Keatts Discusses Bahamas Trip, Upcoming Season, and More

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media Friday afternoon ahead of the Wolfpack’s first practice heading into the 2022-23 season.

Note: Click the video in the player above to watch Keatts’ press conference. Transcription of Keatts’ comments is in progress.


On the preseason trip to the Bahamas…

We have so many different new players and new assistant coaches. It was a really, really rewarding trip for us for a lot of different reasons. I know a lot of the times, when you take a trip, people concentrate a lot on the basketball part of it, but for us, it was really about each other. My coaches get the chance to see me, and I’m taking feedback from those guys as we go through the games, and our guys learn from each other. When you look at who we have, we have so many guys that transferred in. The three guys who played the most last year were Terquavion [Smith], Casey [Morsell]and Ebe [Dowuona]. Everybody else, even the ones who are returning, are new. Having the chance to find out a little bit more about each other and understanding how we want to play, it was good for us because we were able to get 10 practices in, and I think that was important, especially with a new team. I vote to take these trips every year. If anybody else is part of the NCAA, that’ll be a good thing, especially with the way transfers go now. You don’t know what your roster is going to look like from year to year. I think it was good for us to get a little advantage in learning each other.

On Jack Clark‘s role…

Jack did a great job in the Bahamas. It’s the new breed of forward. Jack will play some small forward for us, but I guess you could say ‘small ball,’ but he’s not really small because he’s six-eight. We will play him some at power forward. I like him as a Torin Dorn type of guy but a little bit better shooter. Torin Dorn was really special for us my first year because he could drive it, he could shoot it, and he could guard multiple positions. We’ll use Jack in that way.

On Smith becoming a leader…

He’s done a good job. He always brings the most energy to our team, and he’s still that way. That’s what I love about him. One of the reasons he wanted to come back to school — obviously, he wanted to play his way to a higher pick next year — but he loves school. He loves his teammates. He loves it. If you’ve ever seen him at the football games, he’s jumping up and down. He loves tailgating. He loves everything about NC State. His leadership is because he cares about everybody that’s around him. He’s done a great job of embracing that. He’s done a great job as the guy who’s the leading scorer returning, embracing the new guys that are coming in as well.

On other players also leading the team…

If you made me pick a guy who’s going to be a leader this year, I’d say it’s probably going to be Jarkel Joiner. I think Terquavion will lead in several different ways as he plays, and he’ll certainly have a voice, but if you made me pick a guy right now, I’d say it’d probably be Jarkel. He’s older. He’s the point guard on the team. He’s been through it a little bit, and I think he’s stepped up so far. It’s hard for transfers to come into any program because they’re still trying to figure their way out and if they can or can’t say this or that. He’s one of those guys who’s found his niche, and people listen to him.

On the chemistry between Smith and Joiner…

It’s good. I haven’t played them together a lot because they’re both so competitive, so I kind of want them on the other team so they both can lift the other team up. The times they’ve played together in the Bahamas when they were on the floor together, they seemed to work well. We’ve got enough shots in this program to go around, so I don’t think there’s ever going to be an issue.

On if Keatts sees Morsell and Breon Pass playing different roles and different positions…

Yeah, you’ll see Casey Morsell play some shooting guard and small forward. I think you’ll see Breon as a point at times and off the ball at times. I look at Casey as a guy who could possibly be one of the top defenders in our league. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s also shooting the ball very well. We saw a little bit of what Breon Pass could do last year, and I think you’ll see more of him because he’ll have opportunities. You’ll see, at times, with Terquavion and times with Jarkel on the floor, even with Casey.

On how tough the 2021-22 season was for Keatts…

You know I’m a competitor. I think every coach in the country pours his energy, time, and effort into the job that they do. You certainly want to be rewarded at the end. For me, it was tough. I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you it was one of the toughest seasons, if not the toughest season, that I’ve ever been through in basketball. It was a very humbling season for me. As a head coach here at NC State, no matter what the situation was, I take full responsibility of the season that we had, and it’s my job to go out and correct it. I think we’ve done some great things and identified some of the issues that we had last year, and we’ve done it through recruiting and bringing the right guys in.

On if the changes for the upcoming season energizes him…

I’m energized all the time. I’m just as excited about this year as I was going into last year, and I don’t need a losing season to get me that way, but it certainly helps. I wouldn’t lie about that part of it. I’m as focused [as ever]. My attitude’s been great. I’m pushing. I’ve got great people around me that I listen to, that are helping. A lot of times, when you go through a season like that, you want to turn your back and look at just you. I try to surround myself with some players and coaches that want to help us get back on the right track, and I think that’s important.

On how the new assistant coaches are doing…

They’re doing great. All three of those guys are fabulous. I wanted to go out and get three guys with tremendous energy and also guys that I felt wouldn’t be here long. I know people don’t want to hear that, but in order to get a great staff, you want guys who can be head coaches. When you look at when I first started, I had AW Hamilton and Takayo Siddle, and both of those guys are really doing good jobs as Division I head coaches. I love our staff. I love our chemistry. They’re working well together. They’re bringing tremendous ideas to the table. That’s nothing against our old staff. I thought our old staff did some really good things too, but it’s good to have some different ideas as we go through this process.

On if it feels like a fresh start with the NCAA investigation concluded…

That’s a great question. This is the first year that we’re going into a year without having that over our head. I know it’s weird because a lot of people look at it that we didn’t get hit with postseason play; they kind of figured that it didn’t matter to us or it didn’t hurt our program. For five years, it’s been a really tough struggle. I feel for those who are still going through it. We’re blessed that we’ve moved past it other than the last thing we have which is a scholarship reduction. It’s good not to have [the investigation]. That bothered us. That hurt us through recruiting over the years, and a lot of it was negative recruiting. Now, people don’t have that, and we can certainly move on without that hanging over our head. It was a big cloud.

On Greg Gantt and Ernest Rosshealth status…

Both are full-fledged going. Both are full-fledged practicing. Both are healthy right now. Both guys are doing great. I wouldn’t say that they’re in great shape right now, but both guys have been in practice full-time, and both are doing good jobs.

On if the questions regarding the frontcourt have been answered…

We went out and got veteran guys. If you look at the stats, DJ Burns‘stats are incredible for 20 minutes of play, to average 15 points a game and to be Player of the Year in the Big South. Dusan Mahorcic has been around for a long time, and he’s done a great job at every stop, and he’s a really good basketball player. Let’s not forget the experience Ebe Dowuona was able to get last year by playing and being thrown into the fire. Both he and Jaylon Gibson were guys who I didn’t think were going to be able to touch the floor until their junior year, and then all of a sudden they had to play. You add Ernest and Greg, and there were a lot of pieces that we didn’t have. I like the fact that we have great competition. My teams have always done well when we have 10, 11, or 12 guys, the practices are so good, and they’re so competitive where the games become a little bit easier.

On his goal for Burns’ playing time this season…

I told him, if he gets in great shape, he’ll play 40 minutes a game. He should be excited about that. No, he’s working extremely hard. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but he may have been the most efficient post player, maybe even [overall] player, in college basketball last year. He’s working hard to get in great shape, and great shape is different for everybody. It comes down to what’s great shape for him, and he’s certainly effective. One of the things that I’ve learned over the last month or so is that he’s a very underrated passer, too. He’s a willing passer. He can score the ball, but he’s willing to make the right play.

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