Luke DeCock

For NC State, roster turnover nothing new

NC State's Mark Gottfried talks about the upcoming season

Listen to excerpts from NC State Wolfpack's head basketball coach Mark Gottfried's summer press conference as he talks about the basketball program Tuesday, July 7, 2015, at the Dail Basketball Center in Raleigh. Video by Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newso
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Listen to excerpts from NC State Wolfpack's head basketball coach Mark Gottfried's summer press conference as he talks about the basketball program Tuesday, July 7, 2015, at the Dail Basketball Center in Raleigh. Video by Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newso

Mark Gottfried enjoyed his trip to Greece, even if it put a big dent in N.C. State's recruiting budget. The payoff will be worth it if Georgios Papagiannis ends up playing for the Wolfpack this fall.

This fall. As in, right away. The season is only four months away and Gottfried is still trying to finalize his roster, with only eight scholarship players available to him this season. The days when coaches could plan out their roster three or four years in advance, and recruit accordingly, are over.

“That's kind of out the window now. That's gone,” Gottfried said Tuesday during his summer meeting with the media. “You're always looking and evaluating who's available. If it's a guy that's good enough to help your team and fit in, we don't pay as much attention to class. We do in the big picture, but we're recruiting some guys right now that are potentially guys that could play this year. It's July. I've never hardly done that, ever.”

N.C. State should be used to this kind of turnover. It has been the hallmark of Gottfried's four seasons in charge. Players transfer in (Alex Johnson, Ralston Turner, Trevor Lacey, Terry Henderson). Players transfer out (Tyler Harris, Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis, Kyle Washington), players leave early for the pros (C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, T.J. Warren, Lacey).

They come and go, and each season by January the Wolfpack seems to find its footing, and by the time the NCAA tournament rolls around, N.C. State is in.

What's changed is that just about everyone in college basketball is dealing with the same thing. More than 700 players transferred last summer, and that number could be just as high by the time this offseason is over. So many players are (unadvisedly) turning pro that the NBA and NCAA reached agreement on new rules allowing players to test the draft waters in the future.

For the third season in a row, Duke is essentially starting from scratch, with four starters gone from its national championship team, a year after Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood both lasted only one season. The Blue Devils return Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee and Final Four hero Grayson Allen, but once again how the pieces fit together remains to be seen.

Even North Carolina, which expected to return its roster almost completely intact, was surprised by J.P. Tokoto's decision to enter the NBA draft, although the Tar Heels appear to be in a good position to weather his departure.

Still, for N.C. State, this summer has been a little unusual. Gottfried was admittedly surprised by Lacey's decision to turn pro and Washington's decision to transfer. Lacey would have been a rock star in the ACC and Washington was a dangerous weapon off the bench in the postseason, and their departures leave gaps that aren't easy to fill – even for a school as adept in the transfer market as N.C. State has proven to be.

Even the continuity of Gottfried's coaching staff, the one rock-solid constant during his tenure, was interrupted when recruiting ace Rob Moxley fell gravely ill on May 6. He remains on medical leave, with director of basketball operations Jeff Dunlap replacing him on the recruiting trail.

“Obviously, it was very critical,” Gottfried said. “The most important thing right now is that he gets better. He has not returned to work and it's hard to say – there is not an exact date we can point to and say, ‘We hope Rob is back by this date working.’ From our perspective, my No. 1 goal is to give him some time so hopefully he can be back to 100 percent.”

Yet again, July is filled with questions for N.C. State. Who will back up Cat Barber at point guard? What can the Martin twins contribute? Will BeeJay Anya ever get under 300 pounds and stay there? Who will take the crunch-time shots Lacey used to make so often?

There are a lot of teams asking similar questions. The Wolfpack at least has some experience at answering them.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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