Degand: 'I'm Ready to Go'

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State stood at 7-3 overall and on a three-game winning streak after defeating Cincinnati 85-77 in late December. However, during that game, the Wolfpack suffered a devastating blow when sophomore point guard Farnold Degand went down with a knee injury.

However, during that game, the Wolfpack suffered a devastating blow when sophomore point guard Farnold Degand went down with a knee injury.

Late in the second half, Degand drove to the basket and was fouled on the play, coming down awkwardly on his knee. He immediately called for the trainer, stating, "it bent the wrong way." He returned to the bench with an ice pack and watched the last few minutes of the game, but over the next 48 hours he would find out that his season was over after tearing his ACL.

The injury was another setback in Degand's career. He wasn't recruited all that heavily coming out of Boston (Mass.) O'Bryant High School. Part of the reason was because of his slender frame, but it also didn't help that he played in the Boston public school system — which is notorious for not getting a lot of exposure from college coaches. However, he was able to showcase his skills playing on the AAU circuit for BABC, a Boston-based AAU program. Degand eventually inked with Iowa State and elected to redshirt as a true freshman (2005-06) so he could add strength to his frame. During the spring of his true freshman year, Iowa State fired head coach Wayne Morgan, and Degand decided to transfer.

After considering UMASS, Rutgers, and Oregon, he picked NC State, where he because Sidney Lowe's first recruit.

"I was comfortable with the staff."

"Being his first recruit is an honor," Degand said when he committed. "He's going to start off his coaching career with me. He told me that the team's going to revolve around the point guard and he's going to try and play to my strength and let me push the ball. I made the decision that was best for me. I was comfortable with the staff, and I just felt that NC State had what I needed."

Because he transferred, Degand had to sit out the 2006-2007 season and lost a year of eligibility. He was able to practice with the team, but couldn't participate in games and essentially missed his second full year of game action. He entered last season as the Wolfpack's starting point guard, and through 10 games he didn't disappoint. Degand started all 10 games for the Wolfpack, averaging 6.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 28.6 minutes per game. He also led the team in assists (2.9 per game) and three-point shooting (.500, 8-16).

Sitting out another year of action, this time because of an injury, was extremely tough for Degand.

"You have a lot of angry days and nights... angry practices," he said. "You learn patience... you try to learn from the game. That's all you really get, but you get through it and it makes you a better person."

It certainly had a negative impact on the Wolfpack's team. With Degand in the lineup, NC State had spent some time in the national rankings and competed every night. There were early season victories over South Carolina and Villanova and home wins against Davidson and Cincinnati. When Degand went down NC State was left with just two point guards, true freshman Javy Gonzalez and sophomore Marques Johnson, and neither had ever started a college game. Gonzalez had averaged just 11.1 minutes in the first 10 games, while Johnson had only been eligible for the previous two games due to NCAA transfer rules.

The Wolfpack posted an 8-13 record over the final 21 games, including a nine-game losing streak to end the year, and finished with a 15-16 overall mark. The inexperience and lack of consistent productivity at the point guard position played a role in the Wolfpack's collapse.

"It was definitely one of the hardest things to do," Degand said of watching his team struggle. "I wasn't out there with them while they were struggling so it is hard for me to speak about the problems, but I feel like I have to try and help this team move on."

While Degand's numbers weren't eye-popping, he was a steady influence at the point guard spot. He did a great job of handling pressure and he had the explosiveness needed to get into the paint and create opportunities for his teammates. Where he was probably missed the most was on the defensive end. At 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, Degand has great size for the point position, and with his long arms and athleticism he did a good job of disrupting the opposing team's offensive flow.

In the close win over South Carolina, he held Gamecock point guard Devan Downey, a first-team All-SEC selection who averaged nearly 19 points a game, to 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting from the field. In the victory over Villanova, he teamed up with Courtney Fells to limit high-scoring Wildcat guard Scottie Reynolds to just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field. Rarely did the other team's floor general dominate the game with Degand checking him.

"It's something that we've looked at in practice."
Without Degand, opposing point guards lit up the Wolfpack. Boston College standout Tyrese Rice scored 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting in BC's victory over State. Maryland's Greivis Vasquez totaled 13 points, 15 assists, and nine rebounds in another Wolfpack loss. Georgia Tech senior Matt Causey came off the bench to score 18 points and add five assists in just 22 minutes to lead the Yellow Jackets past the Wolfpack in another nailbiter. Every night out it seemed that the opposing point guard could either score at will or penetrate into the paint with regularity against NC State.

Degand, who headed to college labeled a combo guard, takes pride in his defense and feels that it is one of his biggest strengths.

"I'm one of those guys that I can't go back home and say someone had 25 or 30 points on me," he said. "I pride myself on not letting the opponent score on me. I try to shut them down while getting the better of them on the other end.

"I think I have the speed to stay in front of point guards plus I have good height. It makes it difficult for opposing guards to score against me. They are used to playing guards their height with the same speed, so they can score on them. But with my arms a factor trying to block shots I think it's difficult for them to score on me."

"I try to do everything [as a point guard]," Degand added. "The most difficult thing is learning to take your time. Being able to help everyone on your team function to where it is a cohesive unit. I feel as if that was one of the harder things I had to learn, taking my time and being responsible for the team, not just myself... help everyone out with the plays and make sure it all works smoothly."

Marques Johnson has since transferred to Georgia State, but Javy Gonzalez did gain valuable experience with Degand sidelined. Gonzalez averaged 3.8 points and 2.1 assists, but averaged 6.0 points and 3.3 assists over the final 15 games. In ACC-only contests, Gonzalez finished ninth in the ACC, and first among all freshmen, in assist/turnover ratio at 1.46.

Now coach Lowe believes that he has two point guards capable of contributing and possibly seeing the court together at the same time.

"It's something that we've looked at in practice," said Lowe. "Having Farnold and Javi in at the same time, just trying to have two really good ball handlers in the game where we can really get up and down the floor rather than having to call so many sets. I think with two guys like that in the game with their ability to run pick-and-rolls and to run the offense certainly helps us."

"I'm never worried about it."
Incoming freshman Julius Mays, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Marion, Indiana, could also contribute at point.

"I can see him contributing immediately," said Degand. "He's strong, he's got the high basketball IQ, and he's a good player.

"Julius adds a strong, heady guard who can definitely shoot the ball. He's not going to make any errors, and he's going to come into the game and doing what he can do to help the team win."

The next step for Degand is making sure he is 100% for the season opener.

"It feels like it's back to normal," he stated. "I'm pretty sure Charlie [Rozanski] knows things about what is going on in my knee that I don't know,but I feel as if I'm 100% and I'm ready to go."

"Farnold is doing well," said Lowe. "He's still trying to get his timing down and to get a feel for the game and his reads because he has been for such a long time. Right now, it's just important for him to take his time and get into this thing as opposed to trying to do too much."

The redshirt junior is excited about the season and ready to go. Fans might worry about his knee, but Degand maintains that he won't be focusing on the injury.

"I'm never worried about it," he said. "I'm trying to be as prepared as possible... that way I don't have to be nervous or scared of anything.

"I haven't really been thinking about it. I try not to think about it because it would make me hesitant when I play. That's when most people get hurt... when they are hesitant. I tried to put it in my past. I've worked very hard to make it strong, and I have faith in my knee."

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