T.J. Warren has been a pleasant surprise for the North Carolina State Wolfpack through the first month of the season.
The 6-foot-8, 233lbs freshman didn’t need any adjustment period to learn the college game as he instantly dove into the deep end of the pool and quickly showed he can swim with the big boys. Aquatic analogies aside – through nine games of the season, the forward finds himself the leading scoring among freshman in the ACC.
Warren is averaging 13.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and is shooting 67.1% from the field for the 6-2 Wolfpack.
He began the season coming off the bench in the team’s first five games but would quickly see himself earn starter’s minutes. It didn’t take long for Warren to show he can put the ball in the basket as in his second career game he recorded 22 points and eight rebounds against the Penn State Nittany Lions. He proved the game wasn’t just beginner’s luck with his 21 points and four rebounds performance a day later against the Massachusetts Minutemen.
After the blowout loss in the Puerto Rico Tip Off Finals, followed by a near upset at the hands of the UNC-Ashville Bulldogs, coach Mark Gottfried inserted Warren into the starting line-up.
Warren rewarded his coach for the insertion shooting 8 for 10 from the field to finish with 18 points against the Michigan Wolverines. Proving the freshman can put up big numbers against big teams.
He replaced fellow freshman Rodney Purvis when he was placed in the starting five, but the switch only lasted two games after Warren struggled posting only two points against the Connecticut Huskies. The switch back to coming off the bench didn’t bother Warren, finishing with 16 points in the Wolfpack’s most recent victory against the Cleveland State Vikings.
Purvis, who received the most attention of any Wolfpack freshman entering the season has been impressive in his own right to begin the year. Unfortunately for the guard, he’s just been overshadowed by the scoring of Warren, who sits second in the team in scoring behind Richard Howell.
However, Purvis is the more ideal starter given the Wolfpack’s lack of any significant size in the post. The 6-foot-2 guard playing alongside Lorenzo Brown gives North Carolina State a speedy backcourt that will be difficult for any school to match-up against. Whereas placing Warren in the starting line-up puts the Wolfpack’s three best big men on the court all at the same time with Warren, Howell and C.J. Leslie.
The team’s lack of depth down low will be the reason Warren continues to come off the bench as he rotates in when the other two big men need a break. The drop off in talent is too significant for Gottfried to risk tiring his three best big men by playing them all at the same time for long stretches.
The move not only provides rest for the Wolfpack’s talented front court, but it also gives them a scoring spark off the bench that teams have shown they have trouble containing.
Using his size and excellent shooting ability, Warren has emerged as one of the conference’s best freshman after the first month of the season. Given his most recent performance against Cleveland State, it doesn’t appear he intends on slowing down anytime soon.