Playing It Safe

Playing It Safe

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State is headed overseas to get a jump start on its most highly anticipated season in quite a while.

And the way coach Mark Gottfried sees it, if the Wolfpack's star point guard can't play during the team's upcoming 10-day trip to Spain, the rest of the team has a great opportunity to learn how to play without him.

Gottfried said Tuesday that he's being "really conservative" with the injured Lorenzo Brown, who's recovering from knee surgery. Gottfried says Brown is "not anywhere near 100 percent." The guard characterizes himself as between 75 and 80 percent healthy.

"Truthfully, the only objective I have is to have him healthy in October" for the formal start of practice, Gottfried said. "And if he ends up not playing, it helps (freshman guard Tyler Lewis), helps the other players. In other words, if we had to play without Lorenzo, how do we play? There's a question that needs to be answered, so it gives a chance for some of them to do that."

The Wolfpack will play five exhibition games during their tour of Spain, which begins Aug. 5. Brown had been listed as questionable after having surgery last month to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee.

He averaged 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his first full season at point guard while leading the Atlantic Coast Conference with 1.8 steals per game. Last March, Brown helped N.C. State reach the NCAA tournament's round of 16 for the first time since 2005.

Gottfried says Brown resumed limited practice earlier this week and has been doing dummy drills, light cutting and moving, and shooting — he swished a jumper from just inside the midcourt stripe during the portion of Tuesday's practice that was open to the media.

"We did not put him in any live drills yet, and I'm not sure that we will throughout the trip," Gottfried said. "We'll just wait and see. My initial thought is to be really conservative with him, take our time. And if that means he doesn't play in Spain, that's fine with me. We're just going to see how he feels."

Of course, it's imperative that Brown be healthy by the fall.

N.C. State enters the season as one of the favorites to win the ACC — the Wolfpack's last league title came in 1987 — and is looking to capitalize on the momentum generated by its strong finish to last season.

"It's better than not being talked about at all," forward Scott Wood said. "It's one of those things where it's nice to be talked about and have all those accolades, but at the same time, you've got to handle your business and be there at the end of the year, too."

The trip gives the Wolfpack's key returnees — Wood, big men C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell and, depending on his health, Brown — the chance to figure out how to play with a talented class of incoming freshmen that includes three McDonald's All-Americans: Lewis and forwards Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren.

"This might be the beauty of us going to Spain. ... Your team has to learn how it needs to play and who needs to do what," Gottfried said. "We'd all like to know that on Oct. 15, but the reality is sometimes as you play games and you go through those first games in November and December, you begin to really learn your team. ... Maybe Spain will help us learn some of those things about our team."

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