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January 16, 2009

New starting lineup to be unveiled for GT

NC State coach Sidney Lowe admitted Friday that he's going to shake up the starting lineup Saturday for the Wolfpack's home game against Georgia Tech, but he didn't want to say who will start.

Lowe did say that redshirt junior shooting guard Trevor Ferguson, a former starter, will likely dress but it's questionable he will play with his finger injury.

Lowe also talked about the recent play of redshirt freshman small forward Johnny Thomas, the development of Julius Mays at point guard and his philosophy on playing young guys for the future while still wanting to win now.

Click below to listen to Lowe's press conference and a partial transcript is added below. A complete transcript will be posted later.

PC Sidney Lowe audio press conference (25:26)


Can I ask you to comment the NCAA now classifying seventh graders as prospects?

"I heard them talking about it because I guess there was some questions about an eighth grader one time I guess was recruited and offered or whatever. I guess there's a period or time that we need to let the kids be kids. Now having said that, certainly if you know a young man that's pretty good as an eighth grader than you going to watch him.

"But as far as the recruiting part of it, I don't know if we should be recruiting seventh and eighth graders. That's just early. That's an early age. I guess if their going to consider them being prospects now you got to go by the rules. But I mean, I think as a kid they have to be kids. Obviously once they start to go through that recruiting process as a seventh grader, there's a time that they start changing their thoughts and minds about basketball and what's important and started talking about the NBA already. That might be a little too young I think."

Can you talk about Johnny Thomas and what he's been through?

"First of all, to have that injury, to be excited as he was to come to NC State and play at NC State, and to endure that injury, that was a devastating blow to him and to us. But he never complained. He had the surgery, he was always doing his therapy, working hard at that, and just fighting to get back. And he is an inspiration, and I told, from the very first time I mentioned Johnny Thomas, I told all of you that you're going to love watching this guy play. I told you that because he is constantly going, he plays hard, energy, he's just fun to watch.

"For us, it's just a matter of when that time was going to happen because we didn't know how long it was going to take and then we had to work him in as far as knowing the sets, knowing the plays, knowing the defense. He had to learn that part of the game. Not only was he behind physically, he was behind mentally in terms of what we're doing, and now he's getting there, and you can see it. You can see the difference. Right now, he just plays so hard and so active. He's going to continue to do that, and he's going to be great for us."

Was he your first recruit?

"Yes, he was."

Do you have a special feeling for him because he was your first one?

"The thing that I remember is how excited he was to say yes, and he couldn't wait to get on campus, and I said that before about Johnny. He wore that NC State shirt like no one I've seen. When he put that thing on he is really proud to be a part of this family, and that's how he was when he committed. He had his shirt, and he wore it proudly. He wore it all the time. It was no question what we were getting in him. We were getting someone that really wanted to be here and loved wearing that shirt."

What has been the biggest challenge for you in finding the right five?

"Without making it sound like an excuse I would have to say the injury factor because at one point we had a rotation going early with C.J. and Courtney at two and three, and then Courtney got hurt. I didn't feel comfortable playing C.J. and say Simon, because I felt like we had to have someone in there that's played some minutes, so we put Trevor in there for C.J. So that kind of changed the dynamic of it right there. Javi was playing well for us early, and he got hurt.

"I would say most of it is due to the injury and trying to work guys around, and now getting some guys back and trying to work them back in and maybe their not 100 percent ready to go, so it's juggling trying to find that vibe."

Is this the most challenging time you've had in trying to find that five all season?

"We're in conference play, but at the same time other than Trevor right now we're okay. I think we're healthy enough right now that we can find a nice rotation. Courtney's back, Javi's back, he's still a little nicked up, Tracy's a little nicked up, but they're ready to go. Being in conference play every single night, that's a tough ball game for us. We need everybody. I think we'll settle into a nice rotation, could be eight guys, could be nine guys, and that's what we're going to go with."

Is Trevor Ferguson going to play Saturday?

"I think he'll suit up, but I'm not sure how long he'll play. He still has that pad on his hand, and it's affecting his shooting I think right now. The mental aspect certainly Trevor still helps us there, knowing what we're doing and things of that nature. I think we'll have to let the game dictate how much he'll play."

Can you talk about Georgia Tech?

"I think they're aggressiveness, their pounding those offensive boards. I think they get about 33, 34 percent of their misses, so they're very active in there. Their bigs do a nice job of high-low, they duck in hard. Their speed, they got a couple of things they can bring at you, but I think their aggressiveness on both ends, they'll get at you defensively, but offensively they're going to run at you and come at you and try to pound that thing in there. That was really what stood out.

