While N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts isn’t a showman on the sideline, he does want his teams to perform and look good doing it.
The Pack had its moments Friday against VMI in the season opener at PNC Arena, pressuring and running the floor and coming away with a 102-67 victory in Keatts’ first game as Wolfpack coach.
“It’s a show,” junior Torin Dorn said. “Coach Keatts said he always wants to put on a show. I think us running around and pressing and trapping keeps our energy up, keeps our spirits up. It fits our playing style.”
There are newcomers to fit in and a lot of moving parts that need to be in sync in Keatts’ system. But when he stood in front of the bench Friday yelling, “Go, go, GO,” he meant it. The faster the better.
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“It’s a fun style,” Keatts said.
▪ Balanced scoring in an easy win always makes for a happy team, and the Pack had it. Seven players were in double figures.
“When we have multiple people in double figures that’s like Thanksgiving on the basketball court,” senior Lennard Freeman said. “Everybody got a little piece of the pie.
“That’s the goal every (game). Coach Keatts said there’s going to be so many possessions the way we play. We’re going to get a lot of steals and take a lot more shots than the other team, so we know the shots are going to come for everybody.”
▪ Markell Johnson was overshadowed by Dennis Smith Jr. last season as the mercurial Smith shot and passed his way to being a first-round NBA pick.
But Johnson’s stat sheet in the opener was tidy and efficient: 5-of-9 shooting from the field. 3-for-3 at the line, 14 points, nine assists and two turnovers. That’s a pretty good 26 minutes of work.
Keatts said one of his assistant coaches mentioned Johnson needed one more assist for a double-double. Keatts said he decided not to put Johnson back in the game, quipping that the basketball gods might not like it, and Johnson could have been injured.
▪ One thing Keatts emphasizes is having his guards attack the basket. He went with a four-guard setup Friday, and when VMI was in its man-to-man defense, the Pack guards put their head down, used their speed and looked to get to the rim.
Against the Keydets, that worked well. There will be bigger, quicker guards to be faced, but the Pack’s guards aren’t bashful with the ball.
The Pack’s smothering defense with its guards also took a toll on VMI. The Keydets had 21 turnovers that N.C. State turned into 27 points.
“When you have a plan, you go out and execute it,” Dorn said. “That’s what we did today.”
▪ Omer Yurtseven was said to have impressed NBA scouts at the league combine after last season but comes off as too tentative on the court.
The 7-footer had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks but nearly all was a product of being 7-feet tall playing against a team of 6-6 and 6-5 guys.
Yurtseven needs to develop a quicker first step and a quicker release on his shots. He has decent touch and appears to think the game well.
But as Keatts said, sophomore from Turkey is still learning.