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For N.C. State's Dorn, an unjust end to a meaningful career

NIT Lipscomb NC State Basketball

North Carolina State's Torin Dorn (2) tries to take the ball form Lipscomb's Eli Pepper during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

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BY SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Thursday, March 28, 2019

RALEIGH — There was Torin Dorn in the first half of N.C. State’s game on Wednesday night, ripping away rebounds and scoring in the paint.

There was Dorn, with 4:04 left in the game, having his name chanted by 5,500 people in Reynolds Coliseum, his team on the brink of a National Invitational Tournament victory over Lipscomb.

There was Dorn, with 26 seconds left, his team up two points, throwing an errant inbounds pass into the hands of Lipscomb’s Kenny Cooper, who passed the ball, got it back, and hit a cold-blooded 3-pointer from the left corner to give his team a one-point lead with 24 seconds left.

There was Dorn, in his final game, with his season and college career over, walking off the court after a game-winning shot by Cooper, a blank stare of disbelief, with nothing left to give but much more to play for, had a few things gone a few different ways.

And, 20 minutes later, there was Dorn, sitting in a press room next to his coach, smiling after being asked who was the better shooter: the fifth-year senior or the second-year coach, Kevin Keatts.

“Me, of course,” said Dorn, pausing for a second before laughing at his own proclamation. “That’s from when we played the shooting game. Ask him who won.”

Keatts, sitting right next to Dorn, was silent.

“You guys done with him?” he joked.

And, with that, there was Dorn, walking out of an interview room at N.C. State for the final time as a player, having just scored a career-high 34 points in a fantastic individual game that was immediately overshadowed by his late-game mistake that gave Lipscomb the lead and a spot in the NIT’s semifinals in New York City.

It was an unjust ending to a meaningful career, but it was met with a graceful dose of sense from Dorn in the aftermath.

“Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” Dorn said. “It’s not about — it’s about how you react to it and come back from it.”

Dorn was a force to deal with in the game’s first half, scoring 21 points, all on either dunks, layups or free throws, playing out his final home game as an ACC player like he might have imagined as a preteen.

“N.C. State’s allowed me to chase my dreams everyday,” he said. “Since I was 11 years old, I prayed at night to play in the ACC, and N.C. State gave me a chance to do that. I can’t be more blessed to do be able to do that.”

His career started much more modestly than its glamorous ending, scoring a new personal record in points on a historic court, at UNC-Charlotte, in 2014-15. 

After one season, he transferred to N.C. State and sat out a year, returning to a dysfunctional 2016-17 team that won 15 games.

With the hiring of Keatts, came more consistency for Dorn.

“He was a disappointed young man when I took the job. The year before, he had a good non-conference but when conference came around he didn’t have the same opportunities,” Keatts said. “Just to see him in his last game, be aggressive and score 34 points in front of an electric crowd, that means a lot to me.”

Indeed, in a game that mattered to both teams more than most would consider a quarterfinal NIT game to matter, it was a poetic performance, complete with a cruel turn.

“That’s life,” Dorn said.

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