NC State F C.J. Leslie entering NBA draft
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie is joining teammate Lorenzo Brown by skipping his final season and entering the NBA draft.
“It’s one of those things where you just know it’s just time, it’s time to move on,” Leslie said Monday during a news conference at the team’s practice facility. “That’s what I feel like in my heart. My family, they feel the same way I do. It was just one of those things where we felt like it was time to move on.”
The 6-foot-9 forward was the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. He averaged a team-high 15 points to go with 7.4 rebounds while shooting nearly 52 percent from the floor. He was a third-team all-ACC pick by both the media and the coaches after ranking in the top 10 in the league in scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage.
Leslie, who arrived under former coach Sidney Lowe, started 85 of his 99 career games and led the team in scoring as a sophomore as well.
His decision comes four days after Brown, a point guard, announced his decision, though neither move was a surprise.
Leslie flirted with entering the draft last year after helping the Wolfpack make a surprise run to the NCAA round of 16 after missing the NCAAs for five straight seasons. This time, N.C. State was the ACC favorite for the first time since the 1974-75 season and entered the year with a No. 6 national ranking, but fell in the ACC tournament semifinals then lost to Temple in its NCAA tournament opener.
Coach Mark Gottfried said he believes there’s a “strong likelihood” that Leslie will be a first-round draft pick.
“I think he’s confident right now that this is the right time for him personally and I think he’s going to do very well,” Gottfried said. “I’m sad he’s leaving the program, but I’m excited. I think this is where his heart is and I think he’s going to be very, very good.”
N.C. State will lose all five starters from the group that started the opener in November, including seniors Richard Howell and Scott Wood, as well as freshman Rodney Purvis — who announced Monday afternoon he planned to transfer. The Wolfpack should get back rising sophomores T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis, then add a three-man recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-America point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber.
The Wolfpack will also add LSU transfer Ralston Turner to the backcourt.