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The NC State basketball preview, Part II: Manny Bates leads an otherwise unknown group of bigs

The Pack has the ACC’s best rim protector, and ...?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 23 Arkansas-Little Rock at NC State Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the initial installment of my NC State basketball preview, I had a look at the small forwards. Today, the somewhat larger forwards! Or in Manny Bates’ case, the extremely larger forward. He’s tall.

I am workshopping names for this group, which is led by Bates and followed by some dudes who are essentially unknown quantities. Manny and the Mystery Men. Gaggle of Googled Guys. Bates’ Bashful Boardmen! I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

Manny Bates

Manny showed progress last season by taking on a larger role in the offense while maintaining his high shooting/dunk percentage. He improved substantially at the free throw line, and his improved touch there at least allows us to imagine that perhaps he can flash a decent jumper here and there.

I guess that’s the main question about his role in the offense this season. Is he really going to be taking shots from three after going two years without a single attempt? Will this prove to be a good idea? Will it hurt State’s offense to have Bates outside of the paint more frequently?

Maybe this is all a bunch of preseason hooey, the stuff of practice legend that proves not at all to be real life. Bates will be a significant part of the pick-and-roll regardless, and just imagine, if you will, a popper with a release point somewhere in the lower atmosphere. Manny Bates could be The Ultimate Popper, for who could dare contest that man’s jump shot? No one on this planet.

Whether or not that materializes as an aspect of this offense, Bates will be one of the most valuable players in the ACC at both ends of the floor. You can take another year of elite-level shot blocking to the bank, and nobody will be surprised if his back-to-the-basket game shows continued refinement.

Ebenezer Dowuona, Jaylon Gibson, Ernest Ross

Dowuona and Gibson combined for about 130 minutes as freshmen in 2021, playing only sporadically during league play, so there is no point in looking at the modest statistics they put together and attempting to take anything from them. Ross, of course, hasn’t played a game in college.

I’m not sure what the goal should be from these guys. Bigs generally develop more slowly than their guard counterparts, and for the most part last season, Dowuona and Gibson looked a long way away from being significant contributors. Maybe one of them can carve out a regular role in the lineup this season?

Ross will need plenty of time as well, though I was encouraged to see that he hauled in five rebounds in 17 minutes during the exhibition. I would love for that to be a sign of things to come, because NC State badly needs good rebounders, especially good defensive rebounders.

I don’t think the season hinges on one of these three stepping up, but it wouldn’t hurt. We’ll just have to wait and see.