New N.C. State basketball coach Kevin Keatts said recruiting this late in the season is like shopping on Christmas Eve.
“You’ve got to take whatever is left out there,” he said.
That’s something he’ll have to do since he was hired in March, when most recruits have already made up their minds about where they’ll go to school.
Keatts said he won’t try to sign a player who isn’t the right fit for the team and said he isn’t sure if he plans to sign anyone before the end of recruiting season on May 17.
“We’re not going to just settle for recruits,” Keatts said Sunday at his introductory news conference. “We’re going to try to go after the best recruits in the country... I want to challenge for a national championship.”
Heading into the 2017-18 season, there are 11 players potentially on scholarship, including signee Thomas Allen of Garner. That number does not include Dennis Smith Jr., who is expected to announce his decision to declare for the NBA draft any day now.
That could change.
If the NCAA denies red-shirt senior Terry Henderson’s request for an extra year, Omer Yurtseven stays in the NBA draft, or other players decide to transfer or declare for the draft, it would free up more scholarships.
There could be additional options out there, with recent coaching changes. Will Wade just left Virginia Commonwealth to take a job at LSU. And Indiana’s Tom Crean and Washington’s Lorenzo Ramar were fired. Those schools have players who could request releases from their programs.
Keatts, who won 72 games in three years at UNC-Wilmington after inheriting a program that had six straight losing seasons, was hired by N.C. State Friday. He replaces coach Mark Gottfried, who was fired in February after six seasons. His N.C. State team had missed the NCAA tournament the past two years.
Gottfried secured one of the top players in the country, in Smith, and landed Yurtseven, who was also a five-star prospect. But the coach had had trouble retaining recruits.
Before he was fired, Gottfried had signed one recruit, Allen, a 6-2, 180-pound shooting guard and former Garner High School standout who now plays for Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. Allen is a three-star prospect, according to 247sports.com, and was at one point one of the top three players in the state.
Keatts said Sunday he had spoken to Allen and had “a great conversation with him.”
Brian Bowen, a 6-7, 197-pound five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American, announced in February that N.C. State was one of his top five school choices. It is unclear what his feelings are now.
Keatts success in recruiting dates back to his time at Hargrave Military Academy, a private college preparatory boarding school in Chatham, Va. While at Hargrave, he recruited and coached NBA players such as David West, Josh Howard, Jordan Crawford and Marreese Speights.
As an assistant coach at Louisville, Keatts recruited some of the players who helped Louisville win the 2013 NCAA national championship.
Keatts was known for his up-tempo style of play and pressuring the ball full court at UNCW. He said he plans to do the same at N.C. State.
“I think a lot of coaches make mistakes because they don’t recruit to their system,” he said. “For me I want to recruit guys that can play in our system, which is up tempo, a lot of ball screens, playing hard on the defensive end.”