NC State's Brackman picks baseball over hoops

Updated: October 10, 2006, 7:42 PM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State's Andrew Brackman plans to sit out this basketball season to focus on baseball.

The 6-foot-10 junior would have been one of the Wolfpack's top returning players and bolstered a front line depleted by the departure of Cedric Simmons, who left for the NBA after his sophomore season.

Last baseball season, Brackman was 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA before a stress fracture in his left hip ended his year. The injury healed in time for him to pitch in international competition for Team USA. He was 4-0 in seven starts with a 2.09 ERA in his freshman year.

"I look at this basketball season as a redshirt year for me," Brackman said in a statement. "My primary focus will be on playing baseball but I still consider myself part of the basketball program."

Brackman said he will reconsider his decision to play basketball after the professional baseball draft in June, though first-year Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe wouldn't rule out Brackman playing basketball this season.

"The door is always open," Lowe said. "I wouldn't close it on him. He's one of our kids. He's part of our family. He's been on the team before. I'm just not one to close the door on family. He's always welcome. The players feel the same way."

Brackman said playing professional baseball has been a "big dream of mine ever since I was a little kid and that dream has a chance of coming true in June. Because of that I feel that the most important thing for me is to be as prepared mentally and physically as possible for the draft."

Brackman averaged 7.6 points a game last season and blocked 28 shots, the second-most on the team.

Brackman figured to see significant minutes this season after last year's 22-10 team lost Simmons and fifth-year senior forward Ilian Evtimov.

That leaves the Wolfpack with one experienced frontcourt player: 6-8 sophomore Ben McCauley, who averaged 2.1 points and 6.9 minutes in 27 games.

"I think the window might still be cracked," McCauley said. "I think we all want to stay positive toward that idea. I talked to Andrew many times during the week. He still says he's confused about it.

"He's got a really difficult decision to make. I've told him many times that whatever decision he makes, I'm behind him 100 percent."

The other front line players include 6-8 redshirt freshman Brandon Costner, who played just five games because of a stress fracture in his leg, and 7-3, 245-pound freshman Bartosz Lewandowski. The losses could even force 6-7 swingman Gavin Grant to spend time inside, which could leave the Wolfpack short-handed against bigger teams.

Still, his teammates sound OK with Brackman's decision -- even if they'd love to have him on the court.

"We could definitely use him for a couple of Duke and Carolina games," Grant said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press