N.C. State’s backcourt makeover continues under new coach Kevin Keatts. The Wolfpack added guard Al Freeman, a graduate transfer from Baylor, on Wednesday.
Freeman (6-3, 200 pounds) averaged 9.7 points and 2.5 rebounds for the Bears last season and helped them reach the Sweet 16. Freeman, who grew up in Charlotte, will graduate in May and be eligible immediately.
“Ultimately, I felt like it was the best spot for me and the fit with the system and style of play,” said Freeman, who chose N.C. State over Pittsburgh, Nevada, Cal and Gonzaga.
The Wolfpack has to replace guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Maverick Rowan, who have both entered the NBA draft. Terry Henderson has applied to the NCAA for a sixth-year waiver. The three guards were N.C. State’s top three scorers last season.
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Freeman gives Keatts a veteran guard who fits into his up-tempo, pressing system. Freeman made 38.9 percent (44 of 113) of his 3-pointers for the Bears this season and had 21 points off the bench in their first-round NCAA tournament win over New Mexico State.
“I like to get up and down and I think my strong suit is playing in space and off the pick-and-roll,” Freeman said.
Freeman decided to leave Baylor after his fourth season in Waco, Texas, for a bigger role for his final college season. He was a starter as a sophomore in 2015-16 for coach Scott Drew and averaged 11.3 points per game.
His role changed, and his minutes diminished as a junior. He started the first 21 games but wound up being disciplined by Drew for reported attitude issues and missed four games in the middle of the Big 12 schedule.
Freeman came off the bench for the last eight games of the season. For his career, he started 57 games in three seasons and averaged 8.6 points and shot 37.3 percent from the 3-point line in 99 games.
He missed his freshman season, in 2013-14, with a wrist injury. A top 100 recruit out of Charlotte Olympic high school, Freeman went to Findlay Prep in Nevada before ultimately starting his college career with Baylor.
Freeman said more than 40 schools contacted him after his amicable split from Baylor at the end of March. He said N.C. State assistant coach James Johnson (then at Virginia Tech) had recruited him out of high school.
With the addition of Batts and Freeman, Keatts bolsters a guard rotation that includes returners Markell Johnson and Torin Dorn.
With the early departures of Smith, Rowan and possibly forward Omer Yurtseven (who has entered the draft without hiring an agent), Keatts still has four scholarships available (three if Henderson gets the NCAA reprieve).
Rivals reported that Keatts, and both of his assistants, made a late push for five-star recruit Brian Bowen, a 6-7 wing from La Porte, Ind., on Wednesday. Bowen is the No. 18 prospect in the class of 2017 by 247Sports composite rankings.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
NC State’s 2017-18 basketball roster
Updated with the addition of grad transfer guard Al Freeman:
Notes: x-2015-16 season at NC State , y-2016-17 season at Baylor