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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: "We Took Another Big Step Toward Maturing"

February 20, 2021

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media via Zoom following the Wolfpack’s 80-62 road win over Wake Forest Saturday afternoon.

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

Opening Statement

“I’m so proud of these guys. I don’t have to go with the long story about the struggles that we’ve had, but when you’re playing three freshmen for long, extended minutes, it’s going to take those guys a little time to get better in our system and understand what we want. You look back two or three games ago, and we were talking about 19 and 20 turnovers. When you look at how we played today, we had 11 turnovers and 11 assists. I thought it was the best team game that we played. When you look at it, we had five guys that were in double figures, one guys had nine, and one guy had eight points. Give Dereon Seabron credit. I thought he played well. I thought he was energetic. He did a great job. Everybody that we put in the game affected the game in a positive way. I thought we took another big step toward maturing. I’ve told these guys to mature from half to half, and we’re going to look at it from game to game. I wanted to see how we would play from the end of the Pitt game to the beginning of the Wake game and then Wake at halftime to the second half of this game. I’m proud of these guys. I’m excited we were able to get 28 points off Wake’s turnovers. There were a lot of good things that we can build on.”

What did you see from Seabron that made him so effective? How has his growth been from the start of the season to now?

“I’ve asked him to play with a little bit more grit and little bit more toughness. He’s long. He’s the closest that we have to a Devon Daniels. He’s not as physical as Devon. He doesn’t shoot it as well as Devon, but he’s the biggest guard we have on our roster, and we need him to be able to play. One of the reasons he hasn’t played as much is because we need toughness from him. We need him to rebound the basketball. We need him to guard bigger guards. We need him to do a good job getting out in transition, and I think he’s starting to get it. He understands it. It’s been a little frustrating with him because we put a lot of work into him last year, helping him become a good player, and honestly, he’s a victim of what happened with COVID because he couldn’t go to the ACC Tournament. He was at home from basically March until we could bring him to summer school, and he didn’t have a chance really to work out. Now we’re starting to see the guy that we thought we were going to see earlier in the year.”

How much of a difference maker is Cam Hayes when he’s shooting the ball with confidence like he did today?

“In high school, Cam could make shots, but he was more of a pull-up guys. Our coaches have done a good job of getting him and Shakeel Moore in the gym and working on their outside shots. When Hayes is making shots, he becomes a really good point guard for us because now he can drive to the lane, he can make plays, he’s able to step behind the three-point line and make shots, he’s got great size as a point guard, and he’s what you want in a point guard in the ACC. His confidence is starting to grow in those areas.”

How big was getting stops and forcing turnovers for you today?

“It was big. It’s frustrating to me, as a coach, when we don’t turn people over. That’s because that’s what my system is predicated on. It’s been tough the last few games back because we were turning the ball over. It’s nothing like you thinking you’re good at something, and somebody is beating you at your own game. Our team is much better when we’re creating off of our defense, and I thought we were great tonight. With those guys, I thought we made them play a lot of one-on-one basketball. When you look at them, they had eight assists and 19 turnovers, and I think it’s because our defense was special. We did a good job. Our deflections were high. I don’t know how many we had for the game, but I know at halftime we had 25, and we try to get 40. We’re a much better team when we’re more active, getting deflections, and getting into the passing lanes.”

How good does it feel to get a solid scoring balance?

“I had to be patient, probably like I wish everybody could be, because of the fact that, for these young guys, it’s going to take some time. As I’ve maintained, these guys will be really good basketball players. We, of all people, have had to shift the way we play, and our focus has now become we’re more of an inside-out team, but while we’re going inside-out, I think our young guys are starting to get better on the perimeter. Getting two or three of those guys when we have two or three guards that play well on a different night, we’re capable of this outcome. When we don’t, when we have one, it’s pobably going to be a lot closer games, and they’re going to be nail-biters. When you get your bigs playing well like they’re playing, and we get a couple of guards who are contributing the way we had these guys play today, then we could be a really good basketball team, and we’ll be tough to beat if those guys play that way.”

If Seabron keeps playing the way he did today, is that a glimpse of the potential we could see from him?

“When we had C.J. Bryce and Devon Daniels, those guys sat out, and so they were able to play against guys like Al Freeman everytday. When you look at what Seabron went through last year, he played against Devon Daniels, Markell Johnson, and also C.J. Bryce. He was getting to be aggressive. He’s wasn’t an aggressive kid to start out with, but he was getting there. When we traveled because he was an academic redshirt, he couldn’t go to the ACC Tournament. When we left him at home, we didn’t see him again until June or July, and we had to rely on the fact that he was doing all the right stuff at home, and you know how that goes. We’ve asked him to get back to being aggressive. A lot of that is going to help him when he continues to go into the weight room and add about 15 pounds of muscles. He’s different because he’s long. He’s athletic. He can handle the basketball. Right now, he’s not shooting it great behind the three-point line, but he can bring so much to our team, especially when he plays with toughness. When he doesn’t, then we have to get somebody else to play these minutes. I like the way he played today. I’m not going to say this is a breakout game because anything can happen, but I though he played a really good game.”

Was there a turning point since the Duke game that you’ve noticed?

“We’ve asked everybody to play to their strengths. I thought everybody was trying to make up for one player, and everybody was trying to do too much. We talked about not turning the ball over and playing to our strengths. The Duke game is weird because I don’t think we played as badly as people think. I think Matthew Hurt was really good. When you look at the rest of the roster, I thought we did a tremendous job, but I thought we forced a lot of things, and guys were trying to do things that they couldn’t do, and certainly you ended up with a lopsided result. That being said, it gave us a chance to humble ourselves. We hadn’t had a game where we lost like we lost to Duke other than the Florida State game, and it showed me that our guys have a sense of pride and came back since that point.”

How important has Braxton Beverly been?

“I can’t say enough about that kid. He doesn’t practice, not because he doesn’t want to. I let him in a few reps yesterday. I looked over there and thought, ‘He can’t go anymore.’ I’m saying, ‘Can you go?’ I think the trainers yelled at him, ’No!’ But he was saying, ‘Yes, I can.’ He’s been a great mentor for those guys. Coming off the bench as a senior, you’d think he would be pouting. He understands the situation that we’re in, and he’s doing everything that he can to help our team win whether it’s in the locker room or whether it’s coming on the court. He’s come in the last couple of games and made a big difference. He’s made some big shots. He’s starting to work out for us. I can’t say enough about that kid. He’s been a guy that’s been celebrated because he’s been here for so long, and he’s been a punching bag for a lot of people for so long, but at the end of the day, the kid does what he needs to do to help us win."

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