Kevin Keatts has only been on the job at N.C. State for six weeks but he has been able to add two new players to the Wolfpack program.
Keatts, who made his first stop with the Wolfpack Club Caravan tour on Thursday at Reynolds Coliseum, said both freshman guard Lavar Batts and graduate transfer guard Al Freeman will help right away and fit into his pressing, up-tempo system.
Batts, a top 100 recruit from Concord, had originally signed with Virginia Commonwealth but changed his mind after a coaching change. Keatts had tried to recruit the 6-2, 160-pound point guard at UNCW.
“I felt like he was a great fit but knew we couldn’t get him because obviously being a top 100 kid, it would be tough for us at UNCW,” Keatts said.
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Batts will play both guard spots and will mesh with sophomore Markell Johnson’s game, Keatts said. It’s his preference, Keatts said, to have two guards who can handle the ball. Keatts was an assistant coach at Louisville in 2013 when the Cardinals won the national title with a pair of versatile guards.
“We’re going to use (Batts) as a combo,” Keatts said. “Going back to my Louisville days, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, I like to play with two ball guards. You will see some lineups with him and hopefully Markell in there together.”
Freeman, who’s 6-3 and 200 pounds, is a scoring guard who averaged 9.7 points and 2.5 rebounds for Baylor this past season. He is scheduled to graduate from Baylor in May and finish his career at N.C. State. As a graduate, he is eligible to play right away.
With the exit of some of N.C. State’s more experienced guards (Dennis Smith, Maverick Rowan, and potentially Terry Henderson), Keatts said he wanted to add a veteran to the group.
“I wanted to bring a guy in who had some experience and had played in the NCAA (tournament),” Keatts said.
Freeman had 21 points off the bench in Baylor’s first-round NCAA tournament win over New Mexico State.
The first six weeks on the job have been hectic for Keatts. He has hired two assistants (James Johnson and Takayo Siddle) and a director of basketball operations (Thomas Carr). He still has an opening for a full-time assistant.
Keatts said he didn’t want to hurry in completing his staff.
“I wanted to get a couple of guys in so we could start recruiting a little bit. That last full-time position spot I’ll probably start working in next weekend,” Keatts said.
“I think it’s important when you’re building a staff to make sure that you’ve got everybody that gets along. Just like when you put a team together, I want to put a staff together that will be strong in a lot of areas.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio