NC State searches for consistent inside scorer, has four options on team

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Rob Kinnan | USA TODAY Sports Images
Gottfried has the Wolfpack out to a 7-1 start.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried would love for one of his young big men to quickly develop into a reliable inside scoring threat.

So far, at least, that group has shown flashes of good moments instead of consistently strong offensive play.

“We talked about it early in the year — we have a lot of guys that averaged 4 points per game that somehow need to get to 10 points a game,” Gottfried said Thursday. “Can they do that? That’s kind of the question for us.”

A month into the season, the offense relies heavily on guards Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Anthony “Cat” Barber to carry the scoring load for the Wolfpack (7-1).

Big men Kyle Washington, BeeJay Anya and Lennard Freeman have managed modest improvements to last year’s scoring numbers, and freshman Abdul-Malik Abu is still adjusting to the college level. They’ve all played largely complementary roles, though Gottfried is pushing his team to find more balance heading into Friday’s game against Charleston Southern at Reynolds Coliseum — the Wolfpack’s former longtime campus home.

“I think they’ve been good, but need to be a lot better,” he said. “And that’s really all of them.”

The 6-foot-9 Washington is the most skilled offensive player so far and is averaging 8 points per game with his ability to lure defenders outside the paint and knock down a jumper. The 6-foot-9 Anya is averaging 5 points, while Freeman (6-foot-8) is averaging 4.6 points but shooting just 38 percent as the team’s top rebounder.

Throw in Abu, and the four have combined for two double-figure scoring performances this season.

Washington attributes some of that to a team still working to mesh together.

“I think we all have so much confidence in ourselves,” Washington said. “We’ve only played eight games so far, it’s just a start. Sometimes we watch film and it’s, ‘OK, Cat or Ralston could’ve hit us there for an easy bucket.’ We have to see each other more often. And that’s the same when we kick it out to the guards, so it’s communication on both ends — just figuring it out.”

NC State won an early Atlantic Coast Conference opener last weekend against Wake Forest, and still has nonconference games against Tennessee, West Virginia and Cincinnati before returning to league play against Pittsburgh on Jan. 3.

“We just have to keep coaching them really well, we’ve got to put them in the right positions on the floor where they’ve got good opportunities,” Gottfried said. “But I think as they develop and get going a little more offensively, that will make our team a lot better.”

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