Mark Gottfried has spent a lot of time recently talking about seniors from other ACC teams.
Gottfried has praised, at length, North Carolina’s Brice Johnson and Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije after recent N.C. State losses.
The Wolfpack (15-15, 5-12 ACC) will see another one of the ACC’s best seniors, forward Zach Auguste, on Saturday at Notre Dame.
Gottfried, whose team doesn’t have a senior on scholarship this season, has been very passionate about the topic.
There is a question of whether junior point guard Cat Barber will return for his senior season or if Wednesday’s win over Boston College was his last at N.C. State.
Barber, the ACC’s leading scorer, was not ready to address the topic after the dramatic win over the Eagles.
“I’m just trying to finish out the season and see what happens after that,” Barber said.
Barber said before the season he was likely to explore his NBA options if he had a breakout season, like Trevor Lacey and T.J. Warren before him.
Barber’s scoring average, 23.2 points per game, has jumped more than 11 points from last season and he has been one of the best players in the ACC.
He has a 14-month-old daughter, Cadence, back in Newport News, Va., and has a desire to help his mother, Pam, move out of the rough neighborhood where he grew up.
So many guys in college basketball, they think it’s a negative to be a senior, like there’s a stigma with that. Like somehow they’ve failed if they’re still in college as a senior.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried
Gottfried was asked about Barber’s future after Wednesday’s 73-72 win. He was reluctant to answer a question about Barber’s legacy at N.C. State.
“He’s got a lot of basketball left to play here,” Gottfried said. “Should be next year here as well, so we’ll see.”
Thanks to a new NCAA rule, Barber will have more time to gauge his NBA stock. Underclassmen have until May 25 this year, 10 days after the NBA combine, to make a decision and retain their eligibility.
Both NBAdraft.net and Draft Express, sites that track the NBA draft, have Barber pegged as a second-round pick. Only first-round choices receive guaranteed contracts.
Warren left after his sophomore season in 2014 and was taken in the lottery, No. 14 overall, by the Phoenix Suns.
Lacey left after his junior season in 2015 and went undrafted. He is playing for a pro team in Italy.
There was a tinge of wistfulness in Gottfried’s comments when he talked after N.C. State 80-68 loss to UNC on Feb. 24.
“So many guys in college basketball, they think it’s a negative to be a senior, like there’s a stigma with that,” Gottfried said. “Like somehow they’ve failed if they’re still in college as a senior.”
His comments were a lead-up to his praise of Johnson, who scored 22 points and had 11 rebounds in the win and has improved his draft stock this season. But they also could have been applied to Lacey’s decision to leave a year early or to Barber’s pending decision.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a senior,” Gottfried said when he concluded his remarks about Johnson.
N.C. State’s next game after the UNC loss was at Syracuse last Saturday. Gbinije scored a career-high 34 points and was the difference in a 75-65 game.
“Seniors at the end of the year, and they should, step up and make big plays,” Gottfried said after the Syracuse game.
On paper, N.C. State could have four seniors next season with Barber, guard Terry Henderson and forwards BeeJay Anya and Lennard Freeman.
What will actually happen between now and the start of the 2016-17 season is more difficult to predict.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio