RALEIGH — Asked to define the identity of this season's N.C. State basketball team, new coach Mark Gottfried called the group a "mystery."
"There are a lot of questions, a lot of unknowns about this team," Gottfried said Wednesday during the team's preseason media day. "You look at some other teams in this league, maybe roles are a little more defined. Where they sit with their program is more defined. To me, ours is a mystery."
The Wolfpack opens practice on Friday, when it will begin the process of answering the questions Gottfried said hover over a program that finished 10th in the ACC last season.
Among the critical questions facing the Wolfpack:
Will sophomore Lorenzo Brown make a smooth transition from shooting guard to point guard?
"Lorenzo is our quarterback," said Gottfried, who added that he will entrust Brown with more responsibility than any other player in running the team.
"He's the guy I'm going to hand the ball to," Gottfried said. "He's got to learn how to run a team, what the expectation is, how to value the ball."
Has sophomore forward C.J. Leslie matured? Can he perform more consistently?
"Calvin's been good," said Gottfried, who has taken to calling Leslie by his first name. "It's time for a new start with him," Gottfried said about the switch. "It's a new beginning."
Will junior forward Richard Howell's weight loss make him better?
"Richard's done a great job with his body," said Gottfried, referring to the 20 pounds the junior forward dropped. "It's going to make him a better basketball player."
Energized and optimistic, N.C. State players spoke confidently about their new coach, new system and in-coming personnel, dismissing notions of low expectations and the possibility of struggling this season as they transition.
Last season's disappointing finish ended up costing Sidney Lowe, the point guard on N.C. State's 1983 national championship team, his job as the Wolfpack's head coach.
"We're going to shock some people," junior center DeShawn Painter said.
N.C. State senior C.J. Williams said players responded positively from the start to Gottfried, who spent 11 seasons coaching at Alabama. Players collectively decided to listen, learn and use the staff's knowledge to their advantage, Williams said.
"We want to win," Williams said. "We're not coming here to rebuild. We want to win right now."
Thus far, players said, they're pleased with the uptempo, UCLA-style offense that Gottfried - a former Bruins assistant - has installed in limited workouts.
"I like that he's going to let us play this fast-pace game," Leslie said.
N.C. State junior Scott Wood said the team's general style of play will be different from the past.
"Last year, a lot of people saw a lot of selfish play or a lot of individualized play," Wood said. "This year, there's going to be a lot of team stuff, more of the extra passing."
Gottfried said expectations are clear for players: Defense and rebounding equate to transition offense.
"Where we want to be is a team that absolutely puts pressure on teams to get back quickly, and we want to score in the open floor and in the break," Gottfried said. "Now we have to teach a team how to do that."
He said there's no magic dust to sprinkle.
"It's a process," Gottfried said. "We have to be good at a lot of other areas that then ties into a fast break. It's easy and fun to say that we're going to run and score 100 every night. The reality is there's a lot that goes into that."