Is Bethel N.C. State's missing piece?

Originally Published: November 13, 2004
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tony Bethel is going to make an impact. He will be different than a host of other four-year transfers.

Bethel is going to deliver on the hype.

Other transfers to watch
Glenn Batemon, 6-11, Jr., C, Miami -- Fordham transfer could add some weight and muscle inside.

Ed Nelson, 6-8, PF, Jr., Connecticut -- The former ACC rookie of the year adds much needed toughness.

Dennis Latimore, 6-8, SF, Jr., Notre Dame -- Arizona transfer offers an alternative in the paint, or facing the basket.

Mike Gansey, 6-4, Jr., SG, West Virginia -- Former Bonnie should help the perimeter shooting.

Patrick Sparks, 6-1, PG, Jr., Kentucky -- Ex-Hilltopper should offer stability to highly-touted, but young, backcourt.

Andre Patterson, 6-7, SF, Jr., Tennessee -- UCLA transfer will be counted on for better and big minutes.

Jamaal Williams, 6-5, Jr., F, Washington -- New Mexico transfer should contribute up front -- where the Huskies need him most.

Nick DeWitz, 6-9, Jr., F, Oregon State -- Former Hawkeye is eligible in mid-December.

Nile Murry, 6-4, Jr., G, TCU -- Temple transfer adds to TCU's backcourt.

Sharif Chambliss, 6-1, Sr., PG, Wisconsin -- Penn State transfer has Big Ten experience and, with Boo Wade on leave, becomes very important at the point.

Adam Haluska, 6-5, So., SG, Iowa -- Haluska left Iowa State after Larry Eustachy was fired. Should be a top shooter for Hawkeyes.

Tim Doyle, 6-4, So., SG, Northwestern -- Bill Carmody calls him one of his best passers. Needs to shoot better.

Michael Thompson, 6-10, Jr., PF, Northwestern -- Duke transfer is eligible next month -- a huge lift for the inside-challenged Wildcats.

Dan Coleman, 6-9, Fr., F, Minnesota -- BC transfer will be a key member of the depleted Gophers.

Brian Thornton, 6-8, Jr., PF, Xavier -- Vandy transfer even missed last season's practice with knee injuries, but will start.

Chad Bell, 7-0, Jr., C, Nevada -- Former Lobo will help the Wolf Pack inside.

Nathan Doudney, 6-4, Jr., SG, Gonzaga -- Ex-Red Raider could step in and start at times at shooting guard.

Brandon Cotton, 6-0, So., PG, Detroit -- Former Spartan could be newcomer of the year in the Horizon.

Trey Pearson, 6-2, So., SG, Murray State -- Expected to be a hit for the Racers after leaving Ole Miss.

Ernest Turner, 6-2, Jr., PG, Maine -- UNLV transfer could help the Black Bears make another Am. East run.

--Andy Katz

What hype you say?

Well, it always happens to a transfer from another name program. The player is pumped up to mythical proportions. He becomes the best player on the court, in large part, because he's not eligible.

So, it's easy to see those nifty passes, steals, jump shots and maybe a dunk or two during practice and project that the player will do all of that when he becomes eligible.

Supposedly, Bethel is the real deal.

How do we know that he'll be even better than he was at Georgetown? Because he and reigning ACC player of the year Julius Hodge say he will make a huge difference for N.C. State.

Not just any difference, he could be the difference.

"They'll remember me," Bethel said about those who might not remember his 10.5 points and 3.1 assists a game in two seasons with the Hoyas. "I've gained a lot of weight, I'm stronger, quicker and smarter. I'll be playing alongside Julius Hodge and he'll get a lot of recognition, but I'll be that other guy."

Bethel will be the starting point guard for the Wolfpack. But he's not going to be a traditional point. The Wolfpack will have Hodge bring up the ball nearly as much and there will be plenty of times when Engin Atsur handles the ball up court. The Wolfpack run a version of the Princeton offense. All five players need to be able to pass, dribble and shoot. Bethel can do all three and that's why he won't always be handling the ball.

