Wolfpack's Keatts ready for regular-season debut Friday

    NCAAB -  
    FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2017, file photo, North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts answers a question during the Atlantic Coast Conference men's NCAA college basketball media day in Charlotte, N.C. Keatts is eager to see what his Wolfpack players have learned as they prepare for his debut on the sideline Friday against VMI. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

    RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Keatts figures his North Carolina State players have done just about everything he asked of them during an offseason overhaul.

    He'll find out Friday how much they've really picked up during his first game on the Wolfpack sideline against VMI.

    "Certainly every coach thinks they need about another week or two to be ready," Keatts said Thursday. "And you looking at your team and you're like, 'Man we can be better in this area and this area,' but certainly you've got to play tomorrow.

    "I think that's the biggest fear, knowing we've run out of time and as coaches we would love a little bit more time but it's here right now."

    The school hired Keatts in March to replace fired coach Mark Gottfried, whose program went to four straight NCAA Tournaments but tailed off dramatically in the past two seasons. Keatts immediately went about pushing a culture of increased competitiveness, most notably by hounding the players to improve their conditioning.

    The goal is to play an up-tempo offense and version of the pressure defense from his time under Rick Pitino at Louisville. He got a glimpse of what this team could do during a summer exhibition trip to Italy, though 7-footer Omer Yurtseven was playing with the Turkish National Team.

    "I thought we were in good shape in Italy but after coming back and playing in the exhibition and playing in the scrimmage, I realized it's night and day," fifth-year senior Lennard Freeman said.

    N.C. State has just four returnees from last year's main rotation. One of those — senior forward Abdul-Malik Abu — is still recovering from a sprained knee ligament and won't play.

    Keatts said Abu was recently cleared to resume running, but it's unclear exactly when he'll be ready.

    "We've got a fun style that I think everybody will love," Keatts said. "That being I don't have a full slate of guys to be able to play exactly the way we want to play.

    "You're probably going to see 75 percent of the way that we'll play in the future because typically I'd like to have a couple of more guards and have 10 or 11 bodies to play. But right now we don't have that."


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