The Emergence of NC State’s T.J. WarrenPosted by Chris Kehoe on December 20th, 2013
N.C. State sophomore forward T.J. Warren had an extremely successful freshman season on a Wolfpack squad that failed to live up to outsized expectations last year. After the departure of stars C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown, the reins were handed to Mr. Warren. Surrounded by a supporting cast of talented freshmen and an undersized yet feisty former Oak Hill point guard (Tyler Lewis), N.C. State was largely expected to coast to a lower/middle-of-the-pack finish in the ACC. However, behind freshman guard Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber’s unexpected scoring output, the emergences of forward/center Jordan Vandenberg and freshman big man Lennard Freeman, and Warren’s ascendence, the outlook is bright for this Wolfpack team.
Last season Warren was known for his other-worldly efficiency, pouring in 12.1 PPG on a remarkable 62.2% shooting and cementing his status as a player to keep an eye on. A popular misconception after the departures of the talented triumvirate was that N.C. State and Warren would struggle because of a lack of offensive options and overall experience and cohesion. That has not been the case, as N.C. State has cruised to a 8-2 record, beating Florida Gulf Coast, Northwestern, and most recently, Tennessee in solid wins. While their schedule has not been particularly strong, they look to be a force to be reckoned with in a weaker-than-expected ACC. They are now circled on teams’ calendars as a dangerous foe in ACC play, because when you have an elite scorer such as Warren to defend, there is no telling what kind of damage he can do.
Through 10 games this season, Warren is averaging a ridiculous 23.1 PPG and 7.2 RPG, demonstrating he can get to the line more often than last year and handle twice the shot attempts without losing much of his trademark efficiency. His game is well regarded by the advanced metrics crowd, as noted guru Ken Pomeroy has Warren as his eighth-ranked offensive player in the nation, with a 121.2 Offensive Rating. Statistics aside, even the untrained eye can see Warren is operating on a different level from most players and that brings up a particularly logical area for discussion.
Most people labeled the ACC POY race as a three-horse race between Duke’s Jabari Parker, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair and Virginia’s Joe Harris. Parker and Fair are the two favorites at the moment — two unstoppable and versatile beasts on the hardwood who are also in the running for NPOY as well. UVA’s Harris has fallen off so far and has largely disappointed those that had him tabbed as a candidate. Warren has gladly slid in and taken Harris’ place, neatly inserting himself in the conversation through the first month of the season. While he does not get nearly the same amount of press as Parker or Fair, he is quietly putting together a dominant season in Raleigh. However, this award may come down to each team’s respective success in the ACC. While Duke, Syracuse and inconsistent UNC remain the early favorites to take home the ACC crown, N.C. State may have an outside shot to make some noise. If they do, rest assured T.J. Warren will have the nation’s eyes upon him as a result.