When Mark Gottfried goes to the grocery store, he sometimes gets unsolicited advice from fellow shoppers.
Hang in there coach, I know its going to be a long year for you, Gottfried said, relaying a conversation. I hear it everywhere I go.
Expectations will be a little different for the 2013-14 Wolfpack than they were last year, when N.C. State was ranked No. 6 in the preseason poll and picked to win the ACC. That group, which returned four starters, failed to meet expectations in its 24-11 season, finishing fifth in the league and losing to Temple in its first NCAA tournament game.
This years team returns just four scholarship players, one of whom is guard Ralston Turner, who sat out last year after transferring from LSU. Rising sophomore guard Tyler Lewis, forward T.J. Warren and redshirt senior center Jordan Vandenberg complete the rest of the quartet.
Gottfried, in his summer press conference Tuesday, called this team a blank slate, with questions pretty much across the board. That has resulted in low-to-nonexistent expectations for those outside the program.
If I had to walk in my mind through the league and who has what coming back, were going to be near the bottom, probably, to start off with, Gottfried said. Now for me, personally, I hope to find a way to get in the NCAA tournament every year. Some years, that may be a lot more difficult than others.
When I look at our players, I think we have a long way to go, obviously. Were a program that is certainly in transition. At the same time, were excited about where we can get to one day. How quick that is, we dont know.
Warren, who had the luxury of deferring to Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell last season, now must be the focal point of the offense. Can he handle it?
Well see, Gottfried said. We want to see him just as interested in defense and rebounding as he is scoring. I want him to get a better grasp of our offense and things that were doing offensively and defensively. Hes in a completely different role this year.
Defense will be a particular point of emphasis for the entire team. Last years squad ranked 10th in the ACC in points allowed. So this year, the coaching staff will spend more time working on defense than in prior seasons.
The first official summer workout for the full Wolfpack squad began at 3 p.m. Tuesday, a 40-minute session. It was the first time freshmen Anthony Cat Barber, Beejay Anya, Kyle Washington, Lennard Freeman and Patrick Wallace ran with the full team. Barber will be counted on to anchor the backcourt with Lewis. Anya, listed at 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, needs to lose weight, Gottfried said, as does Vandenberg, who needs to be at 250 before the seasons start (hes listed at 264, down from 286 at the end of last season). Junior college transfer Desmond Lee, another guard whom Gottfried hopes can contribute right away, is also new.
The new-look, untested Wolfpack will have a tough nonconference schedule waiting, with trips to Cincinnati and Tennessee, Gottfried said, as well as dates with Missouri, Northwestern in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, Florida Gulf Coast and Detroit.
If were fortunate enough to get good, I want to be in a position to get in the (NCAA) tournament, Gottfried said. I dont want our schedule to hold us back.
A slightly different thought process from last year.
In addition to the new players, Gottfrieds staff will be different, too. Larry Farmer, who spent one year as director of player development, left to become an assistant coach at Western Michigan. Levi Watkins, who graduated from N.C. State in 2005 and spent eight years on staff, most recently as assistant director of operations, is now an assistant coach at Buffalo.
Staats Battle, a rising junior walk-on who was arrested Jan. 1 and charged with driving while impaired, is back on the roster.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; on Twitter @laurakeeley