Baring any surprise suspensions, transfers or preseason i-words (none of which NC State is immune to) The 20-21 (or just 21?) Wolfpack Men’s Basketball Roster is set with the return of DJ Funderburk. Local and national names have now taken another look at NC State as a team that could make some noise and get back into the NCAA Tournament. Boosted by a strong incoming class and multiple 3+ year players, State has a good formula to mix and match based on its needs. Now I am not Kevin Keatts (therefore I am not a winner) but let’s have some fun speculating on the lineups he could use depending on the situation throughout the year. (Note: Still using traditional position designations although we know how much of a dinosaur they are becoming)
Starters (setting the tone and go to in the clutch):
Everyone seems to have various opinions on this! Yet I also believe that the starters are who you want to lean on in crucial moments of the game for a score. We have some curious options for guards and there could be some potential shuffling of the frontcourt but as of this moment in early August I’d go with:
PG- Sr Braxton Beverly
SG- RS Jr Thomas Allen
SF- RS Sr Devon Daniels
PF- RS Sr DJ Funderburk
C- RS So Manny Bates
In my opinion, shot creation and experience are two of the most valuable assets for a college basketball team. Four of these guys have been in Keatts system for more than 2 years now and the other is a Power 5 vet who got a year to learn this system for himself. Reports out of pick-up games and individual training have praised where Allen is as a confident scorer and noted DJ having improved his handles and range. Add that to the 3 level scoring of Devon Daniels and you have a team that will be tough to guard. In a fully formed Keatts system 1-3 (sometimes even 4) can initiate the offense, so this gives a shot creator like Allen a chance to do so, while Beverly plays off the ball at times to pull up a rhythm three when the defense collapses. Defensively, you have a great rim protector and a pair of lockdown perimeter defenders to keep the opposing team at bay. So while this lineup lacks size in the backcourt...and its possible Hayes or Moore prove to be too good to keep out of the starting lineup...to begin the season, to handle clutch situations I’d begin as such.
Bench (swapping in as a platoon or getting the backup minutes):
Now I’ll preface this by saying I don’t believe in platoon swaps. Basketball is about chemistry and while Team A and Team B could develop that with one another as their individual platoon, you need players to be comfortable with all their teammates as much as possible. Yet if Keatts chose to do a platoon swap due to an early blowout or a discipline measure on the starters I’d go with:
PG- Fr Cam Hayes
SG- Fr Shakeel Moore
SF- RS Fr Dereon Seabron
PF- Jr Cole Hellems
C- Fr Ebenezer Dowuona
Basically, if I were planning on going 9 or 10-deep with my lineup these would be the first names off the board. I’d also be tempted to redshirt Fr Nick Farrar to let him grow into the college game a little more. RS So AJ Taylor and Fr Jaylon Gibson provide versatility on the wing, with Gibson having the height (not yet the mass) to step in at the 5 in case of emergency. Still those guys seem like they’ll need some work/time to crack the rotation. Hellems is your definitive 6th man who can play SF or small-ball PF...you have Hayes, Moore and Seabron rotating in and out of the 1-3 spots giving them time to learn without the pressure of leading right away. Again, talent may lead to any of these guys taking a starting spot that’s not named for Daniels or DJF, but I think you’d do well with a bench like this one.
Pressure Defense (challenging teams that like to score in transition, shoot a lot of threes):
This may be the area in which I am most excited about this year’s lineup. Running a pressing defense you want to disrupt the opposing offense’s flow by turning their ball handler and forcing tough passes. Getting deflections and steals early in the shot clock is the name of the game, as playing this style makes it difficult to avoid mistakes for the full 30 seconds (and God forbid they get an offensive rebound) so:
This is a smaller lineup but my goodness Moore, Allen and Daniels would be a nightmare for opposing backcourts. Teams would have to be cautious not to have less than 3 proven ball handlers on the court as any of our aforementioned guys would put a healthy fear into them. Also, these are guys that would force spot-up shooters to have to put the ball on the ground frustrating their flow. The question here is why no DJF. Well until DJF can prove he’s limited the ticky-tack fouls from his repertoire (especially those on the perimeter), he may need to watch this lineup wreak havoc from the bench. Hellems may be a step slower than some of the more athletic forwards in college basketball, but he has immense value as he has good instincts, strength and toughness, like his willingness to take charges. Bates is here as an eraser for the inevitable mistakes when an opposing team gets behind what can, at times, be an overly aggressive defense.
Halfcourt Defense (stopping bigger teams that may want to slow down the pace):
FSU is known for their height, UVA for their slow pace and they are just some of the examples of teams where we need athleticism a bit less than we need discipline and toughness. So:
Beverly has quietly improved defensively over the years, Moore was recruited as a lockdown defender, Hayes is probably our future PG...BUT Braxton can’t help his size, lack of quickness and Moore/Hayes haven’t yet played against veteran ACC guards...so until then Thomas Allen and Devon Daniels would share PG duties in this lineup. At 6’5” Daniels has great height for defending guards and he’s played a lot of basketball against the FSUs and UVAs in his years here. Allen played a couple of seasons in the land of the lumbering giants in the B1G. His experience in that league may prove to be invaluable long term. Adding all that size to our front court with Hellems, DJF and Bates allows us to compete directly with the FSU’s of the world...plus each of our guys have just enough athleticism to not be caught flat footed. Be interesting to see how long it takes Gibson to develop, as his skill set could put him at the SF position once he shows that improvement and would create a massive lineup. Lastly, Seabron brings a LOT of intriguing possibilities so his exclusion here is purely due to lack of experience...but in a year, he’d have to be the go to in this lineup filling multiple positions.
3-PT (needing that big shot to build a comeback):
Midway through the game, down by a score of 12 or 15...late in the game down by a score of 7 or 8...shot clock turned off, down by 3 or 4...sometimes you need a big shot to lessen the amount of possessions needed for a comeback or a big shot to change the momentum of a game. SO this is about getting a score more than about getting a stop. You need guys who cannot only hit the big shot but do it in pressure situations.
Now I have some qualms with my own list. In this situation you need a lead guard who can meet the moment as well as make the right pass to a shooter if need be. In a lot of ways I want to swap Braxton for Allen and then Allen for Hayes. Allen is the more proven shooter on this level and a vet so I had to go with him here, but I’d really like Hayes to take the reign as lead guard to set up the others for these big shots, as I think his skill set will prove he can do over time. BB, Daniels and Hellems have all proven to be able to hit tough, clutch shots when needed. DJF seems to have expanded his range if he happens to find himself open and is a good enough offensive rebounder/passer that if there is a miss he can be trusted to kick it out for another attempt.
Those are just some of the hypothetical situations considered for 20-21’s “Wings & Things” State team, so if there are others to be discussed or disagreements with what’s said here sound off and lets have some fun in speculating for a season that WILL happen (going to speak it into existence) .