Head coach Mark Gottfried said the Wolfpack has six starters on its roster. One of which is freshman forward T.J. Warren.
“I kind of tell our guys we have six starters,” Gottfried said. “Although he’s not in the lineup I consider him like a starter. It’s maybe something we look at from time to time. But, I think he’s done a good job.”
Warren is currently the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.4 points per game, and is second on the team in field goal percentage. For his first time coming off the bench in his career, Warren is certainly making use of every opportunity he gets.
Gottfried said Warren’s performance has fallen somewhere between a surprise and according to expectations.
“Part of us knew how talented he was,” Gottfried said. “But, you’re never sure of how quickly a freshman will adapt. I think he’s done a great job. It’s really not that surprising to me though.”
The logical evolution of every sixth man who is contributing beyond expectations is to make the jump into the starting lineup, but Warren’s is concerned with being able to contribute to the team’s success.
“Coming off the bench is kind of weird because I’ve never come off the bench in my life,” Warren said. “Coming off the bench, I’m just trying to be productive and just be as efficient as possible for me and the team.”
According to Warren, he knew he was going to be in a position to make an impact on the program immediately, even while playing with Leslie, the preseason ACC Player of the Year, and a talent-packed group of upperclassmen.
“With those guys everyone’s going to key on them,” Warren said. “I just wanted to come in and score and do whatever it takes to win.
“Coming in I knew I was going to have a role. I just wanted to come in and work hard every day to show I’m worthy. It’s been working out for me so far, so I’m pretty proud of that.”
Gottfried said otherwise. In terms of the offense opening up, he said it’s all been attributed to his talent, not adverted attention from the defense.
“Not necessarily,” Gottfried said. “I think he’s a very talented offensive player. He has a knack for it. I don’t think that had anything to do with it. I think that’s just the way he is.”
Aside from Gottfried, Warren said Howell and Brown have been the most helpful in his transition to college basketball. Now, with Georgia Tech and Tobacco Road rival Duke on the horizon at the cusp of a difficult ACC schedule, Warren said utilizing his basketball IQ will be key in his success on the floor.
According to Gottfried, the best thing about Warren is that he’s still a freshman and has the opportunity to improve as the season and his career progress.
“I think what will happen with T.J. is that he’s going to get stronger,” Gottfried said. “He’s in a good strength and weight program. Even as his body changes, even over the summer and spring, he’ll be better next year.”