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More On Leslie's Return

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CJ Leslie has made his decision and will return to State. So, to borrow from Leo in Miller's Crossing: what's the rumpus?

Well, the rumpus is this: State would have had some serious issues without him. They may still have some even with him, but he was absolutely critical to their hopes. Now he has a chance to become one of the pivotal figures in State history, the local guy who helped bring the Pack back.

If that's how it turns out, that is. And it might not. DeShawn Painter didn't get nearly the attention that Leslie or Richard Howell got but when those guys got in foul trouble, as they frequently did, he was good enough to keep things stable in their absence.

He's gone now, off to hometown ODU, and he leaves a critical gap for State. Just consider:

  • Against Duke, with both fouled out, State crumbled down the stretch
  • Against FSU, Howell fouled out and Leslie finished with four.
  • Against UNC in the ACC Tournament, Leslie fouled out and Howell finished with four (they played just a combined 53 minutes).
  • Against Kansas, Leslie finished with four.

Painter was the only backup, and while he couldn't do everything by himself, generally speaking, he was more than up to the task.

So what now?

They're bringing in a terrific class - Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis and TJ Warren are all going to be really good.

We've heard good things about him and he's going to be a real asset, but we're not sure he can fill the void Painter left.

If not, who's next?

Well, that leaves Thomas de Thaey and Jordan Vandenberg.

We wouldn't rule out either one having a good year, but de Thaey didn't play much last year and Vandenberg missed all but seven games with a shoulder injury. Before that, though, he averaged just 2.0 ppg and 2.7 rpg.

Even with a serious flaw on the roster (and they may come up with another inside recruit), you have to keep in mind that either or both of State's inside forces may learn to curb their fouls.

And of course the freshmen change things a lot.

Though State returns four starters, Lewis may take over at point - we're expecting it - and State has options after that.

We could see them moving Scott Wood to a sixth man role and going with Lewis, Purvis and Lorenzo Brown in a three-guard lineup for instance.  Lewis could turn out to be the ideal driver for that race car.

Unless de Thaey or Vandenberg comes through, though, that's still a seven-man rotation, just like this past season. They'll be a lot more talented, but they'll be small, likely thin inside and the three freshmen will be critical.

So yes, they'll be a favorite in the ACC, but like any other favorite, they'll have things to overcome and flaws to address.

Still, it's pleasant to consider: the Pack is back.

We want the ACC to be great from top to bottom, but we really want State, Wake, Maryland and Georgia Tech to do well. It's good for everyone for State to be powerful.

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