NC State Basketball 2002-03 Preview - Part 3

The Strutting Wolf reviews the past season and looks toward the future with it's annual Wolfpack basketball preview.

The Wolfpack's last four games of the 2002 season were against the NCAA Champions from 1999 (Connecticut), 2000 (Michigan State), 2001 (Duke), and 2002 (Maryland). The Pack was gallant in their late season drive against some of the best programs in college basketball. That experience gained by the youthful Pack should pay dividends in their drive for a title in 2003. With a year's experience under their belt combined with graduation and early departures hurting the power teams in the ACC, look for the Pack to have a real opportunity to win the ACC Championship. Duke may be the early media favorite, but the reality may just be that Hodge's prediction of championships becomes a matter of fact by playing the games.

No longer will NC State have to see Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy or Jason Williams from the 2002 ACC Champion Duke team. Maryland, the defending National Champions, lost Juan Dixon, Lonnie Baxter, Chris Wilcox, and Byron Mouton. Also, cross out Wake's Darius Songaila and Virginia's Roger Mason. UNC lost Kris Lang and Jason Capel, not to mention the transfer of three other players. The game of attrition seems to favor the Pack for the upcoming season, who lost only Archie Miller (who will still provide leadership as a coach for the Pack) and All-ACC player, Anthony Grundy. In particular, the loss of Grundy will have the biggest impact, but the returning players seem ready to fill the void, as witnessed in the Michigan State game.

The front court who was often banged around by the likes of Boozer and Baxter are a year older and a year stronger. The biggest surprise player may be center Jordan Collins (So 6'10" 262 1.6 ppg). He showed perhaps the most improvement of all the big men for NC State in 2002. During their ACC tournament run, Collins gave valuable minutes for the Pack, providing rebounds and much needed interior defense. During the off-season, Jordan worked on reshaping his body. He chiseled out muscle, while improving his speed and agility. NC State fans can look for major contributions from the refined center this year.

Also in the mix for playing time will be forward Josh Powell (So 6'9" 235 7.2 ppg). The Georgia native enjoyed great success in the classroom as a freshman when he accepted a membership into The National Society of Collegiate Scholars. On the floor, Powell made the biggest splash of the "Fab 5" (Watkins, Collins, Evtimov, Hodge, Powell) in the early season. He wooed the crowds at the ESA with thunderous dunks and smashing blocks. However, the wear and tear of the ACC's bruising inside game eventually wore down the NC State Forward by late February. Despite the late season fade, Josh was named to the All-ACC Rookie team. From all reports, look for Powell to be up to the physical challenge this year, where he too has been in a stringent conditioning program.

While Powell and Collins look to have great sophomore seasons, it is hard to imagine them topping the second year that Forward Marcus Melvin (Jr 6'8" 232 10.1 ppg) played. NC State fans saw the first Pack big man since Tom Gugliotta to consistently drain the three. Melvin lead the team in 3 point efficiency (46-105 .438). But his talent was not limited to the deep threat. Marcus would often bring the ball up in Sendek's point by committee offense. Never was his talent used more effectively than in the Michigan State game, when Melvin would clear his teammates to take the Spartan Forward Aloysius Anagonye the full ninety feet, time and time again. The task of covering Melvin proved to much for the 2001 Sporting News Player of the Year. Anagonye's tired set of legs resulted in a poor offensive showing, where he scored only two points for the game. NC State fans can expect more of the same from Melvin this season. With the departure of Miller and Grundy, do not be surprised to see Melvin play an even more prominent role from beyond the arc, both as a primary ball handler and as a three point gunner. It also may go beyond that. If you gauge Melvin using the Chavis league as an indicator, Marcus may just be the best player on the team this year.

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