RALEIGH — NC State is at the mercy of the NCAA and that’s going to affect how it prepares for the upcoming season.
Two of the Wolfpack’s potential rotation players — freshmen Omer Yurtseven and Ted Kapita — have yet to be cleared for the 2016-17 campaign and Mark Gottfried is readying his team for battle under the assumption that they may not be eligible to play.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in practice with those guys apart from the five or six that we’re getting ready to use,” Gottfried said of Yurtseven and Kapita. “We’ve also spent some time with those guys in the mix with our top guys because both Omer and Ted are two of our top seven or eight players.”
The 7-foot Yurtseven would have a legitimate chance to be one of the top newcomers in the ACC if he’s eligible, and Kapita, a former top-100 recruit, could be a valuable reserve up front behind both Beejay Anya and Abdul-Malik Abu.
Without those kids available, Gottfried believes NC State will have make a commitment to playing smaller.
“A guy like Maverick (Rowan) would potentially have to slide down and play the power forward spot,” Gottfried said. “We would have to be creative with what we’d do defensively and we’d also have to be creative on offense so we could use a guy like Maverick to extend the defense and stretch things out a bit.”
Gottfried said he still plans to redshirt 6-8 senior Lennard Freeman regardless of what happens with Yurtseven and Kapita. Freeman has battled a leg injury for the past year and a half.
The Wolfpack have quality wings in Rowan, Charlotte transfer Torin Dorn, and Terry Henderson, who missed last season due to injury.
As expected, five-star freshman point guard Dennis Smith has made a strong early impression on his coach despite coming off an ACL tear.
“He’s a player that breathes life into everybody,” Gottfried said of the 6-3 Smith. “There’s a confidence that players like that bring to the other players. People can take a deep breath and know that if they’re open that Dennis is going to get them the ball.”
With or without Yurtseven or Kapita, the aim for NC State is going to be the same.
“Our goal is to be a tournament team,” Gottfried said. “Based on what we have, that’s definitely the goal.”
The Wolfpack missed the field of 68 last year for the first time in Gottfried’s tenure. NC State advanced to the Sweet 16 in both 2012 and 2015.
Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.