by Neil Morris
Sandwiched between the Carrier Classic and Mike Krzyzewski’s pursuit of the all-time coaching wins record, the limelight-starved Wolfpack resorted to that tried and truest of media magnets: an old-fashioned NCAA violations sanction.
Minutes prior to N.C. State’s season opener versus UNC-Asheville, the university issued a press release announcing that C.J. Leslie would be suspended for three games due to impermissible benefits totaling $410 Leslie and a relative received earlier this year. According to the statement, Leslie borrowed a car from a friend and former N.C. State student following an auto accident in May 2011. Further, the same former student paid apartment application fees for Leslie’s half-brother.
In his post-game press conference, Gottfried said he personally became aware of the situation over the “last couple of days.” With N.C. State starting the season with three games over six days, Leslie will be eligible to return to action on Nov. 19 for the Wolfpack’s contest against Vanderbilt. See N.C. State’s full press release below.
For good measure, the school also revealed that the NCAA is reviewing the eligibility of Belgian newcomer Thomas de Thaey, and there is no firm deadline for when the freshman forward will be available.
Against that less-than-ideal backdrop, N.C. State had a game to play against a team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season. The considerable piece of good news is that the Wolfpack jumped out to a 10-point lead six minutes in and never looked back, defeating the Bulldogs 84-75 before a crowd of 12,441 in the RBC Center.
The main attraction of the evening was the unveiling of Gottfried’s sparkling new uptempo offense, which the Wolfpack used to outscore UNC Asheville 23-7 in fast break points for the game. Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter each posted double-doubles. And although point guard Lorenzo Brown only shot 4-12 from the field, he dished out a game-high nine assists and snared eight steals, all in the first half.
“I really had to focus on my defense the last couple of days because Coach said I wasn’t sitting down enough and guys were going right by me,” said Brown. “So, I tried to focus more on my defense than my offense.”
After taking a 17-point lead into halftime, the Wolfpack watched Asheville trim their deficit to seven within the opening five minutes of the second half following a three-pointer by Quinard Jackson. Buoyed by 10 of his game-high 18 points, C.J. Williams would help push N.C. State’s lead back to as many as 15 points before settling for the nine-point victory.
“I like the win for a lot of reasons,” Gottfried said. “[UNC Asheville] is a very well-coached, scrappy team that has senior guards who have won a lot of games. We knew they weren’t going to go away, they weren’t going to quit and lay down. We were going to have to play for 40 minutes.”
The game was full of positives for the faster and more athletic Wolfpack, who out-rebounded the Bulldogs 50-36. Still, N.C. State also showed signs of early season rust and coping with their new faster-paced scheme. State coughed up 21 turnovers, and their 44 percent field goal percentage only appeared good in comparison to UNC Asheville’s woeful 23-for-66 (35 percent) shooting.
Gottfried likes the mix of his player personnel, but admits “we have to learn how to run...We still turn the ball over too many times. We’re trying to play a little faster than these returning players have played before, so there’s going to be an adjustment for them.”
N.C. State’s next two games are also both home matches against NCAA Tournament participants from last season. The Leslie-less Wolfpack return to action this Sunday against Morehead State before taking on Princeton next Wednesday, Nov. 16.
In the meantime, Gottfried expressed glee at returning to the coaching sideline for the first time in two years, getting fired up enough at one point in the second half over a referee’s call to yank off his jacket and slam it to the hardwood.
“I was anxious all day, for me and our team,” admitted Gottfried. “So, it was fun. I’ve always felt it’s where I belong. I love television, but I like being on this side of the court better than that side.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOV. 11, 2011
Leslie To Sit Out Three Games
RALEIGH, N.C. - Forward C.J. Leslie will sit out the next three games after it was determined that he and a relative had received impermissible benefits totaling $410.
NC State reported the violations to the NCAA. The university and the NCAA conducted a joint inquiry to determine the facts.
Following an auto accident in May 2011, Leslie borrowed a car from a friend and former NC State student. He used the car for about a week. In addition, the facts indicate that the same former student paid apartment application fees for Leslie’s half-brother.
Leslie also will make charitable contributions of $410. The contributions represent the value of the car had it been rented ($150) and the application fees ($260).
Leslie was declared ineligible by the university and a reinstatement was requested through the NCAA, which granted the request on Tuesday provided Leslie sits out three games and makes the foregoing charitable contributions. He will return to competition on Nov. 19 for the game against Vanderbilt.
“I understand the issue and regret what has occurred,” Leslie said. “I will support my teammates in every way possible and look forward to getting back on the court.”
The former student also admitted providing $1,349 in impermissible benefits to a former student athlete, which remains the subject of further review and handling through standard NCAA processes. Consequently, NC State will not comment further until the review is completed to the satisfaction of the university and the NCAA.