Name: CJ Williams
Most tend to forget how good CJ Williams really is. He was an early commit to NC State during his junior season at Jack Britt High School in North Carolina. Williams hadn't had many offers at the time, but Roy Williams and UNC were regularly communicating with him and keeping tabs on the four star combo. The Heels backed off after CJ announced his college plans and the rest is history.
A back injury prior to his senior season at Jack Britt dropped Williams off of the radar for most scouting outlets, as his numbers dipped considerably in his senior campaign. He explained to us about this injury earlier this off-season.
"Well actually at first it was misdiagnosed. They first thought it was a pulled hamstring and they treated it for that. It didn’t get better, so then I went to get another opinion and they said it was a pinched nerve, and that wasn’t it either. Finally, I found a doctor that knew what it was. It’s actually called the sacroiliac joint, the SI joint. It’s a joint in your back that when you jump, it bears all your weight. That joint was actually out of place and they say if that joint is only 1/16th of an inch off, you’ll be on a pain scale of a 9. In my case the bones were actually stacked on top of each other. The pain would shoot from my buttocks all the way to my knee so I had to get surgery." Said Williams
Finally healthy, CJ came to NC State with the intentions of re-establishing himself as an elite do-it-all guard. He was arguably the top freshman last season (along with Julius Mays), logging over 14 minutes per game and chipping in almost 4 points per game. Williams is a tall guard who will interchange at the three spot for the Pack when necessary. He's a heady player that understands the game and plays within himself when he's on the floor. His .06 turnovers per game was a team low for players averaging more than 12 minutes of floor time.
Last season, Williams at times seemed timid and reluctant to force the issue, a certain symptom of being a freshman in the ACC. This season things will change, according to CJ.
"Last year I settled for a lot of jump shots and that's not really my game. In high school I liked to attack the basket and get in the lane for a pull-up." Williams told us.
Although attacking the basket in high school is a lot different than attacking the basket in the ACC, Williams has made the proper adjustments over his months off the court.
"I spent a lot of time in the gym this summer, getting stronger. I know I'm going to have to play more aggressive this year on offense so I worked on my ball handling which will help me with that." he told us.
With the loss of Courtney Fells, Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner, NC State will need someone to step up the scoring from the guard position and the staff is looking to Williams to provide that boost. This off-season Williams played in the Durham Pro-Am league, a highly competitive league that consists of former college players and current NBA stars. Williams, one of the younger players on the court each night, held his own and then some. Those in attendance could noticeably tell the work that CJ had put in. Improved strength, better ball handling and a dead eye jumper helped him become one of the leading scorers on his team, even pouring in 32 points in one contest. The experience of playing in the Pro-Am has given him a renewed confidence, something Sidney Lowe and the NC State coaches are hoping is carried over into the season.
Williams will certainly be a key piece for the Wolfpack, someone who will be looked to for leadership on and off the court. With no true scoring threat from the guard position, CJ will need to be aggressive and embrace the scoring role if the Pack wants to have success. If this summer was any indication, we don't think it will be much of a problem.
Name: Farnold Degand
The roller coaster ride that has been Degand's career at NC State is in it's final run, and Farnold is hoping it will be a good one. A transfer from Iowa State, Degand has been either redshirted or injured (for at least a part of) the past three seasons. This year he finally can claim that he is 100% healthy and ready to go. Two years ago, the Pack thought they had found the answer to the point guard woes that had plagued them since Engin Atsur left the team three years ago. Unfortunately, Degand's knee didn't cooperate and he was forced to miss the greater part of the last two years. With the knee problems behind him, he has readied himself for one last push.
Thought of mostly as a point guard over his years in college, Sidney Lowe has optioned to move Farnold to the two guard in hopes to alleviate ball pressure, give the Pack better ball handling on the perimeter, and put more speed on the floor to push the break. The move to shooting guard should take some pressure off Degand, who has had trouble handling the ball in the past. Last season he was third in turnovers per game at 2.2, a high total considering he only averaged 18 minutes per contest.
The question with Degand is whether he will be looked to for scoring and if so, is he capable. No guard on this year's NC State roster averaged over 7 points last season, meaning someone will have to take on that challenge. It's yet to be seen whether Degand has what it takes, but he's shown glimpses in the past of being able to get to the rim with his quick first step and had people taking note when he drilled 50% of his threes over the first 10 games prior to his injury.
Defensively Farnold has the ability to become a lockdown defender, but last season a sore knee hindered his lateral movement, making him an easy target for quicker guards. This year with the knee 100%, all Degand will have to focus on is playing smart, as his athleticism and quickness should take care of the rest.
"I've definitely improved my focus. This year I've made sure to correct things that have been wrong in the past. I haven't necessarily had the best success doing it the old way, so I figured I should go about it a little different this year and I've decided to take that route." Degand said during media day.
It will surely be interesting to see how the move to the two guard effects Farnold. If he is able to chip in on the scoring and alleviate the point guard's pressure, then Lowe will look like a genius and the Pack will be one of the faster ACC teams from end to end. If Degand falters and is lost at the off-guard spot, then I'd be curious to see if he moves back into the point guard rotation with CJ taking over primarily at the two.
There are a lot of questions at shooting guard for the Pack, simply because there are a lot of unknowns. Will CJ mature into a constant scoring threat for the Pack? Will Farnold Degand adapt to the two spot and allow the offense to really push the ball down the court form either backcourt position?
This position certainly has the most flexibility, as you may at times see Julius Mays or Scott Wood slotted in here if the situation presents itself. The staff certainly hopes, however, that CJ or Farnold will step up and grab the reigns. The best case scenario would be the Pack finding a legitimate scoring threat from the two spot, as well as a consistent ball handler that will help cut down on backcourt turnovers that plagued them a season ago.