With a 25-point lead over South Florida late in the second half, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried turned to his bench and looked for freshman Shaun Kirk.
Kirk came in with 5:47 left in the second half of Sunday’s 65-46 win over the Bulls and promptly buried a 3-pointer on his first offensive possession on the court.
Even with a short rotation, Gottfried hasn’t found many moments to get the wiry 6-foot-8 freshman from Whiteville some game experience. The last time Kirk played was during a difficult second-half sequence in a loss to Michigan with a turnover in transition and a missed 3-pointer.
Gottfried was pleased with the way Kirk responded with his opportunity on Sunday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
“He’s going to be OK,” Gottfried said. “He just has to learn what we’re doing and be patient.”
N.C. State added Kirk late in the recruiting cycle, after an impressive AAU showing in April, and he chose the Wolfpack over Kentucky.
Playing time, even with junior guard Terry Henderson sidelined with a foot injury, has been scarce for Kirk. His 4 minutes on Sunday were a season-high, he also had a rebound to go with the 3-pointer.
“I thought he did good,” Gottfried said. “We haven’t had a lot of games where we have had an opportunity to play him.”
Kirk has played in five of the nine games this season. N.C. State has four more games before the ACC schedule starts on Jan. 2 at Virginia Tech. Henderson, who’s still in a walking boot after he had surgery to repair ligament damage in his right foot, isn’t expected back until later in January.
N.C. State will play three of its next four games at home but there’s no guarantee Kirk will be able to get on the floor.
“For us, we have to make sure that we’re getting better,” Gottfried said.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio