One North Carolina State University coach, however, received a standing one.
Mark Gottfried, head coach of the N.C. State men’s basketball team, the headliner of the Wolfpack Club Coaches Caravan “Strength In Numbers” campaign held at Lumberton’s Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center on Tuesday night.
A sea of Red and White filled the Agriculture Center, with some 450 Wolfpack Club members and their friends and family in attendance.
Over $50,000 was raised for the Wolfpack Club on Tuesday alone.
Just months removed from leading N.C. State to a Sweet 16-run in the NCAA Tournament, and more importantly, rejuvenating the recently-downtrodden men’s basketball program, Gottfried was treated to a King’s greeting.
Fielding questions from attendees and the night’s MC, Mark Thomas, a former NCSU tight end who played nine seasons in the NFL, Gottfried discussed N.C. State’s recruitment, expectations and the evolution of star forward C.J. Leslie.
“Recruiting is key to everything we do. We want to have great players — we’re going to recruit great players,” Gottfried said.
Gottfried and his staff did as much this past season, reeling in three McDonald’s All-Americans — guards Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purivs and forward T.J. Warren — en route to a top-5 recruiting class.
“If you’re a fan of our team, you’re going to fall in love with these guys pretty quick,” Gottfried said.
Gottfried spoke especially candid about the scrappy, throwback point guard Lewis, who stands a modest 5-feet, 11-inches and weighs 165 pounds.
“They (assistant coaches) kept telling me, now don’t get fooled by how he looks,” Gottfried said. “If he had came tonight you’d have think he’d been serving food, he’s about 5-11, 165 … And we’re thinking that guy’s going to be the future point guard? This guy right here?”
Gottfried thinks so.
Lewis, a four-star recruit of Mouth of Wilson Virginia’s Oakhill Academy, who hails from Statesville, N.C., was ranked the No. 44 recruit by ESPNU.
“He wins and he competes,” Gottfried said. “He’s so good. He’s a winner … And he can really pass.”
Aside from his fellow All-American signees, Lewis will have plenty of assists to dish out to the Wolfpack’s returning leading-scorer, C.J. Leslie, who considered entering June’s NBA Draft before opting to return to Raleigh for his junior season. Leslie, who posted 14.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a night, was a catalyst in NCSU’s run to a 24-13 record and Sweet 16-berth.
Last season, however, Leslie coasted inconsistently early on before finding solace in the paint as the Wolfpack’s go-to scorer.
“There was a lot going into coaching him last year,” Gottfried said. “He needed direction, he needed accountability. Calvin responded to it very well.”
With a star-studded freshman class, a returning NBA lottery-pick prospect, and the wave of momentum from a banner season, it’s no wonder that NCSU, which finished as the No. 20-ranked team at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, is ranked as high as No. 6 in ESPN’s preseason rankings.
But Gottfried is blocking out the hype. Right now, his goal is to have North Carolina State mentioned in the same breath as in-state ACC rivals North Carolina and Duke.
“We’re still chasing them down, they’re not chasing us, regardless of where we fall in some preseason rankings,” Gottfried said. “One nice run in the tournament, that’s not going to get it done for us. It’s going to be able to take a lot more of that from us til we get where we feel strong comparisons … And the players understand it.”
Reach Sports editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or email@example.com