- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A year ago, North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried - not to mention every opponent - knew where the ball was going when the Wolfpack needed a big basket.

Now, with T.J. Warren gone to the NBA, Gottfried said his team will have to be more balanced offensively to return to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

“I go down the line and I see a lot of guys that are really unproven players, and we need (them) to step forward,” Gottfried said Wednesday during the team’s preseason media day.

The 6-foot-8 Warren was the program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year since 2004, ranking third nationally in scoring (24.9 points) while shooting a league-best 52.5 percent and averaging a team-high 7.1 rebounds.

Warren accounted for 34 percent of the team’s scoring, 32 percent of its shot attempts and 30 percent of its free-throw attempts.

Now senior guard Ralston Turner is the leading returning scorer at 10.5 points per game. No other player averaged in double figures, though N.C. State returns more experience this time around and adds Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey in the backcourt.

“Some games, teams knew T.J. was going to take the shot, T.J. was going to get the ball,” Lacey said. “Now we’re going to be more balanced. We’ve got guys that know where they’re going to be at in this offense now with a year under their belt. And we’re going to share the ball. Everybody is going to be a guy to worry about on the floor, not just one guy.”

The biggest area for improvement could be in the frontcourt, where then-freshmen Kyle Washington, Lennard Freeman and BeeJay Anya focused on defense and rebounding more than offense in supporting roles.

Those returnees, along with 6-8 freshman Abdul-Malik Abu, will have to provide some reliable post scoring to complement Turner, Lacey and Anthony “Cat” Barber (8.5 points) on the perimeter.

The work reshaping the offense begins with Monday’s first practice.

“I’m not worried about our offense,” Washington said. “We’re going to be fine. Our system is great for everybody because it’s so versatile. You can do so many things, so that will be huge for us.”


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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