Now that we’ve had some time to let the basketball season settle, I’m going to start looking back at the year that was on a player-by-player basis. I’ll begin on a positive note with sophomore big man DJ Funderburk.
It’s difficult to figure how a first-year big man is going to perform at the high-major level, even a first-year big man who was a top-100 recruit. Guys respond differently when they go from being able to dominate on physical talent alone in high school to not being able to do that on a regular basis in college.
Funderburk has plenty of work to do still, but there’s no doubt that he had a (perhaps surprisingly) good season in year one. He established himself as a crucial part of NC State’s front court, emerging as the Wolfpack’s best rim protector and a more effective scorer than counterpart Wyatt Walker.
Funderburk helped himself, and the team in turn, by understanding his limitations and playing under control. He never dominated the ball at the offensive end, accounting for only about 17% of State’s field goal attempts while he was on the court. That’s a below-average proportion and for the most part it didn’t feel like he was under-utilized. He was doing as much as he should have been doing.
His willingness to play more as a scoring opportunist helped his shooting accuracy considerably and he finished the year ranked 211th in two-point field goal percentage. Particularly encouraging is the fact that he maintained a good shooting percentage against the best teams on the schedule. Shooting 56% in the ACC is impressive, even in limited attempts. It bodes well for his development.
As does his free throw shooting—a big part of his value lay in his ability to draw fouls and then make those trips to the line count. He led the team with 121 attempts this season and made a team-best 78.5% of ‘em.
While his outside shooting was of little use after the calendar flipped, that free throw number suggests that his jumper will get better. And that’s maybe the biggest key to his offseason—if he can add a little more versatility, he’ll warrant having the ball in his hands more often, which could be a very good thing. Especially since he hasn’t been prone to turnovers.
He also needs to figure out how to stay on the floor—his foul rate soared to 6.5 committed per 40 minutes in league play, and that number was 8.0/40 against top-50 opponents. State’s best opponents got him in quite a lot of trouble. And that’s partly to be expected from a first-year big, not to mention that he had no choice but to defend guys bigger and stronger than him because of State’s roster limitations.
Overall, though, it was a fine debut for DJ, who looks likely to be a critical part of the Wolfpack’s rotation for years to come. The foundation is there.