"Let's face it, that's really what it comes down to in these games, is being aggressive, who's the aggressive team. Last ballgame, Leonard yelled out at his guys, when we had that run, he told his guys, he told Douglas, 'Hey, they're just more aggressive than you are.' And that's what it comes down to, and that's what Georgia Tech does. They play hard and they're aggressive."

Is that a lesson you can teach your team?

"Absolutely, absolutely, actually I tried to use it that night, in teaching how to increase a lead or finish a lead or finish a game. When you know you got someone saying that about you, then you continue to do it. You turn it up. You turn it up even more. That's what we talked about, but absolutely, you have to. It's going to be a game of runs. They're going to make their runs, we're going to make our runs. When you know that you're being very aggressive, you know the team is going to try to turn it up, then you got to turn it up another notch, because they're going to come at you, and that's what we got to do."

C.J. Williams back at the two or are you going to start Courtney at the two and Dennis at the three?

"I can't tell you right now. I was going to say I don't know, but I really do know. I am being honest about it. I'd rather not say right now, but there's a decision that has been made there."

Do you have to tell Johnny Thomas sometimes to slow down because of his knee and his high energy level?

"I don't have to tell him as much now because the knee is doing well, it's not swelling as much as it used to, so the pain is not as severe. Again, he's the one that said to me, 'Coach, it's going to swell. It's going to hurt, but I can handle it, it's okay.'

"But I don't worry about him as much the pain as much as I do it when I watch him going in there fly in there, and I watch him come down to see if there's a reaction. He's been pretty good about it. He's been solid. If it's hurting him now, he certainly isn't showing it. What you see in the game you see in practice with Johnny. He's constantly going, constantly pounding the boards, aggressive play. That's who he is."

Can you talk about Julius Mays' progression?

"I think Julius has done a great job to be as poised as he is as a freshman. I talked about this when we first got Julius in here, I talked about his basketball IQ, you can see he knows how to run that position. He knows how to run the point guard position. He understands the game. He's biggest adjustment now is learning the tricks, utilizing his skills, his talent level. His strength isn't his quickness, his strength is his mind. Now his mind has got to get to the point where he can take advantage of that over guys that are quicker by using angles and using his body, knowing how to come off screens, getting them on hips, things of that nature.

"But I think a great job for us, and I think that he's got a calmness about him that when other players on the floor with him, they like that. They like that calmness about him, and they know he is going to run the show, and if they're open they're going to get the ball."

How do you see the players responding to Julius Mays when he's running the point?

"Yeah, the ball game when we took the shot and got the offensive rebound, there was a little scramble and the ball was moved around and Julius just came out to the top and yelled for the ball. They just gave it to him and went back into position. He called a set and they ran it. You realize he was in control of the game. He's a point guard, he's in charge and got them the ball.

"We see it a lot in practice too, where they allow him to be who he is basically. That's a lot of respect for a freshman. On the other hand, Julius sometimes will defer when he should get the ball. There are certain times where he can go get it. Most of the time is when the game is tight or the game is on the line, he'll get the ball. He wants the ball. I think as we go on through the season, it will become more comfortable for him. He'll get it every time instead of 60 percent of the time. He knows what to do with it."

What will the roles be for guys like Farnold Degand and Javi Gonzalez?

"You have to communicate obviously, and talk to them, and remind them that it was just one night. It has no bearing on anything else. There will be another game. It is time to get into practice and go to work. They need to work on certain things with certain guys and be ready to play. In this game, you can't live and die on one game or two games. Some nights it's going to be your night and some nights it is going to be someone else's. But having said that, you earn your minutes. You have to earn your minutes. Nothing is given to you. You have to earn it. Doing that, you have to play good solid basketball. It doesn't mean you have to score all the points, but you have to take care of the basketball, don't turn it over and defend.

"There are so many things that can happen from a negative standpoint to get you out of a game. If you turn it over, if you aren't defending, if you aren't working hard, there are so many things there. You have to really be into it. You don't have to just score points but you have to stop somebody."

Georgia Tech has turned the ball over at a pretty good rate this year, and NC State has in the games the Pack have lost. How key will turnovers be Saturday?

"it will be huge, huge. We watch and reflect back on some of our games, and as a coaching staff we look at it, and we keep going back to if we just took care of the basketball. We'd have some big wins for us this year. It is going to be big for us again tomorrow. We can't turn the ball over 16, 17, 18 times tomorrow. You just can't do it. It will be good if we can turn them over some and get some easy baskets, some fastbreak baskets. That might be what it comes down to. It might come down to what team has the fewer turnovers in this ball game, they could win the ball game. That is an area that we must improve on."

How good are Alade Aminu and Gani Lawal for Georgia Tech?

"They are good. Not only just being a load physically, but just active. They are really active. They are going to go to the boards hard every time. They are coming at you. You have to block out. You can't let them get to the basket and then block out. You have to block them out away from the basket, and not allow them to get in there.

"They run the floor well and really do a nice job of ducking in hard, they duck in hard. We have to make sure to stay on top of them, and not allow them to duck in and get that easy basket any more. It's going to be work. We are going to have to come to work. To play those two guys, you have to come to work. Peacock is in there and he's physical and is going to bang you. It's going to be a great test for our bigs again, especially Lawal. He's trying to dunk everything that he gets in there. We have to be ready and come out aggressive. We have to come out aggressive and be very active."

Lawal and Aminu are both good shot-blockers, but I heard that talking about shot-blockers are no longer in the scouting reports?

"Yeah, we aren't talking about shot-blockers. We aren't going to mention shot-blockes and where they rank and that nature. We have to concentrate on taking advantage of what we can do against those guys. We have to get into them. We can't try to float it over. We have to get into their bodies and go at them a little bit."

How important is it to just get a win in the ACC?

"It's just so important to get a win, being at home, and really trying to take care of the home court. We dropped one, so hopefully we take care of this one tomorrow. We have to get one that we aren't expected to get on the road. We have to get one. It is nice to get that first one. Get that little bit of juice, momentum and to go on the road and get that next one."

How do you balance playing for the present and getting the younger players ready for the future?

"Coaches, you try to win today, you really do. But having said that, I think that we are certainly looking at, we have to look at these young guys. I am fortunate that we have some young guys that deserve to play and not because you are looking forward to the future.

"Julius Mays has worked his way up there to play. C.J. Williams has played well for us. He's done what we expected. He's solid. He's playing well for us. Johnny Thomas is healthy now and brings a totally different dimension to our team with his athleticism and aggressiveness. We aren't just looking to the future, but these guys, they deserve to play. It's about trying to win the games. They deserve to be in there. The games will dictate certain things. If it looks like it is too much for the younger guys, maybe the atmosphere, maybe the personnel we are playing, then we really don't want to have them in tough situations. There are times where you say, 'Get the experience, learn.' I'm not just looking to the future, but I am looking at those young guys, and the future looks good, along with some of the guys we have coming in."

How would you compare the Big East and ACC this year?

"Well, without me getting involved in something here, with you trying to get me involved, then I'll get a call from someone from the Big East. All I'm saying is we have a great conference. We are a great conference with multiple teams that are ranked high. We have no nights off in the ACC, not one. That's all I'm going to say about that."

How hard is it to play in the ACC?

"Obviously, I'm a little biased toward the ACC because I'm in it and we are competing. That's not to take anything away from other conferences, but we have some teams that probably should have made the tournament. But I'm not going to get involved with that, and the committee and all that. We have some very tough teams in our conference. We have some teams that can beat any teams in the country."

What are your thoughts on the three-point line and with it down some this year?

"I think when that question was asked at the beginning of the season, I said I thought it would be down. I thought it would have an effect because guys that were barely making them at the old distance would continue to try and shoot them now. It does have an effect on it, just moving it back one foot. That's a big difference. It's going to continue that way. Maybe guys will get used to it and continue to work during the summer and become better shooters. To good shooters, it doesn't matter. It's the ones that were average and still trying to shoot it. The problem is that they aren't just shooting it where the line is, but a good foot or two beyond that. It's even a little deeper and that is the difference. Instead of guys getting up to that line, some are back too far. I thought it would have an impact."

Your opponents haven't shot too well from three-point range. Anything you defensively for that or will that change in the ACC?

"I think our guys have done a good job of recognizing three-point shooters, scouting reports on certain players. We've played some teams that have come in here shooting the ball well. I thought the guys did a nice job of concentrating and staying on those three-point shooters and not allowing those open looks. Rivers and Oglesby, they can knock it down, and Trevor did a great job covering Oglesby and making it tough for him to get an even look at it. I think a lot of that is due to our defense, I really do. They were really committed to that, and knew that we had to do that in order to have a chance to win the game."

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