The answer was obvious but after a turbulent start to the offseason, there was no need for N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried to ignore the obvious.
N.C. State got good news on Thursday with the return of forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya, who both had tested the NBA draft waters.
That it came only four days after signing Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven made the week all the sweeter for Gottfried.
Suddenly, a major hole in the roster has turned into a strength for Gottfried’s sixth Wolfpack team.
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“We feel good,” Gottfried said. “I’m not one of those guys that bought into the sky was falling but at the same time, we can all take a deep breath now and move forward.”
Breathing was definitely easier for N.C. State fans on Thursday with the return of Abu, the team’s top rebounder, and Anya, the team’s top shot blocker.
Throw in the addition of Yurtseven, point guard Dennis Smith and Charlotte transfer Torin Dorn and the Wolfpack looks like it has the talent to be a factor in the ACC race again and get back to the NCAA tournament.
“I think everyone should be excited and happy about what we have going forward,” Abu said. “We’re going to be a hard team to stop.”
Such proclamations were difficult to imagine after Abu and Anya followed star guard Cat Barber into the NBA draft and twins Caleb and Cody Martin decided to transfer.
I’m not one of those guys that bought into the sky was falling but at the same time, we can all take a deep breath now and move forward.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried
N.C. State’s prospects of turning around a losing season (a 16-17 record) looked dim with only hobbled forward Lennard Freeman on the roster.
But last Friday, freshman forward Darius Hicks signed, followed by Yurtseven’s commitment on Monday and the return of Abu and Anya on Thursday.
Abu, who averaged 12.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season, had workouts for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Boston Celtics, his hometown team, but was not invited to the NBA combine.
Abu said the draft process was about pursuing his dreams to be an NBA player, not about leaving what he called his second home.
Neither Abu nor Anya had hired an agent and had until May 25 to make a decision about their future. Coming back was a relatively easy choice for Anya, after the wave of good news.
“We have an opportunity to do something special this upcoming season with the pieces that are in place and I want to be the veteran to lead us there,” Anya wrote in a text message on Thursday.
Anya averaged 4.7 points and 5.3 rebounds as a junior last season and ranked second in the ACC in blocked shots with 73. He also holds the school record for career blocks (210).
Gottfried also had encouraging words about Yurtseven’s eligibility prospects. Yurtseven has played the past three years for the Turkish club team Fenerbahce. It’s not uncommon for European players to face eligibility questions after playing for a club team, Gottfried said.
“That’s something that we’ve done as much homework already that we can do,” Gottfried said. “The process will then play out. We feel good but at the same time you’ve got to go through the process with the NCAA.
The sudden depth at forward means Freeman, who had another surgery on his right leg on Wednesday, will likely redshirt the 2016-17 season.
Freeman had surgery last June to repair his right leg. He played last season with a steel rod in his leg. He was never 100 percent and had follow-up surgery this week, Gottfried said.
Gottfried prefers to deal with a surplus situation than shortage but understands the current landscape of college basketball.
With players transferring, leaving early for the NBA and graduate transfers becoming increasingly popular, roster turnover is not a specific problem to N.C. State.
“The landscape is changing and your rosters are more fluid than they’ve ever been,” Gottfried said. “What we have to do as coaches is adapt. It’s just part of the turf now.”
And few are as adept as Gottfried at adapting on the fly.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio