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NCAA Basketball

C.J. Leslie’s Return Bodes Well For N.C. State’s Expectations

It’s official.

North Carolina State forward C.J. Leslie is returning to Raleigh for his junior season.

Leslie’s formal decision went public Wednesday afternoon after the school issued this press release detailing the 6-foot-8 forward’s desire to return to school.

“After talking this over with my family, we have decided it would best for me to return for my junior year,” Leslie said. “I’m on track to graduate, which is important to me and my family, and I’m excited about building on what the team accomplished last season. There are parts of my game I want to continue to work on and take more of a leadership role with the team.”

The junior-to-be flourished under first-year head coach Mark Gottfried in 2011-12, averaging a career-best 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.

Leslie, a native of Holly Springs, North Carolina, led the team to the Sweet 16 this past March, a run that overachieved expectations of the 11th-seeded Wolfpack heading into the NCAA Tournament.

A late run by Kansas in the Wolfpack’s Sweet 16 defeat ended N.C. State’s season, but fans are well aware of the increasing expectations under Gottfried in 2012-13.

With Leslie returning, the Wolfpack are set to welcome back their top four scorers from a 24-13 squad. In addition, a 3-man recruiting class that currently ranks No. 9 in the nation, according to ESPNU, will also join the roster.

The class is highlighted by 6-foot-4 guard Rodney Purvis, who was recently named the co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic this past weekend. Fellow Top-100 recruits, T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis, will also join Purvis in Raleigh next season.

While Duke and North Carolina took some hits in comparison to their respected squads in 2011-12, the pair of rivals are once again expected to compete for the top spot in the ACC, but there is no doubt that with Leslie returning, the Wolfpack will be right there as well.

Gottfried has made quick work in short time as the head man at N.C. State and as the program glances ahead to the start of the 2012-13 season, there shouldn’t be much left to doubt that N.C State can’t emerge as the league’s top squad.

The Wolfpack qualifed for their first NCAA Tournament since 2006 this past March, while also advancing to their first Sweet 16 since 2005.

Expectations will remain high given Leslie’s return, as N.C. State looks to flex thier muscle in making their case atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.