Here's a brief overview of the 2009 incoming class by position:
With Courtney Fells exiting the program, the Pack needed an impact guard who could score points and eventually become the team's go-to man in clutch situations – and Coach Lowe found his man early in Lorenzo Brown.
Lorenzo is similar in size to Fells (6'4") but is much better in the open court and in transition. Because of his outstanding court vision and improved passing skills, Brown can easily make the transition to point guard later in his career, but in his early years at NC State, he will likely play more off the ball. He also has the potential to be the guy that can take over a game when needed – something the Pack hasn't had since Julius Hodge was around.
His jump shot is fairly reliable (especially inside the three-point line), but where he really excels is exploding to the hoop and either finishing with authority or dishing to a wide open teammate. It may take him some time to adjust his defensive game to that of the ACC, but with his scoring and leadership skills, there's no doubt he will help improve State's points-per-game averages in the coming years.
Scott Wood will also help significantly when the Pack needs points. As the premier player for Marion High (IN), Wood quickly gained notoriety as one of the best perimeter shooters in the nation. His quick release and deadly accuracy from beyond the arc drew comparisons to some of the most adorned shooters in college hoops (including J.J. Redick).
While most see him coming off the bench as an offensive threat, Wood has proven in recent events that he can defend more athletic players. If he can do that consistently and continue to build muscle mass, he should be a more complete player for NC State down the road.
For now, Coach Lowe will probably use him as a back-up two guard, but don't be surprised to see him develop into a more-rounded performer at the three spot for most of his Wolfpack career.
The only thing that would've made this grade better at the guard spot is if Lowe had somehow convinced superstar John Wall to stay local and sign with the Pack. However, that was not meant to be as the Raleigh Word of God point guard opted to follow John Calipari to his new home at Kentucky.
With Brandon Costner departing, the Pack needed some athletic and skilled forwards that could contribute in the scoring column, as well as help boost the team's rebounding numbers on the defensive end. Coach Lowe addressed those needs early on with the signing of Marietta (GA) native Richard Howell, and then added further punch in the late period by signing Hargrave star Deshawn Painter and the less-heralded Josh Davis.
Howell has the best chance of the three to contribute right away, as he possesses the best combination of physical preparedness and pure basketball skills. At 6'8", 230 lbs., Howell is a handful for opponents on the low block at both ends of the court, as evidenced by his dominant performance against Duke signee Ryan Kelly at the Reebok Tournament in Vegas last July.
However, while he isn't an outstanding leaper, he blocks out consistently and positions himself well for rebounds, which has not been a particularly strong area for Pack forwards in recent years. He also possesses exceptional ball-handling skills for a power forward and will provide much of the same low-post ball movement previously provided by Ben McCauley.
While he doesn't quite have Costner's three-point range, he is a decent shooter and will contribute his share of the offensive load. With his versatility, the coaches expect him to make an immediate impact this season.
As stated before, Howell may have the best chance to play early, but the forward with the most potential is Painter. A former Florida signee, Painter has outstanding athletic ability and can develop into a superior shot-blocker down the road. He also plays with a lot of energy and intensity (something that will immediately endear him to the Wolfpack faithful), and he is capable of running with the fast break and finishing explosively around the rim.
At 6'9", 210 lbs., Painter isn't as versatile or as physically ready for ACC play as Howell, but he will earn his time, and eventually give the Pack the athletic, high-energy power forward that can help them keep pace with the conference's elite.
Davis was not as heavily-recruited as the rest of his Wolfpack classmates, but he is someone the staff sees as a hard worker and four-year contributor who can do all the little things. He will need time to build strength and develop his outside shot, and as a result, he is not expected to play much this upcoming season and may even end up redshirting.
However, he could surprise down the road when he gets to show off some of his scoring and rebounding ability, and he may develop into a key defensive stopper. In the near term, however, he will be backing up the likes of Brown, Wood and Johnny Thomas at small forward.
Howell, Painter and Davis give Lowe a trio of solid, complementary forwards who should develop into key contributors for the Pack.
Departing Player: Ben McCauley
Incoming recruit at the position: Jordan Vandenberg
How well the Wolfpack met its needs: B-
It is rare when teams can find a Spring signee that is a legitimate seven-footer with enough skills to contribute to the upcoming season, but that is just what the Wolfpack found in Jordan Vandenberg.
At 7'0", 230 lbs., this Australian import does need to add significant body mass and strength to be a consistent performer at this level, but once he does, he will significantly upgrade the Pack's post game.
Vandenberg is a lefty who can score with either hand and is a decent shooter out to 15 feet. He's also adept at blocking shots with either hand and has solid rebounding skills. He still has a ways to go with his footwork and ball handling abilities, but the coaching staff is confident that he could actually earn some time backing up Tracy Smith in the low blocks.
The more likely scenario will have Vandenberg seeing limited action in 2009-10, and become more of a contributor later in his career. However, while he may not be as skilled as some of his Australian predecessors (like Andrew Bogut or Luc Longley); there is every indication that he will eventually become one of the better big men to come from down under – perhaps a more skilled version of former Georgia Tech center Luke Schenscher.
Of course, Vandenberg became even more of a priority after the Pack missed on Atlanta native Derrick Favors and Mobile (AL) star DeMarcus Cousins, the top two big men in the class of 2009. Coach Lowe developed some solid ties with Favors, but in the end, it wasn't enough as he elected to stay close to home and spend his only year of college at Georgia Tech.
State also had a brief shot at Cousins; but like Wall, he ended up signing in the Spring with Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Regardless, Vandenberg is more than just a nice consolation prize.