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March 18, 2009

NC State's backcourt struggles with inconsistency

NC State went 16-14 overall and 6-10 in the ACC, which was 10th place in the conference.

Two of the reasons for the Wolfpack to struggle was uncertainty at both backcourt spots because of unforeseen injuries and inconsistency.

The Wolfpacker takes a look back at the point guard and shooting guard positions and gives both spots a grade for the season. Helping the causes at both positions was improved play down the stretch.

Point guard: C-



NC State struggled at point guard for essentially the first 19 games of the season in trying to figure out who wanted to take the spot and lead the team.

Redshirt junior Farnold Degand, sophomore Javier Gonzalez and freshman Julius Mays, all received turns at running the team, but outside of a few flashes here and there, there wasn't any consistency. Coach Sidney Lowe essentially played all three at times hoping to catch lightning in a bottle on a game-by-game basis, which is a difficult way of coaching the team.

Degand opened the season as the starter, but suffered tendonitis in his surgically repaired knee against New Orleans in the season opener Nov. 15, and subsequently missed half of the game against UNO and four of the next five games. His lone appearance during that stretch was a four-minute effort against Davidson.

Degand worked his way back into the starting lineup Dec. 29 against Loyola (Md.), 10 of the next 11 games. However, sometimes his knee responded well and other times his lateral movement was affected.

Degand averaged 4.7 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 35.7 on three-pointers. He scored in double figures in five games and had back-to-back seven-assist games against Boston College and Miami on Jan. 24 and Jan. 27 respectively.

Degand's shining moment came in the 82-76 upset of then No. 7-ranked Wake Forest on Feb. 11, when he scored a season-high 14 points off the bench, drained 3 of 5 three-pointers and added four assists. His hustle and aggressiveness made it appear as if his knee was 100 percent again.

Degand added 12 points and five assists in the rematch against WFU on Feb. 26, an 85-78 loss, but then he struggled down the stretch. He went a combined 0 for 5 from the field, three assists and six turnovers over the last four games, including missing the ACC Tournament loss to Maryland, 74-69, because of disciplinary reasons. He also missed two other games because of either academics (Virginia Tech) or discipline (Winston-Salem State).

With Degand battling through his knee injury early in the season, Gonzalez moved into the starting lineup for a six-game stretch. His best game during that time was when he had nine points, seven assists, six rebounds, four steals and zero turnovers in a 79-52 win over North Carolina Greensboro Nov. 30.

Gonzalez was struck with the injury bug when he elbowed East Carolina's Brock Young in the mouth, and Young's teeth created a cut in Gonzalez's elbow Dec. 17. Gonzalez also suffered an ankle injury in practice and missed four out of the next five games, with a two-minute stint against Marquette mixed in.

Gonzalez didn't rejoin the rotation until Feb. 3 against North Carolina Central. He came off the bench for five points and five assists and proved to be a spark. He ended up moving into the starting lineup the last 10 games of the season with the team going 4-6.

Gonzalez responded with the best stretch of point guard play of the season, knocking down three-pointers, getting the team into a more up-tempo offense and outside of a couple of games, did a better job limiting his turnovers. He scored 19 points on 5 of 8 three-point shooting in the 72-64 loss to Miami and had 18 points on 4 of 4 shooting from beyond the arc (7 of 8 overall) against North Carolina on Feb. 18 in the 89-80 loss.

He scored in double figures in four of the last 10 games and eight points or more in seven of them. He also had five assists or more in four contests.

Gonzalez averaged 6.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 20.7 minutes per game for the season. He shot 46.7 percent from the field and an impressive 42.9 on three-pointers.

Mays moved into the backup role behind Gonzalez following Degand's injuries, and then stayed there when Gonzalez missed time. He even started a pair of games.

Mays proved to be one of the top shooters on the team, knocking down 44.8 percent of his three-pointers and 85.2 at the free-throw line. Lowe credited him for knowing how to run NC State's sets and getting the ball where it was supposed to go.

Mays shined against Toney Douglas and Florida State, scoring 13 points off the bench Jan. 13, and later hit the shot of the season with a pull-up three-pointer in overtime to defeat Miami 84-81 on Jan. 27. However, when Lowe decided to pair the rotation to eight or nine players, Mays was on the outside looking in.

Mays played one minute against Georgia Tech as his only action during an eight-game stretch. He got a reprieve in the ACC Tournament with Degand out, and responded with his best scoring game of the season. He scored a season-high 18 points and went 7 of 15 from the field, including 3 of 9 on three-pointers in 24 minutes. He added two assists, two rebounds and zero turnovers against the Terrapins' zone defense.

Shooting guard: C



Like the point guard position, the shooting guard spot featured three different players getting starts this season.

Freshman C.J. Williams opened the season, redshirt junior Trevor Ferguson starting a few games, and then eventually senior Courtney Fells ended the campaign.

Fells moved back to shooting guard when the Wolfpack turned to the big lineup during the second half of the Boston College game Jan. 24. He responded some of his best games of the season following the switch.

Fells poured in 24 points on 6 of 9 shooting from three-point range in the 84-81 overtime victory against Miami on Jan. 27, and then had 22 points on 4 of 8 shooting from beyond the arc vs. North Carolina Jan. 31. He ripped off six straight games where he scored 12 points or more.

However, Fells started to get banged up physically. He overcame a troublesome bruise near his ankle toward the beginning stages of the season, and then suffered a groin injury against Boston College on March 4. Fells missed the Miami rematch March 7, and was held under 11 points over the last seven games.

Fells finished the season scoring 11.3 points and grabbing 3.6 rebounds per game, shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 39.8 from three-point land.

Williams started the first five games of the season, and showed a knack for hitting baseline jumpers and playing solid defense. Playing time become a little more sporadic when Ferguson moved into the starting lineup, and he collected five did not play's because of coach's decision. In-between the games where he didn't play, he did earn three starts in ACC action, but managed only six points during that stretch.

Wiliams' rebirth began in the upset win over Wake Forest on Feb. 11, when he scored 10 points off the bench in 18 minutes. The game solidified his spot in the rotation down the stretch.

He followed with 11 points and five boards, and went 3 of 5 from beyond the arc against Georgia Tech on Feb. 14. Williams capped his best stretch of the season by torching Virginia's defense with his outside jumper, going 4 for 6 from three-point range en route to 16 points in 17 minutes against the Cavaliers on Feb. 21.

Williams averaged 3.7 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in 14.6 minutes of action for the season. He shot 42.9 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range, but just 58.8 on free throws. With Fells' graduation, Williams will be competing for the starting job next year and Lowe considers him a valuable building block for the future, along with Mays.

Like many of his teammates, Ferguson's season was split into multiple parts. He started eight games, but also missed three games because of injury, one because of academics and seven because of coach's decision.

Ferguson's best stretch came before he injured his non-shooting hand finger, going 9 for 18 from three-point range before getting hurt in the Marquette game. He did come back to shoot 3 of 5 from beyond the arc for 11 points in the win over Georgia Tech, but struggled to regain his shooting touch following the injury.

Ferguson did do well defensively in a couple of games, having Terrence Oglesby of Clemson go 1 for 5 for three points on Jan. 10, and making a surprise start against Miami when Fells was injured and helped hold Jack McClinton to 3 of 15 shooting.

Ferguson finished the year playing in 19 games, and averaging 5.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 21.9 minutes of action. He shot 40 percent from the field and 35.4 from three-point land.

The Woflpacker will grade the frontcourt in a future story, and have a look ahead to next year feature.


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