Name: Dennis Horner
Dennis Horner won't quit on you. Sidney Lowe found this out first hand when he was hired at NC State. Previous coach Herb Sendek had a top notch recruiting class coming in, including highly touted prospects Dan Werner, Larry Davis and Dennis Horner. Upon learning of Sendek's departure Werner and Davis reneged on their commitments, leaving Horner as the lone freshman in Lowe's first season. Lowe knew he needed Horner. With the loss of Andrew Brackman and Ced Simmons to professional baseball and basketball (respectively), he had no one to turn to but the loyal, true to his word, Dennis Horner.
Three years later Dennis is a senior and has been a solid contributor every step of the way. With the Pack now quicker on the wing, Lowe and the staff decided to make a decision to move him from the wing to the post, where he could exploit bigger, slower defenders with his ability to shoot the ball from deep or attack off the dribble. Horner accepted the role and has added close to 15 pounds of muscle this offseason (now up almost 40lbs since his freshman season), enabling him to match the physicality of opposing ACC four men.
The Wolfpack is young this season, and with the loss of their top three scorers, they will look to Dennis to shoulder a little more of the scoring load than he did a season ago. Last year, Horner averaged 6.4 points and almost 3 rebounds in about 18 minutes of court time per game. This season he should see a generous increase in minutes being the only senior amongst this years front court.
There aren't many questions surrounding the 6'9 forward. He has been a consistent contributor throughout his career and you can always count on getting 100% out of him when he steps foot on the floor. The test for Horner will be to see if he is ready and willing to step up and lead this young NC State team. He knows the ropes, he knows what to expect, but will he be able to deliver in his senior season? The answer to that question could mean a lot in how the season turns out for the Pack.
Name: DeShawn Painter
It's easy to forget about Painter. He was the last freshman to sign and came without the fanfare of some of the other recruits, however, Painter may very well be the most important one of them all.
Early in his prep career, DeShawn was one of the most highly touted players in his class. His versatility, aggressiveness and athleticism had big name programs and scouts drooling over the high ceiling that he possessed, but things changed when he was injured the summer before his senior season. A small back injury nagged Painter and put a hold on the growing hype surrounding him. A few poor AAU performances against some big time big men and the bloom was suddenly off the rose. Many schools backed off and decided to take other directions, but not NC State. Lowe continued to pursue the talented PF, understanding that when back to full health, Painter had the ability to be a dominant force in the ACC.
Before the Pack could make a final push, DeShawn signed with Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators. A little bit later, Painter had second thoughts about his commitment to Florida, and re-opened his recruitment. Soon after, Painter inked with the Wolfpack.
Painter is a high energy, highly skilled athlete who excels on the wing and facing up his defender. He is a very strong rebounder and loves to mix it up on the boards, much like his idol, Kevin Garnett.
"I’m tall and long and I can do a lot of what KG does. I mean, I know I’m not as good as him or as strong yet, but that’s the player I pattern my game after. I always say I want to be better than KG, but of course I have a lot of work to do. I just want to play the game as hard as I can and get better. Even Coach Lowe told me he saw a lot of Garnett tendencies in my game. I guess you can say I like to shoot it and I can shoot it. I like to face up and attack the basket too. I’m not too much of a back to the basket guy but,I know if I get stronger I can be." Painter said.
The Wolfpack would certainly love to see those Garnett tendencies on the court come game time and will be counting on DeShawn for some major minutes backing up Dennis Horner. Early practices have seen Painter become a big surprise for the NC State staff. His versatility is a lot better than what most had reported, so good even that they have flirted with the idea of working Painter out on the wing some this season. For now Painter will be called on to provide energy and an aggressive body on the block to help with rebounding.
The knock on Painter is his thin frame. He will need to prove that at 6'9, 213lbs, he can bang with the big boys of the ACC. If he can prove to be effective at the four, Painter will be a gigantic boost for the Pack who will need all the help on the boards that they can get. It may be a season or two before we really see how great DeShawn Painter can be, but a speed boost in that learning curve would help tremendously.
Name: Richard Howell
With the Pack's starting front court gone, they will need every big body they can find to provide help on the blocks. That's where Richard Howell comes in. Howell, a freshman from Atlanta, is a big bodied, highly skilled power forward who can score effectively from the blocks or the wing. He has a soft jump shot and already possess the size to mix it up in the middle.
This pre-season Howell has fallen victim to a few minor injuries, but hopes to be ready when the season rolls around. Sir Rich is a not only a gifted athlete, but also possesses a high basketball IQ and a solid work ethic. Howell is known for being a unselfish player that goes hard all the time. While he isn't much of a high flyer, he makes up for it in his strength and body control. In the paint Howell can break you down with an array of post moves, or he can step out and keep you honest with his improving midrange game.
There is no question that Howell is a fighter and will do what has to be done to win basketball games. He is relentless on the glass and isn't afraid to throw around his 265 pound frame. The question with Howell is about his health. If he can overcome these early season bumps and bruises, he should be a sure bet to contribute at the four spot for Sidney Lowe. As with any freshman there will surely be a period of adaptation, but sporting an ACC ready body, it will be mostly a mental thing for Richard.
With the experience and outside shooting of Horner, the sheer athleticism of Painter, and the size and tenacity of Richard Howell, Sidney Lowe has a nice array of tools to work with at PF. All three of the options will still need to prove that they can handle some of the scoring load and shut down opposing bigs, but there is no question that they will give it every once of effort they can muster. Horner, Howell, and Painter all go hard to the boards and never back down. This is a position that the staff will look to for consistency and hustle, and most likely they will get it. As with the SF position, PF is a deep position that has a lot of versatility and will more than likely take a few games for the staff to get a real feel for what the younger guys can do.
The importance of this position is a lot greater than many realize. Tracy Smith is a great rebounder, but as you saw last season, he will need some help. These three options will be key in controlling the glass, an extremely important factor for a team looking to get out on the break. In a round-about way, I guess you could say that a lot of the Pack's visions of running a fast pace offense will rest on the rebounding efficiency of these three players.