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“Wolfpack Hustle” Recap - Beating Duke Edition

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Big brother, indeed

Duke v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

If you haven’t been watching Wolfpack Hustle, you’ve been missing out. Learfield has continued their great momentum from the ONE series during football season to give us an insight into Kevin Keatts’ first season as the Wolfpack head coach.

Chapter Six of this series focused on developing players into leaders, including Lennard Freeman and Abu, veterans who are in position to lead this team. One thing I wasn’t previously aware of was Anthony Wright’s area of experience prior to being brought in as Director of Player Personnel. With no athletics coaching experience, Wright came from Lousville and Keatts now has him focused on working with the players to think about life after basketball. Time will tell what happens with Lennard Freeman’s playing career, but Wright was especially proud that he received his college degree, not just his physical recovery from last year. This is a consistent theme between Dave Doeren and Kevin Keatts. I can’t speak for other programs, but I love that we have two coaches that are trying to teach 18-22 year old young men to understand that there’s more to life than trying to win games at an elite level; oh and also really trying to win games at an elite level.

They showed clips from a game Notre Dame played against an undetermined opponent. Didn’t recognize them. Moving on.

Keatts’ little shooting game with Al Freeman shows the strong connection he’s building with his players in such a short amount of time. He’s talking trash but still teaching lessons at the same time. I loved all these little interactions. I remember playing games like that with someone older where they keep changing the rules on you, it’s almost as if KK was doing it on purpose to see if it would rattle Freeman.

The Duke highlights were great. I absolutely loved the “big brother little brother” pep talk Keatts gave prior to the game, basically taking shots at the one-and-done model the other coach K is pursuing. Similar to the ONE series, these highlights provided unique floor level camera angles we didn’t see in the broadcast. Some of those passes Batts and others made looked even more ridiculous when seeing how small the windows were.

One other note is you can see that Keatts takes his demeanor very seriously. He doesn’t make any chest pounding speeches in the locker room or in the huddles, that isn’t his personality. He engenders respect from the way he carries himself, and what he expects from everyone else. The fact that he uses film to address body language problems should show you how much it matters to him. He won’t accept guys slacking, hunched over when the chips are down. This program hasn’t seen many teams that can battle back from being 11 points down in the first half to winning the game by 11, no less against the #2 team in the country.

It’s still a work in progress but Keatts clearly enjoys the work.