The Wolfpacker

March-April 2020 issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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MARCH 2020 ■ 39 Funderburk and Bates together, and Funder- burk has started 12 games as a result. The key for Funderburk and the Wolf- pack is to avoid being inconsistent. He put together one of his best stretches from the Auburn game Dec. 19 until the Wolfpack victory at Virginia Jan. 20. He averaged 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds during that nine- game stretch. Funderburk was starting to round into quality playing shape, and even logged 37 minutes twice in January. He had been sus- pended in the preseason from practicing and for the first two games of the season. "I learned to not make dumb decisions," Funderburk said. "I'm young and everybody makes mistakes. I've learned from it and have grown from it. I'm ready to move for- ward." Keatts credited the recent surge to being in better shape and taking better shots. "He was suspended for a good portion of the summer," Keatts said. "He didn't play the first conference game. I think he's starting to understand his role. "His motor is what has really helped him get through. He plays hard and keeps plays alive." Funderburk's numbers haven't been quite the same in recent weeks, but he exploded for 21 points and nine rebounds in the huge 88- 66 win over then No. 6-ranked Duke Feb. 19. Leading up to that monumental upset, NC State had gone 2-4 from Jan. 25 to Feb. 16. Funderburk fell off to 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest, and even got hit in the head by teammate Bates against Miami Feb. 5, limiting him to 14 minutes played against the Hurricanes. The Wolfpack will need Funderburk to show off his "Duke form" down the stretch to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid. "As far as the ACC, every team is great," Funderburk said. "Every team we are going to play, it's going to be a dog fight to the end. We just have to lock in and focus on ourselves. "I think about the postseason sometimes, but for the most part, I just think about the next game." Funderburk ended up at NC State due in part to his prep coach at Hargrave Military Academy, but the path wasn't easy. Funder- burk was widely hailed as a top-50 prospect at Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward High, which has been a regular pipeline of college basket- ball stars — Steve Logan (Cincinnati), Sam Clancy (Pittsburgh), Jawad Williams (North Carolina) and Delvon Roe (Michigan State) among them. After three years at St. Edward, he made the move to Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Mili- tary Academy, where he was coached by A.W. Hamilton, who later became an as- sistant coach at NC State. ranked Funderburk the No. 77 overall player in the class of 2016. Before Hamilton brought Funderburk to Raleigh, he redshirted his freshman year at Ohio State, but ran into problems off the court and was suspended. He departed the program and attended Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Fla. He blossomed under head coach Steve DeMeo, who later left to become an assistant coach at St. John's this season. Funderburk rewarded Keatts' faith in him with a solid first season in Raleigh, during which he averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. He reached double figures in 15 contests, in- cluding scoring 18 points and grabbing nine boards at Florida State. The big adjustment for him was the officials — he fouled out of six games — and he missed out on being reunited with Hamilton, who became the head coach at Eastern Kentucky before the 2018-19 season. Funderburk did have two familiar faces at NC State between Johnson and junior combo guard Braxton Beverly. The latter played with Funderburk at Hargrave Military Acad- emy, and the two were also together for sum- mer school at Ohio State and then the last year and a half at NC State. "D.J. is my guy and we go back four years now," Beverly said. "At Hargrave, we pressed too. He was such an athlete and on top of the press. He was up there trapping guards with me. He has a great offensive game." ■ " He understands where we need him best at. The scoring side, to play great defense and rebound the basketball, and to make some shots around the rim. He's starting to do those things. We are seeing a guy maturing right in front of us. " Head coach Kevin Keatts on Funderburk

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