N.C. State ready to compete for recruits with UNC, Duke

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJuly 21, 2012 

  • Potential Pack members N.C. State’s top targets for 2013 (with national ranking by ESPN’s Dave Telep): Rk.;Player;Pos.;Size;From No. 2;Julius Randle;F;6-9, 225;Dallas No. 21;Xavier Rathan-Mayes;G;6-3, 180;Scarborough, Ont. No. 26;Anthony Barber;PG;6-2, 165;Hampton, Va. No. 28;Kennedy Meeks;F;6-9, 275;Charlotte No. 55;Moses Kingsley;F;6-9, 210;New Albany, Miss. No. 56;Dominic Woodson;F;6-9, 265;Round Rock, Texas No. 96;Devin Williams;F;6-8, 220;Cincinnati NR;Sam Singer;G;6-4, 185;Miami NR;Chris Jones;PG;5-10, 165;Memphis (junior college)

— NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The red, long-sleeved pullover Mark Gottfried wore Friday at the Nike Peach Jam didn’t have an N.C. State logo on the front of it.

There’s a smaller block "S" on the left sleeve to identify Gottfried’s affiliation. The Wolfpack coach doesn’t need as much help in getting the attention of recruits after the success of the program in his first season.

N.C. State reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005, finished the season with 24 wins, its most since 1988, and Gottfried added one of the best recruiting classes in the country with three McDonald’s All-Americans to go with four returning starters.

Gottfried, hired in April 2011 after the Pack’s five-year absence from the NCAA tournament, has done a lot in short amount of time, and recruits have taken notice.

“He has really changed the face of the program this past year,” said star recruit Julius Randle, the second-overall prospect in the class of 2013. “That’s a great program.”

Randle lists the Wolfpack, with Duke, North Carolina and host of other schools, as his top college choices. So does Charlotte big man Kennedy Meeks, ranked No. 28 in the class by ESPN's Dave Telep.

Gottfried has noticed a difference in reception from recruits at tournaments like the Peach Jam, where he was this week with his assistant coaches.

“I think they view our program as more relevant, which is encouraging,” Gottfried said.

Shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a top 25 guard from Scarborough, Ontario, noted the success of State’s 2012 class, with the addition of point guard Tyler Lewis, combo guard Rodney Purvis and small forward T.J. Warren, as a reason he has the Pack on his short list.

“They’re on the rise,” Rathan-Mayes said. “They’re coming on and they’re starting to develop a great program.”

The challenge for Gottfried is to build on the early momentum. He could have as many as seven scholarships available for the 2013-14 season, if juniors C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown depart early for the NBA, and probably will use five.

“I think it’s safe to say we need to have a really good class and it’s probably going to be a bigger class than normal,” Gottfried said.

He does not have any commitments from the class of 2013 — UNC has two and Duke has one — but he’s not worried. Guard Ralston Turner transferred from LSU in May, which gives the Pack a shooter to go with this year’s three freshmen.

Gottfried is more concerned about the exit of senior Richard Howell, and the expected loss of Leslie, which will leave the Pack thin up front.

“We need to sign some players with some size,” Gottfried said.

Randle and Meeks qualify as size and talent. Gottfried bumped into UNC coach Roy Williams before Randle’s early game Friday morning. The two coaches exchanged pleasantries and Williams joked about the freezing temperatures in the gym. Randle proceeded to put up 31 points with 17 rebounds in a loss.

Gottfried promised the day he was hired he wouldn't back down from Duke or Carolina on the recruiting trail and he hasn’t. Purvis was recruited by Duke and Warren was pursued by UNC.

There’s a difference between competing and beating them for recruits, which is what Gottfried will have to do with Randle or Meeks. The two talented big men are the type of program-changing, future NBA prospects Duke and UNC have routinely landed in winning seven national titles between them since State’s last ACC title.

Duke and UNC don’t recruit as much as they shoot fish in a barrel. That’s an uphill climb Gottfried understood when he was hired, but it’s not a unique challenge to N.C. State.

“North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and to a degree UCLA, they operate by a different set of recruiting rules,” Telep said. “They are seen differently and that’s not a fight you can win until you start hanging the kind of banners they have hung and the quantity of them.”

Telep, who lives in Wake Forest and understands the local dynamic between the schools, said State helped itself really the only way it can — by winning.

“They achieved more in their first year than anybody thought they would so that narrows the gap but there's a gap that is going to exist for awhile," Telep said.

To win, you need talent, a formula Gottfried understands. Former coach Sidney Lowe put together two good classes, this season’s seniors and juniors, which Gottfried guided to the NCAA tournament.

Gottfried said the only way to build on last season’s success and the early recruiting returns is to keep winning and keep adding talent.

“When programs get good is when they can have back-to-back-to-back classes that are good,” Gottfried said. “We’re at the point where we’re still building.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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