RALEIGH — It was only a little more than a year ago that Mark Gottfried stood up in front of the Raleigh Sports Club and delivered an address that was about 99 percent promise and 1 percent substance.
At the time, that was the new N.C. State basketball coachs job: Stoke the fires of a smoldering fan base, but without raising expectations too high. It required a delicate balance and left him describing his own team as not great and not terrible.
(Gottfried even talked about the possibility of playing Kansas, a pledge that he would deliver in a most unexpected fashion.)
And hanging over all of it was the decision of Rodney Purvis, the coveted local recruit from Raleighs Upper Room Academy who was only two days away from making a decision among Connecticut, Memphis, Virginia Commonwealth, N.C. Central and N.C. State.
That was the state of the N.C. State program on Sept. 28, 2011.
Flash forward to Monday.
Purvis is in the practice gym at the Dail Center, talking to reporters and posing for photos at media day, his leap of faith in his hometown school validated by the teams postseason success.
The Wolfpack is coming off a 24-win season that ended with a loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16, good for a fourth-place tie in the ACC.
C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown passed on the NBA to return to the Wolfpack, where Purvis is part of a high-powered recruiting class that also includes T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis.
When the first AP poll comes out on Oct. 26, its likely N.C. State will be solidly in the top 10. When the ACC media gathers in Charlotte next week, theres a chance the Wolfpack will be predicted to win the ACC.
This is the state of the N.C. State program on Oct. 8, 2012.
I was really confident with coach Gottfried, and I can see it paid off with the tournament and what hes done for the university, Purvis said Monday. I was super excited. I had all my friends excited, even people who were Carolina fans, Duke fans, I turned them into State fans. Anytime they won, I felt like I was winning too.
A year ago at media day, N.C. States players talked about uncertainty, about hopes for the season that were little more than that hope. Monday, Scott Wood assessed the welcome burden of expectations. Richard Howell complained, good-naturedly, about being unable to go unnoticed in public. Leslie, once in desperate need of mentorship, talked solemnly about his duty to mentor the freshmen. And Brown reminisced about how Gottfried told the team before last season it would take a while for things to click, a warning that seems so dated now.
Id love to stand up in front of every group and say were going to be a top-10 team, Gottfried said on Sept. 28, 2011, after giving his speech to the sports club. Were not there yet.
Fifty-three weeks later, theyre there now. Its not a question of whether they have the talent, or whether they can do it. Its only a question of whether they will.
Its no different than last year, Gottfried said. We were picked near the bottom, and thats not something we paid attention to last year, and its not something were going to pay attention to this year. Regardless of where youre picked, the only thing that counts is how hard you work each day and how well you do your job each day.
Now, can our players truly grasp that? Well find out.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947