NC State coach Mark Gottfried called sophomore big man Abdul-Malik Abu a “sweetheart” after N.C. State’s 88-70 win over South Alabama on Sunday.
Abu, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds after missing most of the first half with foul trouble, pointed out there’s a good reason why he’s so nice.
“Blame my parents,” Abu wrote on his Twitter account, playfully responding to an N.C. State fan after his coach’s comments were posted on Twitter.
Abu’s first half on Sunday was familiar to N.C. State followers who remember forward Richard Howell’s junior season in 2011-12. Howell frequently picked up early fouls, often of the ticky-tack variety, and spent long stretches on the bench.
When Abu picked up his second foul at 15:21 in the first half on Sunday, Gottfried took him out of the game for almost 7 minutes.
At 5:13, Abu picked up his third foul of the half and was a spectator on N.C. State’s short bench.
The 6-8, 240-pound forward from Boston was able to stay out of foul trouble in the second half and gave N.C. State’s offense lift. His dunk at 11:32 gave the Wolfpack a 58-44 lead. His assist to fellow big man BeeJay Anya for a lay-in at 8:05 brought some energy to the crowd and the game.
That was what Gottfried wanted from Abu, who had 17 points in the opening loss to William & Mary on Friday, from the start. Gottfried said Abu wasn’t “engaged” in the first half, which led to nonchalant defense and the foul trouble.
Gottfried used that jumping point to find the tangent on Abu’s sunny disposition.
“He’s such a sweetheart, a sweetheart kid,” Gottfried said. “We’ve got to get him a little tougher. He’s got such great talent, such great ability. I’ve got to find a way to get him to a high level all the time because he has such great potential.”
The way social media works, it didn’t take long for Gottfried’s comments to find Abu.
Gottfried’s quote was posted on Twitter at 8:46 p.m. Mackenzie King, who goes by NCSUFan 97 on Twitter, retweeted the quote 9 minutes later and wrote, “Stop being such a darn sweetheart @MalikAbu_”
At 9:02 p.m., Abu responded: “Blame my parents.”
Abu’s witty tweet had 110 likes by Monday morning.