago we played in the Jimmy V Classic and this year we're in the Holiday Festival.

Can you talk about what it is about New York City players that you like?
I think it starts with the fact that there's just an assembly of terrific coaches in the area, so guys have really been taught well and exposed to a great deal, and that really helps. The other thing that quickly comes to mind is that they play against good competition. Night in and night out, they play great games in high school against other really good players and well-coached teams. And, painting with a broad brush, in general, there's really a measure of toughness that guys have.

Has Julius been the type of player you anticipated when you recruited him?
The truth of the matter is whether you're a pro team drafting or a college team recruiting, you never know for sure; it's not a science. Some guys are better than you thought and sometimes they do not live up to billing. In Julius's case, there were tremendous expectations on him from day one. His signing with our program gave us a tremendous lift; it was a lightning rod through our basketball program. To his enormous credit, he has lived up to those expectations every step of the way and added great value to our program, not only on the court, but off.

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