T.J. Warren, NC State’s most prolific freshman thus far this season, said he is lucky to have played with such a talented prep school team. Warren attended Brewster Academy (NH) last season and competed in practice with players such as fellow NCAA freshmen Mitch McGary (Michigan), Semaj Christon (Xavier) and JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s).
When asked if that enhanced his development and college readiness, Warren said, “Definitely. Playing with all good players, because when you get to college everybody is good, so getting used to playing with all good players helped me out.”
His Wolfpack teammate, combo guard Rodney Purvis, echoed his sentiments.
“In high school it’s kinda, ‘Everything revolves around you,’ said Purvis following NC State’s 69-65 win over
UConn. “In college, I have the best point guard in the country, I have the best shooting guard in the country, I have the best forwards in the country, so I mean, I just gotta get in where I fit in and they do a good job of helping me out in practice and coaching me through games.”
The valuable playing experience and a mature attitude (not limited to shot selection) go a long way toward determining how successful a team can be, especially when reliant on young players.
“You look at these young teams, whether it’s Carolina or Kentucky, and you go across the country, they play young because they don’t understand,” explained Greenberg. “Their definition of playing hard and what’s acceptable is so far off, it’s unbelievable. A freshmen and a coach’s definitions of playing hard are in two different time zones and there’s a process of understanding that you can’t take a play off, you’ve got to get to the next play. You watch games with Kentucky and when they make a mistake they stay in the play rather than moving onto the next play. That’s the hardest thing for freshmen is understanding the speed of the game and that you have to move onto the next play.”
So when you think about the tantalizing freshmen seasons that Naismith Players of the Year Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant had, remember they are far from the norm and that it’s much easier to fit in with a new, more experienced team than it is to lead one.
“They would definitely be like ‘This young guy thinks he’s gonna come in and blah, blah, blah,'” said Purvis, speaking about what it would be like if he came in and wasn’t a team-first player.
“So you just have to do what you do and fit in and do what’s best for the team at the end of the day.”
Concentrating on playing hard first and making shots second is what separates a mature freshman from an immature one, but it’s all part of a learning process that should help a player to reach his potential.
“For the most part, it’s adjusting,” said Purvis. “College is much quicker than high school. Normally in high school, I probably would have gone all the way to the basket [instead of shooting a runner]. Sometimes we’re just anxious. We’re only six or seven games into the season and for us to be playing in Madison Square Garden so early, I mean, I’m still adjusting.
“I’m not trying to make no excuses or anything, but it’s definitely all coming together. I can definitely say that.”
The sooner it all comes to together for freshmen across the nation, the better off their teams will be for it.