06/14/07 — Sidney Lowe speaks in Goldsboro

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Sidney Lowe speaks in Goldsboro

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 14, 2007 1:48 PM

Sidney Lowe didn't mind the interruptions.

Each time a fan approached his table, he took time from eating to speak and shake their hand. Some brought basketballs, T-shirts or other items for the former North Carolina State point guard to sign.

Cameras flashed, capturing Lowe's bright and warm smile.

The excitement flowing through the Goldsboro Rotary Club audience became infectious when Lowe stepped to the podium. He reminisced about his recruiting visit to N.C. State, southern hospitality and that loud, plaid jacket Norm Sloan wore during the Wolfpack's glory years.

But the room could hardly contain Lowe's enthusiasm when he recalled a conversation with the late Jim Valvano. Coach V told Lowe he'd return to N.C. State one day as a coach.

Lowe undoubtedly believed him. He spent the offseason during his playing and coaching stints in the NBA at his Raleigh home. But the dream of taking over at N.C. State remained a fantasy until Wolfpack athletics director Lee Fowler talked with Lowe.

Coach V's foresight and Lowe's dream had become reality.

"It's certainly been a blessing," said Lowe. "I'm excited about being back at N.C. State, and I look forward to many years of success."

Despite losing their point guard and Engin Atsur, who sat out 12 games, the Wolfpack's six remaining scholarship players refused to quit on the court. Courtney Fells, Gavin Grant, Ben McCallie, Brandon Costner and Dennis Horner each averaged considerable playing time, but they never seemed to get tired.

At least, not when Lowe was looking.

McCallie made the mistake of telling a reporter after the regular season ended that maybe he was getting a little tired. Lowe heard the comment and glanced toward McCallie, who quickly added "but not that tired."

Atsur's return rejuvenated N.C. State, which eventually reached the ACC tournament championship and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals. The Wolfpack finished 20-16 overall, leaving fans hoping that future NCAA bids -- missing during Herb Sendek's tenure -- are on the horizon.

Lowe thinks so.

"As I always tell our guys, we have a good nucleus coming back and good players coming in," said Lowe. "But we haven't proved anything yet. The only expectations we have are to go out and play as hard as we can every single second that we're on the floor.

"I want to make sure we represent the name on the front of that jersey as opposed to the name on the back."

J.J. Hickson, a McDonald's All-American, and Durham native Tracy Smith should add to the Wolfpack's frontcourt depth this winter. Transfers from Iowa State (Farnold Degand) and Tennessee (Marcus Johnson) are expected to make an immediate impact.

Javi Gonzalez, a point guard from Miami, has also been added to the mix.

"Javi is not big, but he's tough with a little attitude," said Lowe. "He's got an edge about him that I like."

The recruiting game, admitted Lowe, has changed since his prep playing days at DeMatha High School. Players have gotten bigger, stronger and more powerful. NBA scouts begin courting the more-talented players in high school, which pressures college recruiters to observe younger kids.

Lowe said he and his staff must stay ahead of the recruiting curve and prepare for recruiters' calls. Costner received considerable attention from NBA scouts this past season. After conversations with Lowe, he opted to remain in school another year and test the waters once the 2007-08 season ends.

Costner has been vocal during summer workouts, but Lowe isn't sure who is going to replace Atsur's leadership. He plans to let things take their course and see what unfolds.

"I think leaders are born, no made," said Lowe. "You have something in you that hasn't come out yet. I really don't know who that guy is right now."

Lowe will continue to employ a coaching philosophy that Valvano used with the 1983 national championship team. Valvano allowed Lowe, Derrick Whittenburg, Lorenzo Charles and Thurl Bailey -- the stars of that team -- to step onto the court and just play.

"He let us show what we are capable of doing," said Lowe. "That's what I try to do with our guys. I try to encourage them, motivate them and be positive. I think that helps a player become relaxed.

"I'm excited about our team."

N.C. State opens the season Nov. 22 against Rider in the 2007 Old Spice Classic at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.