'I'll Be Back'

RALEIGH, NC -- NC State fans heard some news late last week that they probably didn't want to hear as Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek announced that senior point guard Tony Bethel is not fully cleared to practice with the team.

Tony Bethel, a 6-foot-1 point guard expected to replace Julius Hodge in the Wolfpack's starting lineup, could be back in a few weeks but Sendek declined to give a timeframe for his return.

"Tony continues to rehab and nurse the groin injury that he suffered in the first round of the ACC Tournament against Florida State," Sendek said. "We do expect him to be able to play this year, he just needs some additional time.

"It's been a challenging year and a half for Tony. He's been through a great deal, but his amazing fortitude and great character has really come to the surface. He's handled things exceptionally well, and we're still optomistic that he's gonna get well and be an instrumental part of our team this year."

Bethel suffered a variety of injuries in his first season at NC State. After two injury-free seasons at Georgetown, the transfer missed several games last year battling colitis and the groin injury referenced by Sendek. The groin injury was severe according to the Wolfpack head coach.

"I think it was really a severe injury," said Sendek. "It was an injury of significant magnitude and is just one of those things that takes time.

Tony Bethel
"He has not been playing pickup games, but he has been doing some skill work. He's been able to shoot the basketball. I think his problems come in cutting, stopping... doing those kind of things."

Like Sendek, Bethel remains optomistic that he will see the court in the near future.

Right now we just decided to give it some time... not push it and reinjure it," he said. "We're just going to give it some more time."

NC State lost three seniors, but returns quality depth at every position and welcomes in one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

"I'm very excited," said Bethel. "We have a very good team, the young guys are coming around, and we're looking forward to starting practice.

"We've got a lot of starters returning and veterans like me, Ilian, Cam, Cedric, Engin, Gavin and Brackman. We have a lot of talent, and we are just looking forward to playing."

Expect Bethel, Engin Atsur, and Cameron Bennerman to form one of the league's top backcourts.

"You can say that," Bethel said. "We've all been around a while now and two out of the three of us are seniors so we should be pretty good."

With Bethel, Atsur, Bennerman, Gavin Grant and freshman Courtney Fells at guard, NC State has several intriguing options at the positions. Will any of them replace Julius Hodge, the former Wolfpack all-american? Probably not, but as a group it could be Sendek's best ever and a healthy Bethel will be key for NC State this season.

"I'll be back."

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