Trevor Lacey helped lead N.C. State to a surprise appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s Sweet 16. The redshirt junior guard made another surprise move Wednesday by declaring for the NBA draft.
Lacey announced, via the school’s website, that he will skip his final college season and enter the NBA draft.
Lacey, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, led the Wolfpack in scoring (15.7 points per game), was second in assists (3.5 per game) and was voted second-team All-ACC. He also was the team’s vocal and emotional leader.
“I would like to thank the coaching staff, university and fans for a wonderful experience the last two years at N.C. State, but I’d like to declare for the NBA draft,” Lacey said in a statement released by the school.
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“I had a great group of teammates the last two years and they’ll always be like brothers to me. This has been the toughest decision of my life, but I feel like pursuing this new journey in my basketball career is what is best for me.”
His decision came as a surprise. After N.C. State’s loss to Louisville in the NCAA tournament in Syracuse, N.Y., Lacey said there would be “no suspense” about his NBA decision.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried did not have a quote in the statement released by the school. Gottfried declined to comment Wednesday.
‘Can’t please everyone’
Lacey caught some backlash from N.C. State fans on Twitter shortly after the announcement was posted on GoPack.com.
He ended up sharing his own thoughts on Twitter.
“One day they love you they (sic) next minute they hate you lol,” Lacey wrote on his account.
Four minutes later, he wrote: “Mama always told me I can’t please everyone.”
One possible factor for Lacey’s decision is his age. He will turn 24 in October and already has spent four years in college, after starting his career at Alabama.
Lacey’s draft prospects are unclear. He’s in between positions for the NBA – not quite big enough to be a true shooting guard and not quite quick enough to play the point.
Neither draft websites, Draft Express and NBADraft.net, have Lacey ranked among the top 100 prospects in this year’s draft. Draft Express does rank Lacey as the 75th-best junior.
The deadline to enter the draft is April 26, which leaves the door open for a return, but there was no indecisiveness indicated by Lacey in the statement or on his Twitter account.
Lacey might not fit a defined position in the NBA, but he was versatile for the Wolfpack and helped fill a void left by T.J. Warren, who left early for the NBA last spring.
Lacey handled the ball, created his own shot and set up others. He also averaged 4.6 rebounds.
His signature became taking and making tough, contested shots and often in pressure, late-game situations. He had what looked like a winning 3-pointer fall against Wofford on Dec. 14 that initially was ruled good but later determined to have come after the buzzer.
His 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime was good at Georgia Tech for an 81-80 ACC win. He also hit a 3 before the halftime buzzer in the 71-68 NCAA tournament upset of Villanova.
“He’s as good as anybody in the country when he has room to play,” Gottfried said after the NCAA tournament victory over Louisiana State.
Lacey spent his first two college seasons at Alabama. He sat out during the 2013-14 season with the Wolfpack.
Gottfried, then coach at Alabama, started recruiting Lacey, who’s from Huntsville, Ala., when Lacey was in eighth grade. Gottfried had supreme confidence in Lacey’s ability going into this season.
“He’s one of those players, because he really understands how to play, it gives the coach a great feeling of trust in him,” Gottfried said before the season.
After Lacey delivered clutch shots and helped the Wolfpack to a second Sweet 16 appearance in four years, Gottfried was asked if it was possible Lacey exceeded his high expectations of him.
“I don’t know, they were pretty high,” Gottfried said before the Louisville game in Syracuse. “But, yeah, he has been really good.”
Lacey led the Wolfpack with 18 points in the season-ending loss to Louisville. After the game, Gottfried talked about the future and, at that point, probably thought he would have Lacey back for the 2015-16 season.
Instead, after Wednesday’s decision, Gottfried will have to regroup again.