Losing Hall Hurts, But Wolfpack Still Has Plenty Left

Brett Friedlander

Josh Hall's announcement Thursday that he will forego his college career at NC State and stay in the draft is a blow to the Wolfpack's 2020-21, to be sure.

You don't stumble across five-star recruits who at 6-foot-9, can run the floor, score from both inside and out, and defend the way Hall can without missing him.

But unlike last year when State was left severely shorthanded and limited in options because of injury and the the loss of its first none-and-done recruit, point guard Jalen Lecque, coach Kevin Keatts' program is better prepared to handle this unforeseen circumstance.

Even without Hall, as dynamic an addition as he could have been, the Wolfpack will still have enough manpower, experience and talent on hand for Keatts to employ his preferred up-tempo style and be successful.

That is, of course, provided one even more important piece of the puzzle remains in place.

Last week, basketball statistics analysis provider Pivot Analysis ranked forward D.J. Funderburk No. 13 overall and No. 4 among ACC underclassmen in terms of impact on their team should they stay in the draft.

The 6-foot-10 senior emerged as an elite scorer and rebounder after moving over to the power forward position early in the conference schedule and has the potential to give State everything Hall could have and more if he returns.

He has until June 3 to make his decision.

Assuming Funderburk follows the lead of teammate Devon Daniels by withdrawing his name from the draft and returning to school for his senior season, here's a look at how State's 2020-21 roster breaks down:

Centers (2): Manny Bates, 6-11, R-Soph.:Ebenezer Dowuona, 6-10, Freshman.

Bates is already the premier rim protector in the ACC and one of the best shot-blockers in the entire country. His role figures to grow next season as he continues to evolve offensively. Dowuona, meanwhile, is a long, athletic four-star recruit who will contribute in a backup role.

Power forwards (2): D.J. Funderburk, 6-10, Senior; Nick Farrar, 6-7, Freshman.

Funderburk is ready to blossom into a full-fledged star if he returns while Farrar is a skilled, wide-bodied banger who will give the Wolfpack the kind of physical presence it hasn't had in awhile.

Wings (2): Jericole Hellems, 6-7, Junior; Dereon Seabron, 6-7, R-Freshman.

Hellems showed flashes of becoming an explosive scorer last season. The trick now is learning how to stay out of foul trouble and becoming a more consistent performer. Seabron could turn out to be the X-factor for next year's team after sitting out 2019-20 as an academic redshirt. Keatts is high on the former four-star prospect, who is now eligible and motivated to start contributing. 

Shooting guards (3): Devon Daniels, 6-5, R-Senior; Thomas Allen, 6-1, R-Junior; A.J. Taylor, 6-6, R-Junior.

Daniels was arguably State's best player during the final month of the season once he began attacking the rim instead of relying primarily on his perimeter jumper. He also has the kind of strong personality that makes his the logical candidate to take over C.J. Bryce's "glue guy" role. Allen is natural scorer and a former four-star prospect who originally committed to the Wolfpack, changed his mind after former coach Mark Gottfried was fired, then decided to return after two seasons at Nebraska. He sat out last year under NCAA transfer rules. Taylor, meanwhile, provides depth provided he is fully recovered from the injury that cost him all but one game last season. 

Point guards (3): Braxton Beverly, 6-0, Senior; Cam Hayes, 6-1, Freshman; Shakeel Moore, 6-1, freshman.

Hayes is a four-star prospect who was recruited to fill the void left by Markell Johnson's graduation. He's an athletic playmaker who can also score. His quickness and court vision make him a good fit for the kind of up-tempo style Keatts wants to play. Moore, who played on the same high school team as Hall, is a little less polished than Hayes, but he's a better defender and should play a major role as a freshman while Beverly should be better both in his ballhandling and shooting now once the painful back injury that limited him last season is 100 percent healthy.

In addition to all those options, Keatts now has a scholarship available to use if he finds the right fit. Perhaps sensing that at least one of his players might stay in the draft, he has already reached out to several graduate transfers, as well as a junior college transfer and two freshmen that chose other schools.

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