Whittenburg: Brown’s injury might reveal N.C. State’s potential to overcome

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 2, 2013 

— N.C. State likely will face first-place Miami today without injured guard Lorenzo Brown.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said his team must be able to respond without one of its best players.

A Wolfpack legend who knows all about key injuries called it an opportunity for the current team to get better.

"They haven’t gone through any adversity yet," said former guard Dereck Whittenburg, one of the leaders on N.C. State’s 1983 national championship team. "That’s when you find out about a team and whether it will come together or fall apart."

Whittenburg broke his right foot in January of the Wolfpack’s championship season, in a home game against Virginia. He missed 14 games but returned to help the Wolfpack make one of the most memorable runs in NCAA history.

"It’s part of basketball," said Whittenburg, now an analyst for ESPN. "Every great team has to be able to handle adversity."

Brown sprained his left ankle in the first half of Tuesday’s loss at Virginia, a coincidence that caught Whittenburg’s attention.

Brown, who averaged 14.7 points and 8.7 assists in the first seven ACC games, has been in a walking boot since Tuesday’s injury. Gottfried did not completely rule out Brown for the Miami game, but the coach did not sound optimistic.

"The probability, in my mind, for him to be recovered enough to cut and move and sprint and jump is pretty slim," Gottfried said. "We have to prepare as if he’s not going to play and then we’ll go from there."

Freshmen Rodney Purvis, who has started at shooting guard most of the season, and Tyler Lewis, a reserve who has played limited minutes, would replace Brown at the point, Gottfried said.

Gottfried did not know how much time Brown could potentially miss. The coach said Brown had X-rays on his injured foot, which cleared him of any serious injuries, but did not give a timetable for Brown’s return.

Brown’s injury is only one issue for the Wolfpack from Tuesday’s loss.

Late in the second half, ESPN’s broadcast focused on senior forward Richard Howell and freshman forward T.J. Warren trading words after a defensive lapse.

Gottfried didn’t think the animated exchange was a big deal. Neither did senior guard Scott Wood.

"Sometimes in the heat of the moment, when you are competing as hard as you can, I think some of that happens," Gottfried said. "You deal with it and you move on."

Gottfried said the players are "absolutely, 100 percent" together and pulling in the right direction.

Wood said the veteran quartet, of him, Howell, Brown and C.J. Leslie, would not let "one dispute ruin our season."

"I think we’re fine," Wood said. "Our problem isn’t that we’re not working hard or playing together."

Wood pointed to a lack of execution on offense in late-game situations as the source of the team’s problems in a one-point loss at Maryland, a two-point loss at Wake Forest and Tuesday’s three-point loss at Virginia.

Gottfried said his team is close to figuring out how to take the next step. Brown’s injury introduces another hurdle, one Gottfried hopes his team can handle.

"Injuries affect everybody," Gottfried said. "It’s part of life, you have to deal with it and you’ve got roll on and keep fighting."

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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