N.C. State is nine games deep into its schedule, but with the addition of freshman forward Omer Yurtseven on Thursday against Appalachian State, the season essentially starts anew.
With Yurtseven, freshman forward Ted Kapita and sophomore wing Maverick Rowan all healthy and available, the Wolfpack (7-2) will finally have its complete lineup for its game with the Mountaineers (3-5) at PNC Arena.
“I think there’s a little bit of a feel like this is kind of a new beginning,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “Most teams have been whole from the beginning.”
That hasn’t been the case for the Wolfpack. Yurtseven, a 7-footer from Turkey, had to sit out nine games and make a $1,000 donation to charity after the NCAA reviewed his amateur status. Yurtseven spent the previous three years playing for a pro club in Turkey.
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Kapita, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, missed one game while the NCAA reviewed his amateur status and then another three with a student visa issue while the team traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam tournament.
Rowan suffered a concussion in N.C. State’s season-opening win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 11 and then missed seven games. He returned in last Saturday’s 67-55 overtime win over Tennessee State.
That’s a lot of moving parts and N.C. State lost twice, to Creighton at the Paradise Jam and at Illinois, while the roster settled.
The Wolfpack will get four games together before ACC play begins on Dec. 31 at Miami.
“We’re going to go through a period right now, that we wish we would have done back in November, but we have to get ourselves whole and ready and figure out how we really need to play,” Gottfried said.
That figures to start with Yurtseven, one of the top international players in college basketball and who is projected to be a first-round pick in the NBA draft.
A skilled big man who can pass and has 3-point range, Yurtseven actually scored 91 points for his Fenerbahce club team in an U17 international tournament in May.
Yurtseven has more modest goals for his first college game. He will settle for just being on the floor and learning how to play with his teammates.
“For the first time, we’ve got all the parts back,” Yurtseven said. “Everybody is just trying to get used to each other and be ready for whatever challenge comes at us.”
And while Gottfried is anxious for Yurtseven to get on the court, he also understands there will be a learning curve.
“The most important is he needs to get comfortable quick,” Gottfried said. “Once he settles in — the way he passes the ball, he can score inside, he makes jump shots, he can rebound the ball for his size – there’s so many things he can do. We just have to get him to where he feels good about how he fits in.”
The primary challenge for Gottfried will be sorting out the minutes and the rotation. There are four frontcourt options instead of only two, like the team had in the Paradise Jam. There are more options on the wing with Rowan, who played 12 minutes in his first game back, and freshman Markell Johnson to back up starters Terry Henderson and Torin Dorn.
“The best thing about our team right now is there’s competition at a lot of different spots on the floor,” Gottfried said. “Competition is going to make our team better. Our players know that.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio