N.C. State freshmen: early look

Anthony Barber

When Mark Gottfried and the Wolfpack prevailed for Cat Barber last fall, many hailed Barber for potential stardom in Raleigh.

N.C. State signed the country's No. 12 class last year, and the Wolfpack largely achieved that status on the back of No. 21 Anthony Barber. "Cat" entered school as one of the nation's quickest point guards, and despite lacking strength and a consistent jump shot he stepped into enormous expectations.

And despite the fact that he hasn't started a game — sophomore Tyler Lewis is the club's chief playmaker — Barber has established himself as an effective scorer in his first few collegiate outings.

He's averaging 14 points per game on 53 percent shooting, playing a very healthy 30 minutes each outing despite not starting. I expected him to suffer out of the gate due to the poor shot selection he occasionally exhibited in high school and on the travel circuit, but his shooting percentage speaks to his accuracy.

He has attempted only six threes in all those minutes and buried half of them. No one considered Barber a strong shooter entering college, and thus he is playing to his strengths while maximizing the attempts he does take. He doesn't appear ready to compete for All-ACC honors, but a second season under Gottfried could result in big things for Barber and the program.

BeeJay Anya and Kyle Washington also ranked in the top 100, and both big men have earned regular minutes lower in the rotation, with Washington starting three of the four games yet playing fewer than 15 minutes per contest.

Washington must adjust to the speed of the game and formulate an offensive identity for that level. Anya, meanwhile, arrived overweight and is playing his way into shape, and as you'd expect he's providing mostly ancillary support during that process.

We didn't expect either player to step into a huge role right away, and so far that's how it's playing out.

But the club has enjoyed one surprise: Lennard Freeman. An unsung forward at Oak Hill Academy last season, Freeman registered as a three star recruit but has played above his anticipated level. He actually started in the Wolfpack's most recent game, taking over for Washington.

He hasn't looked to score often but is averaging six rebounds in 22 minutes per game. Though hardly superstar numbers, he's clearly part of the Gottfried's plan going forward. He must improve at the foul line, however, as evidenced by his 1-9 start from the charity stripe.

After Barber, the most impressive newcomers actually have been juco signee Desmond Lee and LSU transfer Ralston Turner, who sat out last year and became eligible this season.

Lee gives the club needed scoring punch to take pressure off star sophomore T.J. Warren, and even though he's struggling from long-range he's notching 14 points, five rebounds and two steals per night.

Turner is the team's designated three-point shooter, taking more than half his attempts from behind the line and knocking down bombs at a strong 42 percent clip. That's exactly the game he played in high school, and his shooting talents have translated to the ACC level.

Gottfried will attempt to steer this bridge team into the conference's upper division, relying heavily on Warren's prolific scoring talents. If the sophomore departs for the NBA next spring, we'll learn much more about NCSU's 2013 class during the 2014-15 campaign when they step into far more prominent roles.

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