Given Lennard Freeman’s injury status and BeeJay Anya’s weight issues, N.C. State could have used an extra big man on its basketball roster next season.
The Wolfpack had pursued Greek 7-footer Georgios Papagiannis, but he decided to play in his home country rather than play college basketball. Papagiannis informed the N.C. State coaches earlier this week of his decision.
Papagiannis (7-1, 260 pounds) would have likely only played one season of college basketball, but he would have helped the Wolfpack, with only three scholarship forwards on the roster, or the other three schools (St. John’s, Kentucky, Oregon) on his final college list. Instead, he’ll likely play one more year for his club team in Greece and then enter the 2016 NBA draft.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried visited Greece in April to scout Papagiannis, who had previously played a season of high school basketball in Pennsylvania. Gottfried joked Tuesday that he blew the recruiting budget on the trip but the payoff would have been worth it.
“If there is a particular recruit that fits us here and makes sense for us, then absolutely I don’t mind going,” Gottfried said. “I had a fun time.”
Gottfried noted it was unusual to still be in pursuit of recruits for the 2015-16 season. The Wolfpack is still in the running for small forward Maverick Rowan, one of the best shooters in the country. Rowan recently moved up a class and is expected to choose from St. John’s, Wisconsin and N.C. State in August.
But Rowan would not fill an immediate need in the front court. With Kyle Washington’s decision to transfer to Cincinnati, N.C. State has Freeman, Anya and sophomore Abdul-Malik Abu on the roster for next season. Freeman, who emerged as an important glue player at the end of the season, had surgery on his right leg in June and is expected to be out until at least September.
Gottfried expressed disappointment on Tuesday that Anya’s weight is over 300 pounds. With a short rotation, the Wolfpack will need Anya to get closer to the 280 range. Even if Freeman can be ready by the start of practice, Gottfried said the Wolfpack will likely have to use a smaller lineup – with four guards and one big – more frequently more season.
The versatility of the Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, will help on that front, as will the addition of freshman wing Shaun Kirk.
“We’ll probably do more of that than we have in the past,” Gottfried said. “We’ve traditionally always played with two forwards, but we’ll see what happens this year.”