Last week, after seeing Omer Yurtseven getting named co-ACC Player of the Week, Al Freeman must have said, “hold my gatorade”.
Freeman was named this week’s ACC Player of the Week after he scored a career-high 29 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including 7-for-7 for three in Saturday’s 95-91 overtime win at No. 10 North Carolina. As this is Freeman’s last year of eligibility, he really made the most out of the lone trip he’ll make to the Dean Dome. The long range performance tied an ACC record for most makes without a miss.
Highlights of Allerik Freeman from last week's wins over Pitt and UNC-CH that led to him being named ACC Player of the Week pic.twitter.com/SqaPYM4UDg— NC State Men's Bball (@PackMensBball) January 29, 2018
As great as this shooting performance was, Freeman has showed great improvement with his patience as of late. He still shows moments where he might force shots, but even though he took seven 3’s, they did not feel forced or unnecessary. Kevin Keatts has been a great influence to help Good Al be the predominant Al we see. Keatts has not hesitated with bringing Freeman to the bench when his alternate ego rears his head. By choosing to not start Freeman against Pitt, one hopes this had a positive impact on his understanding of the system Keatts is attempting to instill. Keatts has shown a tight leash to hold all his players accountable. Don’t believe me? Just check out the 18:00 mark of this week’s Wolfpack Hustle.
Additionally, Markell Johnson and Braxton Beverly must also get credit for getting Al (wide) open looks and in rhythm. They have taken the load off of Freeman feeling the need to be responsible for the ball handling as well as creating shots. Against UNC, Freeman was patient, unselfish with the ball, and looked for his shot when it was the right time.
Here’s hoping this type of shooting can continue. Even if it doesn’t, we at least hope Good Al is here to stay. It seems as though it is very much (to deploy hip-hop parlance) “in full effect.” During the last several years, Wolfpack fans have watched ball dominant guards take on the offensive responsibility, at times to the detriment of those around them. Freeman had shown many signs to continue this trend early in the season. It appears he may have made a turn as Keatts has impressed on him the importance of patience and including his teammates in the offense.
NC State has a lot of potential as it takes the turn for the second half the ACC season, and will need Freeman to play to the best version of his potential if it intends to reach those slippery postseason goals.