Calvin Leslie: B
The junior forward is an enigma. He leads the team in points, 15.4 per game, and is second in rebounds, 7.4 per game, but we haven’t seen Leslie dominate games the way we all expected from the ACC preseason player of the year. For a player once criticized for being too selfish, he’s now extremely willing to pass the ball. Credit to Leslie for buying into the team concept, but he’s fully capable of single-handedly taking over a game. The Wolfpack have scrapped and clawed its way to 12-2 and are sitting atop the ACC with Duke, but Leslie must step up for the Pack to remain there.
Lorenzo Brown: B+
At times, it’s borderline frustrating to watch the junior guard play. Brown can get to the basket, seemingly at will, yet to his credit he stays within the offensive system. But when he sees an opportunity, the Roswell, Ga. native quickly springs into attack mode. Brown’s ability to finish through traffic is uncanny, as is his passing ability. He leads the team in assists, 6.4 per game, and is one of five Wolfpack players averaging double-digit points, 12.5, per game. After a slow start to the season Brown is rounding into form.
Richard Howell: A+
There has been no player more important to the Wolfpack’s success this season than senior forward Richard Howell. Howell does the dirty work for the Wolfpack, leading the team in rebounds per game, 9.7, while becoming a highly efficient scorer for the Pack, 13.2 per game. His .645 field goal percentage ranks No. 17 in the nation, and he rarely turns the ball over. He has also cut unnecessary fouls, a liability in years past, out of his game. Howell is relentless on the blocks and his work rate and toughness have made him a fan favorite. Leslie and Brown may be the stars of this team, but Big Rich is unquestionably the heart and soul.
T.J. Warren: A
The freshman forward has been a pleasant surprise for most Wolfpack fans. The Durham native has quickly evolved into one of the most efficient players in the country, ranking fourth in the nation in field goal percentage, .681, and second on the team in points, 13.4 per game. He’s making difficult shots look routine, the hallmark of a great scorer. Warren has been outstanding and should be a frontrunner for ACC freshman of the year.
Scott Wood: B+
The senior forward has found his role on this team and is playing it almost to perfection. Widely regarded as one of the best sharpshooters in the nation, Wood is averaging double digits in points, 11.6 per game, and is posting a career high field goal percentage, .449. The Marion, Ind. native has stepped up this season when called upon, especially against Boston College. If Wood can keep hitting his shots, he will stretch out the defense so Leslie, Brown and company can dominate in the paint.
Rodney Purvis: B
Purvis has been a solid player since day one. The freshman has made his share of mistakes, as can be expected of any first year player. However, it’s hard to fault his effort or his enthusiasm. His outside shooting, one of his weaknesses, has been surprisingly solid. The Raleigh native is averaging .421 from beyond the arc, only .028 lower than Wood. Purvis has showed his clutch gene, saving the Wolfpack against Boston College by putting up 19 crucial points, a career high.
The Wolfpack: A-
It’s easy to talk about how the Wolfpack excels, but some criticism is in order as well. State’s defense needs to improve and the team needs to be more assertive on the boards. The Pack hasn’t come up with many loose balls this season either, something that needs to change for State to be a factor in March. For the most part, however, the Wolfpack’s unselfish play has helped it pull out some gritty early season wins. Aside from some early glitches, the season has gone as expected and the Pack is in prime position for a run at the ACC regular season title.