The transfer portal helped NC State secure an NCAA bid, and they will aim to repeat their success.

The transfer portal helped NC State secure an NCAA bid, and they will aim to repeat their success.

North Carolina State University made it back to the NCAA Tournament by strengthening their team through the transfer portal. Coach Kevin Keatts is aiming for another successful dive into the portal to bring the Wolfpack back to the tournament.

Last season, N.C. State had a record of 23-11 and a conference record of 12-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The team’s success was due in part to their experienced point guard Jarkel Joiner, skilled big man DJ Burns Jr., and talented scoring guard Terquavion Smith. This led to the team’s first NCAA appearance since 2018, when coach Keatts first started.

The combination of Joiner and Smith in the backcourt is no longer present, however Burns has returned and will join starting guard Casey Morsell to work alongside a new group of transfers, as Keatts enters his seventh year.

Keatts stated that it would be unjust for him to determine whether he has a DJ Burns or a Jarkel Joiner, as that information was not known when those players were recruited. However, he remains hopeful that two or three players will prove to be equally skilled as Burns and Joiner.

Keatts had a positive season, showing signs of improvement. However, his initial time as coach was hindered by an NCAA inquiry related to the federal probe on illegal activity in the sport. This investigation was centered on events that occurred prior to Keatts’ arrival.

The expectations were high following an impressive 11 victories in the 2022 season. However, it was evident from the start that the team’s reconstruction efforts had paid off when N.C. State put up a strong fight against a highly ranked Kansas team in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. They went on to defeat the eventual Final Four team, Miami, as well as their local rivals Duke and North Carolina.

The Wolfpack achieved 23 victories, a feat that had only occurred once in the past ten years, before ultimately losing to Creighton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.


Burns, who stands at 6 feet 9 inches and weighs 275 pounds, quickly won over fans with his skilled post plays and impressive passing abilities from the inside. He ranked third on the team in scoring with an average of 12.5 points per game, but his performance was hindered in several games due to fouls on both offense and defense.

Burns commented that the defensive strategy has been to “wall up” and limit reaching. On the offensive end, it’s important to make assertive moves without being called for a foul.

“It’s something that you must handle, it will inevitably accompany it,” stated Burns. “We have certainly implemented some alterations and introduced new techniques to offset the effects.”


Of the seven transfers, D.J. Horne from Arizona State and Jayden Taylor from Butler bring potential for scoring in the backcourt.

Last season, the 6-foot-4 player Taylor had an average of 12.9 points and a 77% free throw shooting percentage in 22 games as a starting player for the Bulldogs. Horne, who stands at 6-foot-2 and is from Raleigh, had an average of 12.5 points and made 72 3-pointers while playing for the Sun Devils last year.

According to Horne, the exits of Joiner and Smith created ample opportunity for scoring.

Horne expressed his fondness for scoring in basketball, making it a particularly appealing aspect for him.


N.C. State added some frontcourt support through the transfer portal, bringing in two players: familiar face Ben Middlebrooks from Clemson, and Mohamed Diarra from Missouri. Both players are 6-10, but Diarra has a slimmer frame at 215 pounds compared to Middlebrooks’ 240 pounds.


The N.C. State team needs to secure consistent performance from their point guard position in order to fill the void left by Joiner. In the lead-up to the season, Coach Keatts mentioned that Stanford graduate transfer Michael O’Connell is being considered for the role. O’Connell has extensive experience, having started 76 games for the Cardinal over the last three years. Keatts also stated that Horne, who has a combination of point guard and shooting guard abilities, could potentially play in that position as well.


On November 6, N.C. State will begin their season against The Citadel. Their schedule also includes the Vegas Showdown, where they will face Vanderbilt, Arizona State, and BYU over Thanksgiving. They will also play against Mississippi on November 28 and No. 9 ranked Tennessee in San Antonio on December 16. Their first ACC game will be against Boston College on December 2.