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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: "Defensively, We Were Very Stingy"

January 23, 2023

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media for the ACC's weekly teleconference Monday morning.

NOTE: Click on the video in the player above to watch Keatts’ press conference.

On Terquavion Smith

We didn’t do much. He spent a lot of time with our trainer and medical staff yesterday. It was a tough 24 hours, seeing him lying on the floor like he was and him not being able to move as much as we would like him to. We got back late after the game. The next morning, we tried to get him in where we could get him some attention and figure out what was going on with him. We didn’t take the court yesterday. We did a lot of film stuff, so I haven’t been able to really get him out on the floor to be able to determine where he’s at. I just know he’s really, really sore right now. I would say that it’ll be a game-time decision, but it’s going to be tough. I don’t even know if he can shoot the basketball at this moment. He fell more on his right elbow which is his shooting hand. I’ll know a little bit more later on today, first thing tomorrow, and right up until game time.

On the emotions he’s experienced since Smith went down…

It’s tough. It’s the second time in my coaching career that I’ve been to the hospital after a game. The first time was with Jericole [Hellems] at Wake Forest when he took a pretty nasty fall. It’s so much emotion. My thoughts always go to the young man. “How can I be there for him as he’s going through this?” It was a tough moment as he was lying there on the floor. I just wanted to be there for him and let the medical people do their job. It was emotional, man. After the game, you lose a lot of focus. I had to do radio and then do media, but to be quite honest, I just wanted to get to him at the hospital just to see how he was doing. When I walked in, they were administering tests, but he wasn’t as down, so that made feel like he was handling it as best as he could. Obviously, at that point, we didn’t know what the results would be. We got the best-case scenario. This is one of your kids, and you don’t want a season-ending injury to happen to anybody. Just to know that, whenever he’s healthy, he’s going to get back on the floor whether it’s tomorrow, Saturday, or next week was really rewarding to me.

If it feels like he dodged a bullet…

I feel like we’re blessed because we’ve been on the other side of that so much with Devon Daniels, Dusan [Mahorcic], Manny Bates, and Ernest Ross. We’ve had so much of that, and to see him go down the way he did — he’s not the biggest guy in the world anyway. He jumped pretty high and hit the ground pretty hard. You just don’t know what could happen at that point.

On the play that resulted in Smith’s injury…

I thought it was a good basketball play. I didn’t think Leaky [Black] did anything intentional to try to harm him at all. I thought it was a really good basketball play. I thought he went for the ball, maybe even tipped the ball. It was just ugly because he came across, basically missed it, and hit [Smith] across the head, and obviously it was the way he fell.

On Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski…

He’s tough. If you look at what he just did [versus Boston College], I think he went 7-for-9 from three. He’s really tough. I think he’s one of the toughest matchups in our league because he has the ability to take you down low at his size at 6-11, and he stretches you out so much that he makes you play a little bit different because you have to respect him on the perimeter. They do a good job of running a continuity-motion offense where he’s in a lot of pick-and-pop situations. It’s a really tough situation and a tough matchup for us. I think it’s more tough for anybody in the league because anytime you’ve got a guy who can step out and shoot it that well really causes a lot of problems.

On the positives from the North Carolina game…

I thought we did a lot of good things. I thought throughout the entire game we did some good stuff. I thought, defensively, we were very stingy. If you take away the amount of free throws that they made versus we did, we made six more field goals; I think we made 26, and they made 20. We actually made one more three. When [Smith] went down, we were able to cut the lead to six. It kind of went from six to eight to 12 and back to 10. I thought Jarkel Joiner was very aggressive toward the end. We were able to throw the ball inside to D.J. Burns and be able to get some stuff. I know they scored 81 points, but from a field-goal percentage [standpoint], we played a really good defensive game.

On if Burns’ role will be increased with Smith’s status uncertain…

No, I would think that, if [Smith] isn’t able to go, we’ve got to find somebody else to step into that role. D.J.’s minutes probably won’t go up; he’s probably playing the right amount of minutes he can play now. I thought after the first two or three possessions at Carolina, once he settled in and didn’t settle for jump shots, he was really good. I thought he scored around the basket. He gave us a tremendous lift. We can throw the ball inside to him, and certainly he’s a great passer, but someone else would have to step up. Either one of the other forwards or someone like L.J. [Thomas] or Breon Pass would have to step in and play a few more minutes.

On his approach when recruiting through the transfer portal…

I don’t know if there’s a model. We all have transfers, and we just hope and pray that they fit our style and can come in and contribute. All transfers aren’t equal across the board. Sometimes, you get guys who just never really feel comfortable in the style or system they end up playing in. In our case, it was a little bit different, and I probably went a little bit different than everybody else. Because of our injuries, I went with two centers. Most people wouldn’t do that. Today, you typically have one center per team, but I ended up with D.J. and Dusan which I thought was very important because I was gun-shy because of what happened the previous year with Manny Bates. We needed to replace Jericole Hellems, and we got Jack Clark. Obviously, I didn’t have [Dereon] Seabron leaving who ended up playing a lot of point for us, [so] we needed a veteran guy [Joiner] who could come in and play. I think it’s more about fit. When you look around college basketball, not all transfers are playing great, but if you can get the ones that you feel like fit your system, it’s a little bit different now than going out to high school because now you get a chance to really look at your team and figure out what you need. That’s where the portal is really good at because you can be a little picky and say, “I need an older guy at this position to help increase our team or make our team better."

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