What was sort of more than a rumor last weekend became reality Thursday as my alma mater NC State moved on from basketball coach Mark Gottfried. The former ESPN analyst, also coached at Alabama and Murray State, has been in Raleigh for six years. He made the NCAA Tournament four times, with two trips to the Sweet Sixteen, but failed to make it last year. This year has been a complete disaster in spite of a roster that is deep and loaded with talent.
I already made a list about the Top 5 Gottfried Era players two and a half years ago, so I figured I would update it this week since we have officially reached the end. Plus, only one player from that list would actually make my list today.
Here goes in order.....
5. Trevor Lacey SG 2013-2014
Lacey only was on the court for one season in Raleigh after transferring in from Alabama. He left for the NBA after his junior year, but was not drafted and now plays professionally in Italy. During his one season with the Wolfpack Lacey led the team to a Sweet 16 appearance that included a win against top seeded Villanova in the second round. Lacey was named 2nd Team ACC and averaged a little more than 15 points a game. While his point total was not high, he was rated as one the best late game shooters and isolation scorers according to several college basketball analytical sites. My favorite moment of Lacey's was this game winner against Georgia Tech.....
4. Malik Abu F 2014-current
Abu is a double-double waiting to happen every night. The springy power forward was a big recruit for Gottfried and has been in the rotation since the day he stepped onto campus. He is just a junior, but will undoubtedly leave State after this year for the NBA. Fun player to watch, great in game dunker....
3. Cat Barber PG 2013-2016
Barber was a little guard with lots of speed. When he first showed up at State he could just run really fast. By the time he left for the NBA he had a nice jump shot along with the ability to create scoring chances for others. If the Wolfpack had been a better team last year he might have won the ACC Player of the Year Award. At least gotten stronger consideration. During his last season in Raleigh he averaged more than 23 points and almost 5 assists per game. If I made my list based on likability Barber would be first. I was also always proud of Barber's work in the classroom. He openly talked about working towards a degree in social work and finishing college to become the first person from his family to graduate.
1B. Dennis Smith Jr. 2016-current
I have a feeling that Smith will be the best player on this list after he gets into the NBA next season. The point guard out of Fayetteville, North Carolina is a special player and worth an hour or two of your time if you have not seen him play this year. I simply put him second because the the player in front of him as more hardware and more tournament wins. It's doubtful State makes the Tournament this year, outside of a conference tournament win, which is a shame to waste a player this talented. My favorite game of his this year has to be his performance in Durham against Duke.
1A. T.J. Warren F 2012-2014
2014 ACC Player of the Year. End of story, the best scorer and player NC State has had since........averaged almost 25 and 7 his final year at State. He did play against other teams, but it seemed like he just outdid himself in terms of scoring every time he took the court during the 2013-2014 season.