N.C State's C.J. Leslie meets the media on Wednesday afternoon. COREY LOWENSTEIN - firstname.lastname@example.org
C.J. Leslie never really considered jumping to the NBA after one season at N.C. State. He didn't want to make a decision about his future with the Wolfpack, though, until meeting with new coach Mark Gottfried.
Since being hired three weeks ago, Gottfried has made a positive impression on the athletic forward who led the Wolfpack in rebounding as a freshman last season.
"I think he's a very good coach," said Leslie, who averaged 11.0 points and 7.2 rebounds.
See 22 photos of C.J. Leslie during his press conference today.
Leslie, a celebrated local product from Holly Springs who starred in high school with John Wall, said Gottfried's vision for the program and how Leslie fits into his offense were the selling points.
"Everything sounds good," Leslie said.
Like the Wolfpack, Leslie had an up-and-down season in 2010-11, showing flashes of brilliance that made him a McDonald's All-American but also showing a lack of focus and consistency.
He was unstoppable in nonconference outings against Syracuse (13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks) and Youngstown State (14 points, 19 rebounds) with leading scorer Tracy Smith out of the lineup in December but he hit a rut in early February.
He was suspended for a 76-52 loss at Duke on Feb. 5 for breaking an unspecified team rule by former coach Sidney Lowe. Leslie returned with a flurry, reeling off three straight games with at least 18 points but cooled in the final two weeks of the season.
When Gottfried was hired on April 5, Leslie described his relationship with Lowe as "strained." Leslie said Wednesday he hasn't talked with Lowe since the end of the season.
The highest-rated player in a recruiting class that was billed as one of the best in the country, Leslie led State in blocks and rebounding and was second on the team in scoring.
His issues on defense and with shot selection offset some of his more spectacular moments in transition.
"It wasn't a bad season but it could have been a lot better," Leslie said.
With nine returning scholarship players, and the loss of Smith, Leslie said his role will have to change for Gottfried's first team.
"I would say I have to step up and become a better leader," Leslie said. "We kind of have a young team, too, it would be in my best interest to step up and be a leader."