Just one day before the start of the NC State men’s basketball season, a home game against ACC foe Georgia Tech, NC State head coach Kevin Keatts hosted a press conference and answered a number of questions on a variety of topics. Here are some takeaways from his presser.
Wolfpack banged up heading into opener
Keatts said in his press conference that the team is battling some injuries and a couple of players will be gametime decisions. He was coy on who, specifically, is questionable for tomorrow night’s game, but freshman guard Dereon Seabron has been in a walking boot, sophomore forward Jericole Hellems left last week’s exhibition game against Mt. Olive with a shoulder injury and redshirt junior guard Devon Daniels has been nursing a minor foot injury. There are likely other banged up players as well, and Keatts’ silence on who may be out Tuesday night means it probably won’t become public knowledge until the hours before the game.
“We’re hoping that a couple guys will be ready to play at 8:30 tomorrow night,” Keatts said. “But right now I don’t know that we’ll have a lot of bodies as I expected going into the season opener. It’s disappointing but as we know, injuries are a part of the game and certainly we hope we have everybody. I’m not saying that we won’t but there’s a good chance that we’ll have a couple guys out.”
Funderburk returns to practice, won’t play Tuesday
Redshirt junior forward DJ Funderburk was suspended indefinitely by the team on Sep. 30 after a parking dispute led to him being charged with larceny property damage. Keatts had been relatively quiet about Funderburk’s situation the last month, but he said in his press conference that Funderburk is progressing the way he would like to see.
“We’ve allowed DJ to be back in practice, so he’s practiced with us for a few days now,” Keatts said. “I don’t have a timeline [for Funderburk’s suspension]. I couldn’t tell [the media] when he’s going to return or when he will play in a game. I will say this, he’s starting to move towards the things that I’ve asked him to do and that’s why we allowed him to come back in to practice. But he will not dress out tomorrow night.”
Following a 2018-19 season that saw him finish tied for second in ACC Sixth Man of the Year voting, Funderburk is expected to be a key part of this season’s team. Although he has already been ruled out for Tuesday’s ACC matchup with Georgia Tech, the Wolfpack plays home games against Detroit Mercy on Sunday and Florida International Nov. 13. It sounds like Funderburk could return for either of those games.
Keatts not worried about early ACC game
To help launch the new ACC Network’s basketball coverage, 14 ACC teams are playing seven games to kick off the season, with the lone exception being Duke. Keatts expressed his concern about playing an ACC game as the season opener due to the volatility of potential offseason suspensions, injuries and more, but, ultimately, thinks it will be good for the league.
These games are exciting,” Keatts said. “I’m excited for our league that we have the opportunity to play against an ACC team. That being said, it’s still early. I think it’s early for everybody. I would be disappointed if we were the only team playing an ACC opponent but we’re not … But it’s a great opportunity to showcase our league on opening night … But the tough things about summer [are] that when you usually start a season, sometimes you’ll have a suspension, sometimes you may have injuries entering into a game and you don’t have the luxury of just bringing guys along because right there you have an ACC game to start the season.”
Last year’s Georgia Tech game still on Keatts’ mind
NC State lost to Georgia Tech 63-61 in PNC Arena last season on a last-second dunk. The game, which was the Wolfpack’s penultimate regular-season game, likely played a big role in the Pack being left out of the NCAA Tournament. Now, starting the season off with a game against a similar Georgia Tech team with a Wolfpack squad that remains largely the same, Keatts has made watching last season’s game a focal point of his preparation.
“I’ve watched tape from last year and we just, quite frankly, didn’t make shots,” Keatts said. “When you look at two of our guys who started on the perimeter, I think Braxton [Beverly] was 0 for 8 from 3 and CJ Bryce was 0 for 4 from 3 … I’ve looked back at it and saw some things we could have done better and some things that worked that we’ll continue to do [Tuesday] night.”