The Wolfpacker

November 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 37 of 131

NC State, and their relationship goes back nearly six years to playing together on the prep level with Worldwide Renegades and at individual camps. Howell and Leslie even played against N each other at historic Reynolds Coliseum in a memorable game where Howell's Mari- etta (Ga.) Wheeler High squad defeated Leslie and Raleigh Word of God in 2008. That was Howell's first time seeing what eventually became his future home. The high expectations for Leslie and, to a certain extent, Howell mirror those for the team this season. The 6-9, 200-pound Leslie enters his ju- nior year projected to be a first-round NBA Draft pick and a preseason candidate for ACC Player of the Year. The Holly Springs, N.C., product averaged 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last sea- son, and he shot a much improved 52.2 percent from the field to finish in the top 10 in the ACC in all four of those statistical categories. The 6-8, 257-pound Howell was fourth on the team with 10.8 points per game, and he finished third in the ACC and led the Wolfpack with 9.2 rebounds per contest. Simply put, the Wolfpack needs both to be on the court to achieve the team's dreams this season. "We do a good job of playing off each other," Leslie said. "Richard demands to get rebounds, and I get rebounds whenever I get them. This year, it will be us fighting over each other for rebounds." The quartet of Howell, Leslie, senior small forward Scott Wood and junior point guard Lorenzo Brown have been through the good times and bad together the last three years. Howell has big team goals for his final campaign. "When you work hard and really trying to do something, it definitely carries over, especially to the individual things," Howell said. "We all have one goal — to win the championship. We fell short last year, but have another chance this year. If everybody plays their role, we have nothing to worry about." Leslie can rack up statistics purely on ability and favorable matchups, but head coach Mark Gottfried believes his star for- ward started to mentally lock in during the ACC schedule, and more specifically, following the Wake Forest game Jan. 15. Leslie was benched at the start of the game against the Demon Deacons, but he wasn't needed in the 76-40 blowout win. 36 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BKB PREVIEW 12-13 BY JACEY ZEMBAL C State junior power forward Cal- vin "C.J." Leslie and senior center Richard Howell are embarking on their third year together at NC State had just suffered a stunning loss against Georgia Tech and didn't want any further disruptions the rest of the way. Les- lie finished with zero points and four re- bounds in 17 minutes against Wake Forest, but the message was received. Leslie finally broke through against North Carolina and twin towers Tyler Zeller and John Henson for 24 points and 12 rebounds in an 86-74 loss Feb. 21. The game started a string of five double-dou- bles in six games, with the lone miss due to being one rebound shy. Leslie went on to average 15.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in 16 ACC contests. percent this past year. Part of that was what shots are you taking. Can you make them at a better percentage? All in all, he has gotten better at all of that, and has worked hard at that." Howell and Leslie also face the chal- lenge of avoiding serious foul trouble this season. Leslie fouled out of four games, all losses, and had four fouls in eight other contests. Howell fouled out five times and finished with four fouls in 13 other games. NC State can't afford to have either of them sitting on the bench for long stretches this season. BIG IMPACT C.J. Leslie And Richard Howell Power The Pack Frontcourt "I think he is an extremely difficult player to guard at 15 feet or really 10 feet and in with his quickness," Gottfried said. "We saw that last year with a lot of bigger kids that tried to guard him. They had a hard time containing him. "Once he gains a lot of confidence to catch it at 15 feet at the elbow and go up and make a shot, and now you have to respect that 15-footer, it's going to make his ability to drive even more dangerous." Leslie carried the Wolfpack past Virginia in the ACC Tournament with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and then added 22 points and seven boards against the Tar Heels. He averaged 15.7 points and 5.7 re- bounds per game in the Pack's three-game run in the NCAA Tournament. "Where he has made great strides in my opinion are his practice habits," Gottfried said. "I thought, early last year, his practice habits were very poor. He didn't under- stand how to work hard in every drill. He has improved that way. He got better this summer. "When he finally last year fully under- stood that there were results when he was practicing hard, and it was carrying into games, that's when he took a step." Leslie is far from a polished product, which is what makes the ceiling of his potential so high this season. He has been working on his mid-range shooting, and will need to improve upon his 59.6-percent shooting at the free throw line. "I think part of the deal with Calvin is not just improving his shooting, but im- proving his shot selection," Gottfried said. "That's why he went from 43 percent to 54 about Howell's plight with the referees. "Hopefully as a senior, the improvement for him is to be learning exactly how to play intelligently without the unnecessary fouling," Gottfried said. "I think that hurt him last year a ton, which also hurt our team." "I want to see him stay on the floor lon- ger this year, period. Most of that is foul trouble. Most of that was not conditioning or stamina." Gottfried expects his post players to learn and adapt. He's encouraged that Howell continued to keep off the 20-plus pounds he lost following the 2010-11 sea- son. "He was the third-leading rebounder in the league last year, and I think he's go- ing to have a great year," Gottfried said. "I think he's physically in the best shape he's ever been in. I think mentally he's probably as good as he's ever been." The frontcourt tandem of Leslie and Howell will be backed up by reserves Thomas De Thaey, a sophomore power forward, and Jordan Vandenberg, a redshirt junior center. "The two givens [in the frontcourt] are Calvin and Richard," Gottfried said. "Those two guys have played, they un- derstand what we expect, understand our offense and understand what we are doing. "There are some real question marks. Jordan Vandenberg needs to take a major Last season, Howell was fourth on the team with 10.8 points per game, and he finished third in the ACC while leading the Wolfpack with 9.2 rebounds per contest. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN Gottfried seemed to be more concerned

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