RALEIGH – Lorenzo Brown’s right knee is doing just fine – and so is his mind.
The N.C. State point guard says he’s fully healed after offseason knee surgery and insists the Wolfpack are keeping level heads despite the program’s highest preseason expectations in years.
They’ve heard enough of the chatter about possibly being the preseason favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference to know they’re best served by tuning it out.
“That could really mess up my head sometimes,” Brown said Monday during the team’s media day. “I don’t want that to happen. I feel like we have the same chip on our shoulder that we did last year.”
Brown missed roughly four weeks during the summer after having surgery in June to repair a torn meniscus, and was questionable for the team’s four-game exhibition tour of Spain but wound up playing, finishing with 17 points and 10 assists in a win over Spanish team CB Torrejon.
“I thought, honestly, prior to the trip, I wasn’t going to play him very much, if at all,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “And our doctors felt like it was actually better for him to play – it was the next step in the rehab. He needs to move and cut and get used to playing. ... I think he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go.”
Perhaps to prove that point and show off just how good he’s feeling, before the interview session started, teammate Jordan Vandenberg lifted the 6-foot-5 guard into the air and he threw down a windmill dunk.
“I’m pretty positive about my knee right now,” Brown said.
There certainly are plenty of reasons to be positive about the Wolfpack after they finished 24-13 and ended Gottfried’s first season strong.
They reached the ACC semifinals to play their way to their first NCAA tournament berth since 2006. Then, as a No. 11 seed pulled off upsets of San Diego State and Georgetown to reach the round of 16 before the ride ended with a three-point loss to eventual national runner-up Kansas.
They hope adding a freshman class that includes three McDonald’s All-Americans will help them go even farther in the bracket.
“Once you get there and realize how much fun it is, you just want to go back and get a little bit more,” forward Scott Wood said. “It’s like Disney World. You’ve got to go back a second time once you go once.”
Brown’s strong play down the stretch was a big reason for their success. He averaged 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his first full season at the point while leading the ACC with 1.8 steals per game.
“He knows where I want it,” big man Richard Howell said. “Most players, they want to put their hand up and say, ‘Give it to me when I have my hand up.’ I don’t need to tell Lorenzo that. Whenever we’re on the floor, he just knows where I’m at and he knows where to get the ball to me for me to finish. I feel like that’s something that you can’t coach. That’s something that just comes with the chemistry of playing together for a while and being on the same team.”
There’s plenty of room for improvement, though – namely with ball security. Brown averaged 3.2 turnovers last year and says he has focused on getting that number down. If he can do that, the Wolfpack will have a much better chance to live up to the expectations the players insist they’re ignoring.
“I’m pretty confident right now, but I still have a lot more learning to do,” Brown said. “I turned the ball over a few times last year.
“That’s my main objective this year, to not turn the ball over.”