Stat-Stuffing Bryce Emerging as Wolfpack Leader

Brett Friedlander

Before the season started, C.J. Bryce semi-jokingly asked coach Kevin Keatts if he could play the "four" position vacated by the now-graduated Torin Dorn.

His reasoning for the request was that Dorn had the ball in his hands so much last season.

Six games into NC State's 2019-20 basketball season, the 6-foot-5 redshirt senior still hasn't spent much time as a power forward. But that hasn't stopped him from recreating his former teammates stat-stuffing role.

Bryce leads the Wolfpack in scoring (17.9 ppg), rebounding (7.7) and steals (12) while ranking second on the team in assists with 16. He's also shooting a robust 61 percent from the floor headed into Thursday's showdown with Memphis at Brooklyn's Barclay's Center.

 "It's a position that I've been looking forward to stepping into with Torin gone," Bryce said. "Me being able to play in Coach's system for so long, I have that experience. I'm just looking forward to continuing to help guys out on the court and off the court and fill in that role."

While both Bryce and Dorn are the same size, Dorn was a more accomoplished rebounder while Bryce's strengths are his scoring and playmaking abilities. He's strong enough on the ball that he's one of Keatts' first options as a backup point guard when starter Markell Johnson is on the bench.

Keatts' trust in Bryce's ability -- and Bryce's comfort in Keatts' system -- is the product of five years together, first at UNC Wilmington before moving to State together in 2017.

The Charlotte native averaged 11.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in his debut season with the Wolfpack last years while showing flashes of the form that helped him earn first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors as a sophomore.

He scored 15 or more points 12 times, but had just as many games in which he accounted for seven points or fewer. 

His challenge from Keatts this season was to be more consistent and to this point, Bryce has been just that -- in part because of the experience he gained from playing a full season in the ACC and because as a senior leader, he knows that much more is expected of him.

"He's playing like a veteran," Keatts said. "You know, it's funny because when you recruit a kid, he came in as more athletic guy run, jump, more of a slasher. Now he's getting more towards mid range and hopefully, as he gets comfortable throughout the year, you'll see him making more shots behind the arc."

Bryce has only attempted eight 3-pointers, making three. One of those came in State's most recent game, Saturday against Little Rock. 

"Thing about it, he's very efficient right now and hadn't taken many threes on the season," Keatts said of Bryce. "And he's capable of making those."

Bryce said he anticipates taking more threes as the season goes on as opposing defenses adjust to other aspects of his game.

"I'm going to have to take more of those going down the stretch with guys playing off of me," he said. "That's something I'm willing to do and I'm working on."