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N.C. State freshman ‘Cat’ Barber an important newcomer for Mark Gottfried

Aug 4, 2013, 6:06 PM EDT

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With five players with starting experience gone from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the recruiting class brought in by N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried will need to be ready to contribute if the Wolfpack are to reach the Big Dance for the third consecutive season.

One of those newcomers is 6-2 guard Anthony “Cat” Barber, and with the departures of guards Lorenzo Brown (entered the NBA Draft after his junior season), Rodney Purvis (transferred to UConn) and Scott Wood (graduated) the Hampton, Va. native will need to hit the ground running.

Thus far the reviews have been positive, especially when it comes to the way in which Barber and sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis (3.5 ppg, 1.4 apg as a freshman) have worked together in offseason pickup games.

”I think he’s going to be an awfully good player over time,” Gottfried said according to the Associated Press. ”Even in the pickup games our guys have played, the word is he and Tyler feed off each other and like playing together. We’ll see how all that works out. We’re excited about both of them, both of those two guys.”

Also factoring into the perimeter rotation are LSU transfer Ralston Turner and New Mexico JC product Desmond Lee, who like Barber hails from the Old Dominion state (Lee’s from Norfolk). Of the quartet Turner is the most experienced (at the Division I level), as he averaged 10.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game (29.4 mpg) in two seasons at LSU.

And with that lack of experience comes the question of how this group will be able to account for the production lost with the departures of Brown, Purvis and Wood on the perimeter. And we can’t forget the departures of forwards Richard Howell (graduated) and C.J. Leslie (entered the 2013 NBA Draft) either.

N.C. State’s most experienced returnee: sophomore forward T.J. Warren, who averaged 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest in 2012-13, earning ACC All-Freshman Team honors.

For all the criticism the Wolfpack took in 2012-13, that was still a group that ranked in the Top 15 nationally in both offensive adjusted efficiency (115.7; 10th) and effective field goal percentage (54.2%; 15th).

With those numbers in mind, not to mention the ACC’s addition of three perennial NCAA tournament teams (Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and the improvement of some of the conference’s recent bottom feeders (Boston College and Georgia Tech immediately come to mind), Gottfried’s young Wolfpack will have their work cut out for them in 2013-14.

But with the addition of Barber, Turner and freshman big men BeeJay Anya and Kyle Washington, N.C. State’s cupboard won’t be barren when it comes to talent. The question: whether or not the youngsters can limit the struggles that tend to come as a byproduct of inexperience.

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