With the news last week that NC State would lose 3 of their key players from this past season, the tactics of coach Mark Gottfried were once again called into question. It’s become a pattern now. Every year, the team finishes better than expected with one player leading the way, but it’s the exodus of talent that follows causes fans to pause. Why are so many players leaving, year after year? Let’s take a look at the roster turnover in the Gottfried era
Gottfried’s first season in Raleigh left nothing but high expectations for the next one. A young team that certainly overachieved lost very little headed to the next season. CJ Williams graduated, but the duo of Brown and Leslie looked promising to the next season. Raymond and Harris played very few minutes, so their transfers aren’t a huge deal, but Painter’s departure was curious. He quickly announced that he was transferring to be closer to his family, but that did little to stop the speculation that followed. It still seems like a legitimate reason, but skeptics will point to this being the beginning of a trend
The second year is what many point to when they criticize Gottfried. For perhaps the only time in his career at NC State, he actually had all the pieces. He had a deep roster with plenty of talent, but yet suffered an early exit from the NCAA tournament. Losing an 8/9 game usually isn’t too disappointing, but the way this team ended the season left many wanting more. The disappointing season and disfunction among the team made the draft announcements from Brown and Leslie a little less surprising. The bigger surprise came from Rodney Purvis when he announced he was going to UConn. The freshman probably didn’t play as much as he would have liked, but you would assume with six players leaving he could expect more playing time in the future. Thaey’s transfer is a whole other issue, one that Sports Illustrated already covered. Still, each of the three early departures were out of the blue and leaving fans confused.
The cupboard looked pretty bare with Brown and Leslie gone, but T.J. Warren quickly changed fans’ perception of the team. Warren was no slouch his freshman year, but as he moved into his role as the Wolfpack’s star player, he showed his true potential. Of course, that got the NBA interested, and to Warren’s credit, he’s made a solid pro career to this point. The transfer to Tyler Lewis to Butler was also understandable, as the sophomore saw fewer and fewer minutes as Anthony “Cat” Barber blossomed into the star point guard he would become in years after. Overall this year was probably the least surprising of any. Sure the two departures were a bit sudden, but both seemed reasonable.
Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey was the supposed to be the key addition and the shooter that NC State needed. He turned out to be all of that and more. Essentially, Lacey became TJ Warren part 2. His similar playing style gave him a similar role on the team. Barber and Anya found their roles, and other players like Lee, Turner, and the Martins contributed for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Next year seemed promising, with most of the talent returning. Yet, Lacey quickly declared for the draft and soon after, Kyle Washington transferred to Cincinnati. Both were unexpected, and while the verdict is still out on Washington, Lacey hasn’t made much of his pro career.
A down recruiting year along with the late departures of Lacey and Washington left NC State with just 12 players on the roster. This will probably be considered the worst team of the Gottfried era, since they didn’t make any tournament and finished very low in the ACC. However, the one bright spot was Cat Barber. One year removed from being a supporting member, Barber took over the ACC as one of the conference’s top players. With little support, the team didn’t win many games. After the season ended, Barber announced he would enter the draft and while he hasn’t singed an agent, sources indicate that he’s likely gone. It’s a little puzzling, seeing as Barber would likely be a frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year, but he’s likely taking a cue from his former teammates (Warren and Lacey). Shortly after that announcement, news came that the Martin twins intended to transfer. This was the strange announcement. Most reports say that Cody was going to see less playing time due to incoming transfers, and wanted to find somewhere where both brothers could play. Still, you’d think they’d at least wait a year to see how their playing time is effected. The new transfers are anything but sure things, and it’s quite possible both brother could’ve seen lots of minutes. Abdul-Malik Abu is also reported to be exploring his draft options, but most feel that he will return.
So where does this leave us? Well, throughout Mark Gottfried’s tenure at NC State, we’ve seen a troubling trend of top talent leaving early. It’s sort of a “glass half empty/full” situation. On the bright side, Gottfried has been exceptional at replacing talent and bringing in new stars. The fact that there is a new star each year is impressive, and a testament to his recruiting ability. On the other hand, why are these players in such a hurry to get out? If any of the players had stayed just one more year, they’d be paired with another star to make an exceptional team. But maybe it’s a good thing, maybe Barber would have taken points away from Lacey. We’ll never know, but it’s clear that Gottfried can bring talent in, but can’t seem to hold on to it. Next year will be a very pivotal year. If the newcomers are as good as advertised and the team makes another tournament run, then we can revisit if this “strategy” is working. If these newcomers struggle, then you have to start questioning whether Gottfried is the right man for the job. What are your thoughts? Is this just another example of one-and-done’s hurting the college games? Why are so many NC State players leaving?