NC State basketball: Breaking down the newcomers
The 2021-22 men’s basketball season was a bit of a disaster for NC State.
The Wolfpack finished the season just 11-21 and 4-16 in ACC play, finishing dead last in the conference while posting the first 20-loss season in program history.
And with the tumultuous season came some major offseason changes to the roster, as Dereon Seabron, Jericole Hellems, Cam Hayes, Jaylon Gibson, Manny Bates and Thomas Allen all left the program for various reasons.
But with the current state of college basketball, coach Kevin Keatts hit the transfer portal himself to bring in some talented players hoping to get NC State back on track.
Here’s a breakdown of all the newcomers for the Wolfpack ahead of the 2022-23 season:
Jarkel Joiner, Guard
Probably the most impactful addition to the Pack’s roster, veteran point guard Jarkel Joiner joins NC State after a couple of seasons at Ole Miss.
Joiner is a really speedy true point guard, something the Wolfpack has been missing since the exit of Markell Johnson a few years ago. Joiner averaged 13.2 points per game and shot 41% from the field last season while with the Rebels, and he had more than twice as many assists per game as he did turnovers.
With Terquavion Smith deciding to return for the Wolfpack, the backcourt duo of Joiner and Smith could prove to be among the better guard combos in the ACC. Joiner is extremely talented and extremely experienced, with 4 seasons of college basketball under his belt.
Joiner already apparently has made an impact in Raleigh. Keatts spoke about how much of a vocal leader the transfer guard has become, and both Joiner and Smith have spoken on multiple occasions about the chemistry they’ve already been able to build.
If the Wolfpack is going to make a big jump forward in 2022-23, Joiner will be a big reason why.
Jack Clark, Guard
A natural replacement to fill some of the loss of Hellems, La Salle transfer Jack Clark offers the Wolfpack some good size on the wing.
Clark is listed as a 6-foot-8 guard, and he averaged 12 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season for La Salle. He’s an OK shooter with a career 39% success rate from the floor, and he can get to the rim while also knocking down some shots from the outside.
For NC State under Keatts, there has been a handful of guys who have been pretty successful in the stretch wing role. Hellems played the past few seasons excelling in that position, and before him both C.J. Bryce and Torin Dorn were effective players for the Pack in getting to the rim, grabbing rebounds and offering size as a hybrid guard.
Now with the lengthy Clark in the mix, the Pack has another man who can play in that same way for Keatts. It’s an important spot on the team, and it needed a newcomer with the loss of both Hellems and the dynamic Seabron.
DJ Burns, Forward
When Manny Bates went down with a season-ending injury in the opener of the Pack’s 2021-22 season, NC State wasn’t ready to handle the loss. Injuries to Greg Gantt and eventually Ernest Ross didn’t help matters, as the Pack was as thin as any team in the country in the frontcourt.
With a desperate need for more big men, Keatts went out and got a talented post scorer from Winthrop in DJ Burns. The 6-9, 260-pound Burns is a physical force in the paint, and he clearly has an exceptional scoring touch. He averaged 15 points per game last season while playing just 21 minutes a night.
He’s not the most prolific rebounder and foul trouble appears to be an issue, but Burns is a highly skilled big man who can score and pass the ball in the paint. Playing last season with the inexperienced duo of Ebenezer Dowuona and Gibson, the Pack really didn’t get much in the way of forward production.
But Burns hopefully will change that, as he offers the Pack its best paint scorer since DJ Funderburk a few years ago. It was the biggest need by far for the Wolfpack this offseason, and Burns looks to help fill that void.
Dusan Mahorcic, Forward
Another transfer forward, the Pack got Serbian national Dusan Mahorcic from another Power 5 school in Utah.
Mahorcic played just 13 games for the Utes in 2021-22 after injuring a knee, and he averaged just 5.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He was really good for Illinois State the season before, though, with 9.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Like Burns, Mahorcic offers the Wolfpack some much-needed depth in the post. He’s not the most consistent scorer, but he can rebound well and will look to get back to some of his Illinois State form if he can stay healthy.
LJ Thomas, Guard
The lone scholarship freshman on NC State’s entire roster, LJ Thomas is a stocky guard from Florida who played his prep ball in Durham.
Rated as a 3-star recruit by 247 Sports, Thomas is a point guard who can shoot well and is good off the dribble. He has good size at 6-2 and 200 pounds and has the physical tools to be an efficient scorer and guard at the ACC level.
That being said, fans probably shouldn’t expect a whole lot from Thomas in 2022-23. The Wolfpack is deeper and more experienced at guard than it is at forward, and with Joiner, Smith, Casey Morsell and Breon Pass all capable of playing at point guard or shooting guard, there probably isn’t going to be a lot of court time this season for Thomas.
Still, there’s a bright future for him, and he could be impactful as a reserve in an injury crunch if things come down to it.