Mark Gottfried understands the optics of three players, and possibly a fourth, leaving N.C. State’s men’s basketball program within the span of 48 hours.
The Wolfpack coach also understands this is how college basketball works in 2016. Players leave early for the NBA, which All-ACC guard Cat Barber decided to do Tuesday and players transfer, which twins Cody and Caleb Martin decided to do Thursday.
And Gottfried fully appreciates why sophomore Abdul-Malik Abu wants to go through the NBA draft process. But after all those decisions and a disappointing 16-17 record this season, Gottfried also is not panicking.
“The sky is not falling,” Gottfried said Thursday after a flurry of announcements.
Barber’s decision to hire an agent and stay in the draft, after leading the ACC in scoring, was expected. Freshman point guard Dennis Smith was signed, and enrolled early, in anticipation of Barber’s exit.
The twins played a lot as sophomores, and they were commended by Gottfried throughout the season for their effort, but their decision to leave wasn’t completely unexpected, either.
With the twins, N.C. State would have had seven scholarship players for three perimeter spots next season. With the return of Terry Henderson and Maverick Rowan, and the addition of Torin Dorn, a transfer from Charlotte, there was a potential logjam at wing.
With the Martins’ exit, N.C. State has lost five transfers during the past four years, but Gottfried also has had success in adding transfers. Gottfried led the Wolfpack to four straight NCAA tournament appearances, and two trips to the Sweet 16, before this year’s setback.
The addition of good players can lead to the exit of good players.
“We have had some transfers, each one is unique in its own way,” Gottfried said. “I’m a believer that competition for playing time makes everyone better. I will always believe that and I will always go after the best players, whether they’re out of high school or if they are transfers.”
Unlike Barber, Abu will not hire an agent and has up until May 25 to return to school. A 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore, he made the decision to take advantage of the new NCAA rules which allow underclassmen more time to be evaluated by the NBA and allows them to go through the draft process more than once.
“With the new rules, it’s something he wants to take advantage of,” Gottfried said. “He was also very clear he thought he had nothing to lose.”
Gottfried said if Abu is not projected to be a first-round pick, he will return for his junior season. Abu, who led the Wolfpack in rebounding (8.8 per game) and was tied for second on the team in scoring (12.9 points per game), is not listed on NBADraft.net’s top 100 list of draft prospects.
The Martins had plenty of minutes this season. Caleb Martin, a 6-7, 215-pound wing, averaged 11.5 points and started 19 games. Cody Martin, a 6-7, 210-pound wing, started the final 16 games and was one of the best defensive players on the team. He averaged 6.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
But they had concerns about their role in Gottfried’s system going forward.
“They felt like they didn’t fit into the offensive scheme,” said Jared Eure, their stepfather. “They loved playing at N.C. State, and in the ACC, but ultimately they wanted to try something different.”
Caleb Martin averaged 30.5 minutes per game this season and Cody averaged 25.8. There probably was room for one twin to play extensively next season but not both.
In a statement released by the school, both twins thanked the fans for their support.
“It definitely was not an easy decision for us, but we feel that is best that we move on,” Cody Martin said in the school’s release.
Rodney Purvis (Connecticut), Tyler Lewis (Butler) and Kyle Washington (Cincinnati) also have transferred out of the Wolfpack program since 2013.
Gottfried has had success in adding transfers over the same time: Ralston Turner, Trevor Lacey, Henderson and Dorn.
The twins’ exit means N.C. State will have eight players on scholarship next season. The NCAA limit is 13. Gottfried was in Turkey recently recruiting 6-11 forward Omer Yurtseven, who is considered a five-star prospect.
“There’s a long time before we play a game again,” Gottfried said. “We still need to add some pieces, but I know we will put a competitive team on the court next year.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio