Name: Tracy Smith
For the Wolfpack, the center position is surly the most solidified position on the floor. Tracy Smith is coming into his junior year fresh off of a breakout season that saw him average 10 points and almost 5 rebounds per game as a sophomore. What is even more impressive is that he did all of that damage while only logging 18 minutes per contest. Smith is a scoring machine who isn't afraid to mix it up in the middle.
As a high schooler many projected Smith to be a top-25 recruit, however his weight ballooned during his sophomore year, and had him playing at an enormous 285lbs. As the weight increased, big time programs began to back off, questioning his motivation and work ethic. During the latter part of his junior year, Tracy decided that it was now or never if he wanted to fulfill his dream of playing college basketball. He cut out fried foods and soda and began to put in work in the weight room. The intense training and disciplined eating paid off as Smith came into his senior season down nearly 30 pounds. With a new found work ethic and increased production on the floor, college coaches once again came knocking. In the end the highly touted big man chose NC State.
In his first season, Smith showed glimpses of what he was capable of in his sparse minutes of playing time, scoring with ease whenever he got the ball in the paint. Last season, with star center JJ Hickson moving on to the NBA, Smith was the first big off the bench, playing behind upperclassmen Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner. Smith immediately made the most of his opportunity, shooting an impressive 54% from the field and pushing the Wolfpack's experienced frontcourt for minutes down the stretch.
This season the Wolfpack are without McCauley and Costner, and with Smith stepping in, there isn't any reason to expect a decline of production in the paint. An off-season of intense weight training and grueling conditioning, courtesy of new trainer Wright Wayne, has Tracy ready to become a bona-fide star in the ACC.
"Last year I would say it was tough with Charles but Wright Wayne, he really put it on us. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since I’ve been at NC State and I think it’s going to show in our stamina, the way we run the floor and everything." said Smith during media day
In the exhibition versus St. Paul's College, Tracy did not disappoint, shooting 9-11 and dropping 21 points in only 21 minutes. He showed off a few new tricks, as he took it to the opposing 'Bigs' with both power, advanced footwork and a quick baseline spin move he's been working on this off-season.
Tracy will be the #1 option in a Wolfpack offense that still has a lot of questions to be answered. Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe preaches running the offense from inside-out, but if Tracy continues to improve, there won't be much need for the 'out' part of that equation.
Name: Jordan Vandenberg
Surprise, surprise, Jordan Vandenberg isn't a project player after all. The unknown 7'0" Aussie inked with the Pack late in the recruiting process and had many State fans wondering if Lowe was playing the desperation card with the signing. It turns out he wasn't. Vandenberg is 7'0" tall and still extremely raw, but anyone who's watched him has seen that he's already capable of causing a lot of problems for ACC opponents. His tenacious style of play, and coordination on the floor has caught a lot of people off guard, including his teammates.
"Jordan surprised me when he got here. He's not your everyday 7 footer. He's a lot better than what I expected, because you know, a lot of times 7 footers that you haven't heard of usually don't have it all together. Jordan, he does." said Farnold Degand
The fans found one of their new favorites when Vandenberg stunned the crowd by winning the team dunk contest at the Red Rally two weeks ago, and again when he punished St. Paul's 'Bigs' during a stretch where he threw down a drop step dunk and followed it up with a ferocious block out of bounds on the other end.
The fiery big man will surely provide some much needed depth to the Pack front court this season and should definitely open a few eyes in the process. Although still very raw, his size and athleticism alone will keep teams honest in the paint and have opposing guards altering shots when they get in the lane. The future is very bright for the young freshman who still must learn to compete in the ACC, but he knows that if he keeps working he could be a very big piece to not only this years team, but the future of the program as well.
The center position is the easily the strongest part of this young Wolfpack team, thanks to Tracy Smith alone. The success of this team will depend heavily on whether he can shoulder the load the coaching staff will trust him with. His ability to score and rebound will need to be on display night in and night out if the Pack wants to be a dark horse in the ACC race. With the capable Vandenberg also in the mix, the center position seems to be sizing up nicely for Sidney Lowe and the Wolfpack.