Hodge said Bethel will create defensive issues because he'll get past the first defender, forcing someone else to come over and help on him. But the problem is that an opposing team likely won't help off of Hodge.

"But someone is going to be wide open," Hodge said. "I can't pump him no more because he's the truth. He's not even close to the same player as a year ago. His jumper is always going in. No disrespect to no one, but with me and him we're the best backcourt in the country."

There is plenty of competition for that honor in the ACC, let alone the country with Wake Forest's tandem of Chris Paul and Justin Gray, North Carolina's Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants and Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack and B.J. Elder (or Will Bynum).

Hodge already has a bit of an edge to him going into this season since he wasn't predicted to be the ACC preseason player of the year, despite being the returning award winner. That honor, or shall we say pressure, was put on Paul.

Hodge said he will be even better with Bethel, which is a direct challenge to the rest of the ACC. Hodge said Bethel can board, even though he's only 6-2. He calls Bethel a physical guard and said he was a challenge for him throughout last season when he was the practice player on the scout team.

"I'll play the two all year if Tony is my point guard, he's that good of a player," Hodge said. "No disrespect to [former Seton Hall guard] Andre Barrett because he's a good friend, but he's the kind of player that always has to dominate the ball. Tony isn't that type of point guard. We can coexist and win big this year."

N.C. State coach Herb Sendek, never one to overhype his players or his team, said Bethel was a huge help to the Wolfpack during practice last season. He claims that Bethel helped them win games a year ago because of his determination in practice. But he reiterated what Hodge said about Bethel's body, saying he has changed it over the course of the year in the weight room.

"He's a player," said Sendek, choosing a generic term rather than calling him a point or shooting or combo guard. "If you want to factor in his height, then call him a guard. But our style of play lends itself to guys who are versatile. We don't get carried away with labels."

Sendek doesn't understand any criticism of the Wolfpack's lacking a true point guard when the team was fifth in the ACC in assists (14.9 a game) and had the fewest turnovers in the league (13.4 a game) a year ago.

"Tony brings another guy who can put the ball on the floor and create shots not just for himself but for his teammates," Sendek said. "He really maximized his year off."

The reason Bethel checks in under the radar is that Georgetown wasn't in the NCAAs when he was a sophomore. The Hoyas did get to the NIT finals and finished 19-15 but Bethel wasn't a household name. Bethel was part of an exodus that included backcourt mate Drew Hall, who ended up at the College of Charleston, assistant coach Ronnie Thompson, who went to Arkansas in a similar role, and Michael Sweetney, who declared for the NBA draft.

Bethel started at shooting guard when he arrived at Georgetown, but that was largely because Kevin Braswell was still on the squad. He was moved to the one and felt even more comfortable -- at the position, not necessarily in the program. Bethel, who is from nearby Ft. Washington, Md., said he loved Georgetown but "didn't feel like I was getting better on the court."

"There was no access at Georgetown," Bethel said of getting in to work out at McDonough Gym during off hours. "It wasn't open 24 hours. Here you can get your workout 24 hours a day. It was predicted that it [the defections at Georgetown] were going to happen and that was one of my reasons for leaving. I didn't feel like the program was making people better. I picked N.C. State because of Herb Sendek and Julius Hodge."

Had Hodge left for the NBA last season, one of Bethel's reasons would have been gone before he became eligible. But he stayed and already the two are clicking very nicely.

Bethel scored 10 points and grabbed 10 boards (with three assists) in an exhibition game this week. His production is a major plus for the Wolfpack, considering they're going to have treat wing Ilian Evtimov gingerly.

Evtimov is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery and is coming back slower than anticipated, according to Sendek. He won't practice every day, but he is expected to play when the Wolfpack opens the season in the NABC Classic against New Orleans Wednesday.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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