They took to the court Friday at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum, running the floor, hitting three-pointers, dunking, laughing, putting on a show.
And that was just the old guys.
The Wolfpack “legends” scrimmage was an entertaining part of the “Throwback with the Pack,” stoking a crowd wearing red and ready to rekindle some memories. Next came this year’s Wolfpack team, the players who hope to give N.C. State a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and continue the program momentum being built by coach Mark Gottfried.
“We’ve got a long ways to go, but this was a night for the guys to have a good time and I think they did,” Gottfried said after a fast-paced 20-minute scrimmage. “It’s good to get out in front of people and that should help our team.”
The Pack no longer has T.J. Warren, the ACC player of the year last season. But this N.C. State team has the look of a quick, perhaps deeper team.
“We’ve got a lot of unproven players, a lot of guys who have to take a big step forward for us this year,” Gottfried said.
Reynolds Coliseum is due for an extensive renovation in March, and the historic arena will have a different look and feel to it. That’s a big reason Gottfried wanted the “Throwback” approach and invite back the basketball “alums.”
“This is just a special place,” said former point guard Monte Towe, named the MVP of the legends game. “There will never be another Reynolds Coliseum.
“Coach Gottfried and his staff have done a great job in the first three years they’ve been here, and PNC Arena is great and a wonderful place for basketball. But Reynolds is special.”
Towe was the floor leader of the Pack’s 1974 NCAA champions, hanging the first banner. He later was associate head coach under Sidney Lowe.
Dereck Whittenburg is a senior assistant to Gottfried and the program’s director of player development. He has – ahem – put on a few pounds since helping the Pack win the 1983 championship but still has the stroke.
“I’m a shooter, not a passer,” he said before the alumni game.
Asked about the most famous air ball in Wolfpack history, the one Whittenburg hoisted and Lorenzo Charles dunked to win the ’83 title game against Houston, Whittenburg again deadpanned, “That was a PASS!”
So it went. The legends game soon started and it was on.
Julius Hodge made a no-look pass to Todd Fuller for a layup, then dunked. Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe, once the “Fire and Ice” tandem in the late 1980s and early 90s, were at it again. Monroe drained a few 3s, his shooting touch not diminished after 20 years.
Towe wowed the crowd with a behind-the-back pass on the break. Moments later, he hit a three-pointer – a shot not in college hoops when Towe was spearheading the Pack to the 1974 title – and then did it again.
David Thompson was hoping to be a part of the “Throwback” but the best player in Wolfpack hoops history was unable to attend.
Seated at courtside was this year’s team. The players appreciate all the former stars and enjoyed seeing Whittenburg play, but this is their time and soon it was their turn on the floor.
Freshman Abdul-Malik Abu was grabbing rebounds and a slimmed down BeeJay Anya blocking shots. Newcomer Trevor Lacey made a steal, then lifted a pass to Desmond Lee for a transition dunk.
Gottfried, dressed in a plaid jacket former State coach Norm Sloan would have admired, moved from bench to bench. He stood, armed crossed – his usual game pose.
Tom Gugliotta was recruited by the late Jim Valvano and ended his career at NCSU in 1992 with Les Robinson the coach. “Googs” then had a long NBA career.
Gugliotta believes the Pack program can again be formidable on the national level, can again contend for national championships.
“In this crazy world of college athletics and college basketball it’s not the easiest thing,” Gugliotta said. “If you get good players, they don’t stay nor should they.
“Just being around this programs since coach Gottfried has been here, you can see he is recruiting really talented kids. But even more impressive and importantly is the quality of kid that he has. I think we can have a lot of success in the years ahead.”