The NC State men’s club basketball team returned home this week after an impressive display last weekend in a tournament at Georgia Tech. Both teams that the club submitted made it deep into tournament play on Sunday after strong showings on Saturday.
Both Team Wolf and Team Pack fell to Georgia Tech, who hosted the tournament. Five teams played in the tournament, Georgia Tech, Team Wolf, Team Pack, Georgia Gwinnett and Dalton State.
On Saturday, the team played all three non-NC State teams and only lost to Georgia Tech in placement games. Because of impressive play on Saturday, both teams earned a first-round bye on Sunday in bracket play.
Team Wolf made it to the semifinals in the tournament, while Team Pack made it to the finals. Although both teams lost in their respective finishes, the team as a whole was able to grow and develop as they move forward.
“These games are a growing point, they didn’t really mean anything,” co-captain senior Alex Capps said. “This semester is all about practice and next semester is all the regional and national tournaments where it really counts. On Team Wolf we had a lot of young guys, we had five guys who had never played club basketball before. I was pretty proud of those guys and the way that they played. They did not back down.”
The team was without junior point guard Justin McCluney and fifth-year power forward/center Max Myers for the tournament, putting some of the aforementioned younger players into the spotlight.
“On Team Wolf, [sophomore shooting guard] Jonathan Runymbo and [senior shooting guard] Riley Edwards shot the ball really well,” Capps said. “On Team Pack, [junior small forward] Dane Palazzo stood out, [junior point guard] Cam [Wimbish] played really well. We were missing a couple of our key guys, Justin [McCluney], Myers could not make it, who is probably Team Wolf’s best player. A lot of our stand out guys weren’t there but we had some new guys show out.”
Palazzo in particular had himself a strong weekend against Georgia Tech, accounting for over 20 points in each game and getting the offense flowing for Team Pack. Palazzo also electrified his team when he had a massive putback dunk over Dalton State in the semifinals.
“It was a pretty hype moment,” Palazzo said. “My main strength as a slasher/wing is my athletic abilities.”
While this was the Pack’s first tournament of the season, it was not the team’s first time playing together. The team played in two games in Wilmington, against UNCW’s two teams on October 5. Team Wolf and Team Pack both went 1-1 in the games, winning against the same team and losing against the same team.
“We grew a lot from Wilmington to Georgia Tech,” Capps said. “We played a lot better at Georgia Tech than we did at UNCW so overall it was a good experience.”
Having grown as a team, the club feels good about its chances moving forward, despite playing with a new identity and not having as many players as normal, due to the games in the fall semester not counting towards tournament play in the spring semester.
“We are really just learning from it,” Capps said. “I feel confident about our chances, I think next semester when the games start to matter more we will have more all-around commitment and focus. We are going to fix our weaknesses and come back and play better.”
Looking forward to some of the competition, Capps feels like the team can stack up against any team it plays. That includes NIRSA powerhouse UNC-Pembroke, who has troubled the Pack in the past.
“I feel like Team Pack could have won it all,” Capps said. “As for opponents, UNC-Pembroke is notably pretty good. Every year they have been pretty good. I did not play them last year but I played them the year before. They are probably the best club basketball team I have ever played.”
Next up for the team is a 16-team tournament at Chapel Hill on Nov. 16-17. The club then has a home tournament, its first of the year, in Carmichael Gymnasium on November 23-24. Admission is free to students.