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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: "I'm Proud Of Our Young Dudes"

February 17, 2021

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media via Zoom following the Wolfpack’s 74-73 road win over Pitt Wednesday evening.

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

Opening Statement

“Give my guys a lot of credit. I don’t have a stat sheet with me, but I will tell you this: I’m proud of our young dudes. I thought they grew up today. They obviously didn’t play a perfect game, but when you look at Cam [Hayes’] assists and Shak [Moore’s] assists, and by the way Manny [Bates] had a career high in assists with three, I thought we got some stops when we needed to. I thought we did a great job executing when we needed to. We played a little zone today. It was good for us because we just put it in yesterday. I give those guys a little credit for fighting through it. I’m proud of these guys. This is our second road win in a row, and I think this is a game that we can continue to build on. We fought until the end. We had some adversity, and we overcame it.”

Coming into the game, did you stress trying to play defense without fouling against Pitt?

“We did. Pitt’s a good basketball team that has a lot emotional guys on their team, meaning that they play with emotion. We knew [Xavier] Johnson would be physical. We knew [Justin] Champagnie would make some physical plays. I kind of wanted our guys to stay out of that as much as we could. I think we did up until Jericole [Hellems] slapped the ball out of his hands. I thought every technical was earned on both ends, so I have no complaint about that part of it. It was going to be a toughness game. It was a game of who wanted it the most, not that those guys didn’t want it. Both teams had come off of losing two in a row. We needed a good win to make us feel better and obviously get a road win. I’m excited that we finished the game the way we did.”

There was less switching on screens and more hedging. Was that an adjustment you made?

“It was an adjustment for this game. The reason being was that we didn’t want guys like Cam Hayes and Shakeel and Braxton [Beverly] get caught up on those six-four, six-five guards. They tend to post those guys and run some isolation plays for them, so we kind of stayed on those guys. That’s similar to the way we played against Carolina because those guys are so big.”

Do you feel like this was the best ball movement you’ve seen collectively from this group?

“No, I’m not going to say it’s necessarily the best ball movement. I think we’ve certainly had games where we moved the ball pretty well. It may be the best results that we’ve gotten, meaning guys making shots off those passes. We talked about this. We talked about winning the turnover battle. I went into this game saying, ‘Give me 12 or less,’ and I think we turned it over 14 times, but we had 19 assists. We cleaned up a couple of things, and I thought we got better. Our ball movement has been pretty good the last couple of times. We just hadn’t scored off of it.”

The freshmen guards collectively all played well today. Do you think this was Hayes’, Moore’s, and Dereon Seabron’s best complete performance this season?

“Together, I think it is. We have fought so much adversity in just the last couple days with Thomas Allen not being able to play, Braxton Beverly hasn’t practiced since you’ve seen him play his last game, and unfortunately I want you to keep Seabron in your prayers. Unfortunately, we got some bad news that he had a very, very close family member that passed away sometime this morning, so he was playing with a heavy heart. It’s hard because these kids are like my own children, and when you see the emotion with what’s going on with them, it’s gut-wrenching to me to see what they’ve had to go through this entire year. We’ve had so many ups and downs, and we just fight through it, and we’re going to continue to fight through it. To go back to the original question, those guys stepped up in a big way for us.”

What did you see on that last sequence? How pleased were you with the defense?

“I thought our defense was well. I’m glad he didn’t make the basket. I thought he hit us as he drove. I want to go back and look at the Cam Hayes play when he was called for traveling. From where I was standing, I thought he got shoved into a travel, but maybe he didn’t. I thought we locked in. We had nine seconds; we knew we had to get a stop, and we came up with a stop and a rebound. Actually, we had a rebound, then we lost it, and the guy got his shot off.”

How big was Beverly’s performance today for the team?

“He was a savvy veteran that came in and did what he needed to do. He made some shots. He had a couple of drives to the basket. He hit a big three. He’s going to be one of those guys who never practices again for us because it comes down to whether we want him in practice or want him in games. A kid as smart as him that’s played in the system for four years, he can certainly be a guy that can do it. The only problem with it is that his rhythm is off sometimes. We try to get him some shots up. We got him some shots up in the arena this morning during shoot around. I knew he was ready to play. From the veteran standpoint, Jericole has been very solid for us. When you look at his numbers, he had 17 points, but I thought D.J Funderburk completely carried us in the first half. He got offensive rebound after offensive rebound. Those two guys played well, and this was the first time since Devon Daniels got injured that I’ve had two guards that have had double-figure scoring when you look at Cam’s 11 points. and Braxton’s 12. We’re going to build on it. We’re not just satisfied with getting this win here. We want to build on it, and I want these guys to continue to grow up. Those three young freshmen are going to be good players, but they’re learning on the job. Today, they answered a lot of questions for me, and they’re going to continue to get better."

Can you provide an update on Allen?

“It’s on the same foot/ankle as his previous injury. His x-rays came back negative. It’s a sprain. I’m from the old school, so don’t ask me if it’s a high or low ankle sprain. We just used to sprain our ankles. It’s fine. He’s going to need a lot of treatment. I couldn’t tell you when he’s going to be able to play again.”

With the team’s response to Pitt retaking the lead with under two minutes to go, is that a sign of growth for this team considering the second-half woes this season?

“I think any positive sign that you see of this team is a sign of growth, and I mean that in a very positive way. We’re getting some guys who are completely learning on the job. They’re getting better, and I’m tough on them. I’m not going to give them a pass because they’re freshmen. I’m coaching as though they were upperclassmen and trying to teach them. I want them to limit their mistakes. I do think our guys took a big step forward. As I told you before, we didn’t do everything right. There are a bunch of plays I can look back on and say, ‘I wish we’d have done something different.’ At the end of the day, I’m proud of our guys. It’s tough to win on the road, even without fans. This is a great road win for us. This is a good team. They’ve beaten a lot of good teams on this floor, and for us to come in and get out of here with a win, I’m happy for that."

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