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October 29, 2007

Reviewing the Red/White game

The Red/White intrasquad game gave North Carolina State basketball fans the first glimpse of what the 2007-2008 season will be like.

What a glimpse it was for the No. 24-ranked Wolfpack, who put on a show behind freshman J.J. Hickson and junior Ben McCauley, both post players who went head-to-head. The game also showed what still needs to be worked - mainly cutting down turnovers - and it was a good opportunity for Farnold Degand to show what he can do at point guard.

Here is a run down of how the NC State players played in the Red/White game:

Brandon Costner: The sophomore power forward struggled with his shot, but still found ways to make his presence felt with his post-up savvy and ability to draw fouls. The key will be for him to be able to make an impact on the game with his passing and help defense, and not be a one-dimensional offensive threat.

Farnold Degand: He is going to be one of the fastest point guards in the country. Degand knows two speeds - fast and faster. The sophomore showed good vocal leadership on the court and the ability to run the offense and be solid on defense. He didn't shoot much, but he missed one of his 3-pointers and struggled at the free-throw line going 2 for 4. The latter will have to be rectified since he'll get fouled a lot in close games.

Courtney Fells: He got hot from the perimeter and showcased his jump shot. The junior is strong in the upper body, but is skinny in the legs, yet get such lift when attacking the basket. Other players might be better, but if Fells elevates his game and can hit enough jump shots to keep the defense from double-teaming the post players, it could elevate the Wolfpack from a good team to a great team.

Trevor Ferguson: Ferguson didn't start and didn't get much going. The sophomore shooting guard is going to struggle to get minutes if he can't knock down open jumpers.

Gavin Grant: The lone senior had a mixed bag of results. He turned the ball over at times, but also showed his combination of slashing ability to the basket and ability to hit some difficult mid-range jump shots. The nice thing with this year's team is the trio of Grant, Costner and McCauley will get pushed by Hickson.

Simon Harris: Looked on as an afterthought at times because he is a walk-on transfer from Elon, but the junior showed he will get after it on the defensive end and do the little things to help a team out. He could carve out a niche as a solid bench player for the Wolfpack and is a welcome addition to the team.

J.J. Hickson: Hickson dunks with authority, yet can drain a face-up jump shot. He also drained all seven free-throw attempts which was a question coming out of high school. Hickson finished with 21 points and made his presence felt. About the only big question mark is whether he'll be able to get his shot off against athletic shot-blockers, but he is so savvy, that he'll be able to draw a lot of fouls in the process. Someone from among Grant, Costner and McCauley will be losing playing time, and it's not likely to be McCauley or Costner, so expect some "big" lineups this season to ensure Hickson plays 30 minutes a game.

Dennis Horner: The shooting specialist did a nice job and showed his range, but didn't get many chances. He also had a nice drive to the basket. The Wolfpack are trying to get him minutes this year at small forward, but he'll struggle keeping up with smaller, quicker perimeter players.

Marques Johnson: The sophomore transfer from Tennessee played point guard and kept turnovers to a minimum and had a smooth game. He didn't force the action, but also ran the offense effectively. It will be interesting to see if he can keep up with smaller guards, but he might have an outside shooting dimension that Degand doesn't have. He'll be eligible for the second semester.

Ben McCauley: Hickson and McCauley were the two stars in the game. McCauley's ability to pass and hit the mid-range jump shot will be a great complement to Hickson. The exhibition games will give them the chance to play together, as they are often matched up against each other in pickup games and the Red/White game. He scored 14 points and was the second best player on the floor.

Tracy Smith: The freshman forward showed some flashes of his inside-outside game and looks like he'll be a good player in time. With a loaded frontcourt, it will be hard for him to get consistent minutes, but he has considerable potential.

Chad Williams: The senior walk-on guard came off the bench and showed that he belonged on the court. He probably won't play much this year, but his impact will be made at practice and being able to get along with his teammates.


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