OUR TAKE | On NC State Basketball’s summer exhibition win in the Bahamas

NC State basketball is in a strange spot.

They are coming off one of the worst seasons in recent history. They have a coach that half of the fanbase wanted gone at the conclusion of last season. But at the same time, the fanbase is kind of excited and intrigued at the roster rebuild that Kevin Keatts was able to pull off last season.

If you want the real pulse of the program, the fanbase is probably 70-30 in favor of Keatts sticking around and having a chance to prove last year was a fluke. However, that same 70% is probably not going to be so forgiving if they finish in the bottom half of the ACC again this season.

That’s why we’re paying such close attention to this off-season exhibition trip.

As we reported earlier, NC State won game 1 over Bahama Select 92-81.

Obviously these games aren’t televised and the team isn’t even offering a full box score, so it’s up to us to piece together the information we did receive to find some nuggets that may inform us of what we can expect from this team.

Let’s get started…

  • Terquavion Smith went off. 26 points in 27 minutes. Look, he isn’t going to be one of those guys who comes back and forgets how to play. In fact, we expect Smith to be even MORE confident (if that’s possible) and settle into somewhat of a leadership role with this team. Bahama Select likely doesn’t have the type of guy that is going to shut down Smith, but the fact that he was this productive in his first game back is nothing but good news.
  • Jack Clark notched a double-double. In case you missed it, Jack Clark was a mid-April pickup for Keatts. He’s a 6’8 wing who is expected to slot into the role that Hellems left. Clark, however, is a lot different than Hellem’s. He’s longer, more athletic and more of a factor off the dribble. The big question is, can he provide the physicality that Hellems brought and will he be able to bring in the rebounds needed at the 4? In this game, Clark scooped up 13 rebounds (5 offensive). Not a bad first outing. Of course, it’s just one game, but the fact that he finished with these numbers tells you that he at least has the motor needed to be a decent rebounder in the ACC. No one gets 13 boards, no matter the competition, if you don’t have some knack for getting to the glass.
  • Morsell dropped 18 points. This doesn’t really tell us much by itself. Morsell is a capable scorer, especially when he’s able to out-physical his opponent. He’s not super quick, so he uses strength to create space. You expect good numbers from Morsell against smaller, weaker teams like Bahama Select. However, one thing to note is that he played a team-high 30 minutes. This can give you a hint that Keatts is going to really rely on Morsell at the 3 spot. There were times last season when we felt Keatts wasn’t giving Morsell enough run. The guy is easily the team’s best defender and he’s a capable scorer, especially if his shot is falling. Him, Jarkell Joiner, and Smith will be the core leaders of this team.
  • Breon Pass stuffed the stat sheet. Again, this one game against a sub-par opponent, so make of it what you will. But Breon Pass had 7 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. All while not turning the ball over once. This is great to see as we were a little frustrated last season when Pass didn’t get more run down the stretch. He’s a true PG and that is one thing that this team needs to make sure they have on the court at all times. They do have Jarkell Joiner, a PG from Ole Miss who has only one season left, who is going to get a lot of minutes, but Pass is kind of an X-factor in our eyes. If he can produce and mature into what the scouts envisioned he’d become, he’ll be a bulldog of a PG who can score, protect the ball and control the pace.
  • Jarkell Joiner had 14 points and 3 assists. This is kind of an expected line from Joiner, who joined the team a few months ago as a grad transfer from Ole Miss. This was the team leader over there and he’s got skill. The question is, where does he really fit in? He’s going to play and play a lot, but is he a true PG or is he more of a scoring guard? I don’t think we’ll really get a good idea of ​​his fit until we are a few games into the season. Not to downplay though. he’s a major player on this roster and it’s good to see him putting up 14 points in limited action.
  • Small nugget of hope from DJ Burns. NC State needs a big man who can score it. Last season, with Bates hurt, they lacked any kind of reliable interior scoring. That should change with the addition of reigning Big South Player of the Year, DJ Burns, transferring in. He’s a 6’8 lefty with great footwork and nice touch. We didn’t get a final line for Burns, but he assumed he split time at the 5 with Dowuona. Greg Gantt and Dusan Mahorcic weren’t available (Gantt is hurt and Mahorcic just got to campus), neither was late addition Mady Traore. So it was Burns and Dowuona. Keatts is likely to really take it slow with his bigs this offseason. He wants no injuries in the middle if he can help it. In this one, we do know that Burns had 6 points in the first quarter on 3-3 shooting (according to GoPack’s twitter post).

Did he anymore later in the game? We do not know. Did he even get many minutes? We aren’t sure. The only other thing we know is that he had one assist. Here he is dishing it off to Smith for the dunk.

Most people will focus on Smith here, but what you’re seeing is a backdoor cut and a perfect feed from the post. That’s an aspect of the game we just didn’t see last year. Burns has a skillset that just didn’t exist on last year’s roster and we think Pack fans are going to be pretty happy with this kid.

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